In an ideal world, a news consumer would get his or her essential facts from hard-news coverage, and would read op-ed columns solely to learn writers' opinions on particular topics of interest -- while perhaps being entertained in the process.
We clearly do not live in an ideal world. If fact, the "news" is all often turned upside-down, as journalists supposedly covering the hard news end up focusing on trivialities and personalities, while subtly (or not so subtly) injecting their own opinions into their work. This leaves the necessary work of substantively informing the audience to op-ed writers.
No one does the job Old Media hard-news reporters won't do better than Mark Steyn.
In his Chicago Sun-Times column today, Steyn, in his typical engaging style, does more in under 1,200 words to inform readers about the real-world implementation difficulties and disparate-treatment outrages in the immigration bill under consideration in Washington than all of Old Media's hard-news reporters have in several weeks.
Here are just a few of the nuggets in Steyn's piece that I was not aware of, and that you probably haven't seen or heard anywhere else:
..... the truth is that America's immigration bureaucracy cannot cope with its existing caseload, and thus will certainly be unable to cope with millions of additional teeming hordes tossed into its waiting room. Currently, the time in which an immigration adjudicator is expected to approve or reject an application is six minutes. That's not enough time to read the basic form, never mind any supporting documentation. It's certainly not enough time for any meaningful background check. Under political pressure to "bring the 12 million undocumented Americans out of the shadows," the immigration bureaucracy will rubberstamp gazillions of applications for open-ended probationary legal status within 24 hours and with no more supporting documentation than a utility bill or an affidavit from a friend.
..... one of the little-known features of this bill is that in order to "bring the 12 million undocumented Americans out of the shadows," millions of legal applicants are being hurled back into outer darkness. Law-abiding foreign nationals who filed their paperwork in the last two years would be required to go back to their home countries and start all over again. Not only does this bill reward law-breaking, it punishes law-abiding.
..... The young Muslim men who availed themselves of the U.S. government's "visa express" system for Saudi Arabia filled in joke applications -- "Address in the United States: HOTEL, AMERICA" -- that octogenarian snowbirds from Toronto who've been wintering at their Florida condos since 1953 wouldn't try to get away with. The late Mohammed Atta received his flight-school student visa on March 11, 2002, six months to the day after famously flying his first and last commercial airliner.
Along the way, Steyn reveals many of the failures of and biases in the pitiful "hard-news" reporting on the subject, the most obvious of which is this one on the annoying use of the term "undocumented workers":
Being "undocumented" means being documented up to the hilt as far as everyone else is concerned but "undocumented" only to the U.S. government. Which, when you think about it, is a very advantageous status to have.
He also recounts a telling example of how quickly Old Media members will jump on the bill's opponents with unsupportable accusations:
On Fox News the other night, I was told by NPR's Juan Williams, "You're anti-immigrant!" Er, actually, I am an immigrant -- one of the members of the very very teensy-weensy barely statistically detectable category of "legal immigrant." But perhaps that doesn't count anymore. Perhaps, like Colin Powell's blackness, it's insufficiently "authentic."
Williams's rip at legal immigrant Steyn briefly revealed just how despised he (Steyn) is by many beat reporters and Old Media members. It never seems to occur to them that if they would simply concentrate their work more on digging up and reporting the facts and less on injecting their opinions (i.e., if they would just do the jobs they're supposed to do), there wouldn't be any need for readers, listeners, and viewers to go to the Steyns of the world to get even the most basic information -- though in Steyn's case, the entertainment value of his writing would still make visiting his work quite worthwhile.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.