Santos: Poster Boy for All That’s Wrong with News Today

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Santos: Poster Boy for All That’s Wrong with News Today

By Jaci Clement,

As the investigations pile up into who George Santos really is, one thing is certain: He is most definitely the poster boy for everything wrong with today’s news media.

The fact that Long Island is the scene of the crime makes it smart all the more. Our backyard, and the people who live here, deserve far better than what the news has been serving up. 

Let’s unpack this.

From CNN to The Atlantic, commentaries in the news over the past week have called out Long Island’s news leader, Newsday, for missing this major Long Island story, which was broken by The New York Times. For those wondering why the dead tree sector carries the burden it’s because historically, the news ecosystem has relied on newspapers to break the heavy stories, and looked to television and radio news to provide updates. 

But the talk of how Long Island news media, as a whole, missed this story isn’t accurate, because one teeny, tiny local newspaper with a print circulation reported to be 3,200, put forth a scathing editorial in its Oct. 20 issue. It begins: “This newspaper would like to endorse a Republican for US Congress in NY3 (Oyster Bay, N Hempstead, NE Queens). But the GOP nominee – George Santos – is so bizarre, unprincipled and sketchy that we cannot.”

That opening paragraph from The North Shore Leader proved the kindest. The next five paragraphs detailed many of the issues for which Santos is now under investigation.

So how is it The North Shore Leader — with a masthead boasting a total of eight staffers — had the goods on Santos?

Maybe they paid attention to what the neighbors were saying. If word of Santos’ ability to rock tall tales was long an open secret, why didn’t that usher in scrutiny by the media before the election took place? Maybe the staff at The North Shore Leader paid attention to what was heard on the street instead of what was happening inside the media bubble. 

Maybe it didn’t occur to them that size doesn’t matter. Knowledge of the subject matter, dedication, and being able to follow a story wherever it leads has nothing to do with how many people are in a newsroom or the size of a budget. It does mean the reporters need to show up to find out what’s actually going on and cultivate sources, instead of making a couple of calls from home and filing a story that fulfills a preconceived notion of what supposedly happened.

Maybe they understand their role. For newsies who have forgotten, or for the newbies who have yet to be told: First and foremost, your job is to be the watchdog of government — including elections, even those you’re not interested in. You wrote this one off as being inconsequential? Lesson learned. 

Maybe they haven’t given up on journalism. What today’s modern media landscape is teeming with is what we can no longer afford, and the headlines in the newsfeeds continue to prove it. News coverage detailing what Santos said years ago that is now believed to be false only highlights the issue at hand: Journalism needs journalists, not stenographers posing as journalists.

Despite all that, the fact is, the only way to find the editorial mentioned here is by knowing where to look. Long Island is home to some of the oldest newspapers in America, and it shows. The North Shore Leader is more than 70 years old and, like many of the local news outlets here, it uses its website to post pdfs of prior issues. This technological sin means the content is not readable by search engines and that, in this era, equates to the news being nonexistent. 

And that explains how this particular piece of news escaped the attention it deserved, but it doesn’t explain the lack of journalism at large. 

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