The ego can be a bedeviling companion. I say this in light of an exchange I observed that was spawned by an article I wrote a few days ago about Hillary Clinton and the cult of political personalities we have become as a nation. Someone tweeted the article and a debate ensued where one of the sender’s followers tried to dismantle what I wrote. “Who is Teodrose, he is just a Patreon ‘journalist’, I only read serious reporters.” To say her comments did not sting would be disingenuous on my part—the ego is a force even Yoda cannot harness.
Thankfully, life has tamed my need to respond to every slight. They say with hardship comes wisdom; after going through the most vexing crucible of my life and enduring two years of adversity, I have finally learned to not let others have veto power on my happiness. I took what she said with a grain of salt and jotted down in my personal journal “don’t go looking for roses if you are averse to thorns”. I realize that we live in an age of ad hominem where people are more prone to attack the messenger than they are to listen to the message.
We skim with the intention to clap back, the minute someone writes a sentence that diverges from our outlook, the default mode for more and more people is to lash out instead of hearing one another. Yet, even as I put this attempt to marginalize what I write into proper perspective, I could not get her leading haymaker out of my mind. “He is just a Patreon journalist”, with an extra twist of the needle, she put quote marks around the word journalist. I felt like George Costanza from Seinfeld after he got walloped by a disparaging remark at a team meeting by one of his peers.
After reflecting for a while, it dawned on me why the rejoinder from someone I never met gnawed at me so much. I realized that I was more dismayed by the attempt to discredit independent journalism than I was wounded by her sneer that was aimed at my name. I’ve written plenty of times about our predilection as a society to covet that which is being elevated by the “upper crust” of society. Our decisions are formed and informed by the “elites”; the minute someone famous or a mainstream publication endorses people or market a brand, we jump with both feet and say “me too”.
Yet these same people were the ones we ignored and overlooked for years only to crave their brand the minute they are plucked from obscurity by those who wield power and influence. There are countless artists and musicians in our midst who pay homage to their craft and spread their light to an increasingly dimming world. Some of the most amazing musicians I’ve had the honor to meet the past two years were homeless guitarists and trumpeters who played their instruments on sidewalks with tip buckets as their voluntary entry ticket.
Few passersby give dollars to hear music that is therapy to the soul that they can enjoy front row for free, yet thousands line up to pay a king’s ransom to listen to a Billboard musician from the cheap seats. That singer on stage could have once been the musician on the sidewalk. The difference is not so much talent as it is notoriety. We are intent, it seems, to discount treasures that are found freely all about us only to envy the diamonds sanctioned by the status quo.
Perhaps I am wrong to blast mainstream media personalities who make deliberate decisions to chase big bucks as they walk away from the idealism that once led them to pursue journalism. As I noted earlier, the ego is a bedeviling friend. Everyone who writes or creates some type of art measures the impact of their work by the reception from the public. I am no different for if I was without ego, the Ghion Journal would be the Teodrose’s dairy and these words would be in my personal journal instead of being published to the world. Journalism is no different than any other craft, as we seek justice and speak truth to power, we are nonetheless held captive by the reaction of readers to our work.
I’ve been given plenty of advice over the years that I should stop writing on my own blogs and instead reach out to Huffington Post or the New York Times and get my articles published at mainstream sites. I understand this line of counsel, friends and strangers alike are telling me what I know in my heart. I know that as long as my work is not accepted by some established journal or mainstream media outlet, I will never reach cross over appeal. If not for the journey I went through the past couple of years and the number of broken people I met who became the statistic of the very system I am now speaking against, I too would have cast my lot with the corporate press.
Yet my passion for journalism—which I once pursued when I attended George Mason University and majored in Mass Communications—prevents me from putting on the corporate blinders for the sake of chasing big bucks and bigger limelights. I walked away from a career in journalism when it dawned on me during my sophomore year in college that corporate media was about as authentic as Donald Trump’s hair plugs. Take this to the bank, media stops being a “free press” the minute money (ad revenues or sponsorship) is taken from corporations. When that same media is owned by a corporation, what they become is company propaganda.
How are journalists supposed to speak truth to power when they are getting paid by power. The Washington Post is owned by the richest plutocrat in the history of our planet. Do you think the reporters there will ever write ill of Jeff Bezos or investigate the excesses of Amazon? Amazon has a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency to maintain the CIA’s data in their “cloud”. The same Washington Post who is supposed to be checking the excesses of our government is owned by a corporation that is making money hand over fist from the excesses of one of the most powerful agencies in the world.
If the Washington Post had to choose between speaking truth to power and currying favors to enhance their profits, which option do you think the Washington Post editors will choose? Do you think Jeff Bezos will let a bunch of reporters at his loss-leader acquisition risk creating friction between the CIA and his golden goose that is Amazon? This same incestuous relationship between corporate media and the powers they are supposed to be monitoring is evident throughout the mainstream media landscape. These things have real life consequences; the referee will not blow a whistle when he is being paid by the players. Remember Flint, DAPL, Syria and the tens of millions of Americans who lost their homes to foreclosures after 2008? Corporate media sure has, they would rather have us enraged by the deranged oaf at the White House than actually report news.
Yet too many of us blindly accept the drivel that is being peddled by the yellow journalists that the so-called “fourth estate” reporters really are. We keep consuming empty calories of outlandish lead stories and ingesting the junk food of sensationalism not so much because mainstream news edifies but more so because they are famous and have wide appeal. But these same people we depend on to keep government honest and keep people in power accountable are the ones who colluded with moneyed interests to lie us into the Iraq War, sold Obama as change only to lead to yet another war and keep giving cover to the pyramid schemes that are foisted on us by banking interests and Wall Street lobbyists. We are depending on the very same wolves who are in bed with corporate hyenas to protect the sheep from danger.
This is why I disavow corporate media and choose a different path. I guess I am still an idealist who refuses to conform after being mugged by reality. I have this audacious dream—one that is not backed by plutocrats or ghost penned by speech writers—a vision that we can pivot away from corporate media and embrace the idealists who insist on staying true to the principles of journalism. So I write this in defense of all independent journalists who refuse to give their hands to the corporate model of media and instead depend on their readers to empower their work.
In the process, let me acknowledge all independent journalists throughout the world, the names are one too many for me to start listing them here. Even as our counterparts in corporate media get all the fame and the big bucks, just know that the true principles of journalism and the spirit of muckrakers is kept by us. Better to be funded by patrons who crowd fund truth than to be on the payroll of plutocrats. For those who don’t know, Patreon is a website where independent journalists, up and coming artists and non-corporate voices promote their work and enlist support from people who love to empower indie creators.
Let me circle back to the scoff that inspired this article. There is beauty in adversity, a walk on lesser traveled pavements has taught me to find rose petals even in the thorniest thistle. Sure the ego is still around, but I have learned to find more joy from reaching a few and impacting their outlook profoundly instead of chasing thousands and getting validation by the size of my audience. I know the folly of chasing quantity, that is a cup that never runeth over. I’d rather present quality and let my work speak for itself.
So let me humbly reply to the lady who mocked me as “just a Patreon journalist”. I sure am a Patreon journalist and I am proud to be an independent writer who pursues my passion instead of chasing corporate checks. Let me work my 9-5 in the morning, write at night and do my part to counter the lies of mainstream media bunk. I’d rather play my music on sidewalks instead of being put center stage if that means I can keep my soul and my principles while I’m pursuing my passion. #UnsungMuckrakers
“Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
The Ghion Journal is a reader and viewer funded endeavor. We disavow corporate contributions and depend only on the support of our audience to sustain us. The tip jar is earmarked to directly to the author’s account. This is done to ensure that writersare getting a fair exchange for the work that they are contributing to the Ghion Journal. The “contribute as you can” model was emulated from one of our favorite restaurants in Fort Collins Colorado called FoCo Cafe (read a business case for kindness). We thank you in advance for your kindness.
Check out this segment of Redacted Tonight where host Lee Camp interview me about the way independent journalists can succeed and we also discussed my journey that led to the launch of the Ghion Journal.
This Ghion Cast below is a discussion of how we dismiss the Wolfgangs in our midst only to fawn over Mozart the minute people are “discovered”.
Speaking of muckrakers, check out the latest Ghion Cast and why it is imperative to have a truly independent media that is committing to speaking truth to power instead of getting paid by power.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.