Century Marks

Century Marks

Watchdogs missing

A report from the Federal Communications Commission concludes that a dearth of in-depth news reporting exists at the local level, which means that the public has lost a way of holding government, businesses and schools accountable. Cable news and the Internet provide more news options than ever, but they are not filling the void left by the contraction of newspapers. "The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism—going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy—is in some cases at risk," the FCC report says. Staffing levels at local newspapers have fallen by more than 25 percent since 2001 due to the weakened economy and to declining revenues from advertisers that have switched to the Internet (AP).

Discuss this

In On What Matters, philosopher Derek Parfit asks this question (according to reviewer Peter Singer): "If a massive asteroid hit Earth tomorrow, ending human history, would it have been a good thing that humans existed at all?" (TLS, May 20).

The priest and the gangster

A Catholic chaplain at the federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, has been charged with passing messages for Frank Calabrese Sr., a Chicago mobster and convicted killer sentenced to life in prison. The chaplain also was recruited by Calabrese to search for a violin he had concealed in his home, supposedly a Stradivarius worth millions. The prosecutors say the priest was aware that he was violating prison rules by serving as Calabrese's go-between (UPI).

Charity check

Over 7,000 charities are devoted to fighting cancer, but many of them are very small and some are quite inefficient. In 2009 the Children's Cancer Research Fund gave $2.7 million to the University of Minnesota, its sole beneficiary, for cancer research—but it spent $9.8 million to raise that money. A major reason for inefficient charities is that they aren't accountable. Before contributing to charities, check out their rating with an organization like Charity Navigator (Time, June 13).

Modern cathedrals

In his travels about the country as a church consultant, Anthony Robinson has noticed that in many cities the manufacturing plants are shuttered and office buildings vacant. The only institutions that seem to be thriving are hospitals and medical centers, which not only have the latest in medical technology but in some cases incorporate shops, spas, community centers and destination restaurants. These lavish new medical facilities, aimed at the well-insured and affluent, make Robinson skeptical about keeping the cost of health care in check. He calls these elaborate medical facilities our modern cathedrals—evidence that health care is at the center of our lives (Crosscut, June 1).