Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Role of Media

Here is a bit from a post by the Washington's Blog:
There are five reasons that the mainstream media is worthless.

1. Self-Censorship by Journalists

Initially, there is tremendous self-censorship by journalists.

For example, several months after 9/11, famed news anchor Dan Rather told the BBC that American reporters were practicing "a form of self-censorship":
There was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tires around peoples' necks if they dissented. And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck. Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions.... And again, I am humbled to say, I do not except myself from this criticism.

What we are talking about here - whether one wants to recognise it or not, or call it by its proper name or not - is a form of self-censorship.
Keith Olbermann agreed that there is self-censorship in the American media, and that:
You can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in trouble .... You cannot say: By the way, there's something wrong with our .... system.
As former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006:
Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do. . . .

There’s the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.

If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers.

I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter - whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship – or whatever it is – out of the way.
2. Censorship by Higher-Ups

If journalists do want to speak out about an issue, they also are subject to tremendous pressure by their editors or producers to kill the story.

The Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who uncovered the Iraq prison torture scandal and the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, Seymour Hersh, said:
"All of the institutions we thought would protect us -- particularly the press, but also the military, the bureaucracy, the Congress -- they have failed. The courts . . . the jury's not in yet on the courts. So all the things that we expect would normally carry us through didn't. The biggest failure, I would argue, is the press, because that's the most glaring....

Q: What can be done to fix the (media) situation?

[Long pause] You'd have to fire or execute ninety percent of the editors and executives. You'd actually have to start promoting people from the newsrooms to be editors who you didn't think you could control. And they're not going to do that."
In fact many journalists are warning that the true story is not being reported. See this announcement and this talk.

And a series of interviews with award-winning journalists also documents censorship of certain stories by media editors and owners (and see these samples).

There are many reasons for censorship by media higher-ups.

One is money.

The media has a strong monetary interest to avoid controversial topics in general. It has always been true that advertisers discourage stories which challenge corporate power. Indeed, a 2003 survey reveals that 35% of reporters and news executives themselves admitted that journalists avoid newsworthy stories if “the story would be embarrassing or damaging to the financial interests of a news organization’s owners or parent company.”

In addition, the government has allowed tremendous consolidation in ownership of the airwaves during the past decade.

Dan Rather has slammed media consolidation:
Likening media consolidation to that of the banking industry, Rather claimed that “roughly 80 percent” of the media is controlled by no more than six, and possibly as few as four, corporations.
This is documented by the following must-see charts prepared by:
Media Channel

The Nation

Free Press
And check out this list of interlocking directorates of big media companies from Fairness and Accuracy in Media, and this resource from the Columbia Journalism Review to research a particular company.

This image gives a sense of the decline in diversity in media ownership over the last couple of decades:

The large media players stand to gain billions of dollars in profits if the Obama administration continues to allow monopoly ownership of the airwaves by a handful of players. The media giants know who butters their bread. So there is a spoken or tacit agreement: if the media cover the administration in a favorable light, the MSM will continue to be the receiver of the government's goodies.

3. Drumming Up Support for War

In addition, the owners of American media companies have long actively played a part in drumming up support for war.

It is painfully obvious that the large news outlets studiously avoided any real criticism of the government's claims in the run up to the Iraq war. It is painfully obvious that the large American media companies acted as lapdogs and stenographers for the government's war agenda.

Veteran reporter Bill Moyers criticized the corporate media for parroting the obviously false link between 9/11 and Iraq (and the false claims that Iraq possessed WMDs) which the administration made in the run up to the Iraq war, and concluded that the false information was not challenged because:
"the [mainstream] media had been cheerleaders for the White House from the beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the President — no questions asked."
And as NBC News' David Gregory (later promoted to host Meet the Press) said:
"I think there are a lot of critics who think that . . . . if we did not stand up [in the run-up to the war] and say 'this is bogus, and you're a liar, and why are you doing this,' that we didn't do our job. I respectfully disagree. It's not our role"
But this is nothing new. In fact, the large media companies have drummed up support for all previous wars.


4. Access

Politico reveals:
For $25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post has offered lobbyists and association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to "those powerful few": Obama administration officials, members of Congress, and — at first — even the paper’s own reporters and editors...

The offer — which essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator for private lobbyist-official encounters — was a new sign of the lengths to which news organizations will go to find revenue at a time when most newspapers are struggling for survival.
That may be one reason that the mainstream news commentators hate bloggers so much. The more people who get their news from blogs instead of mainstream news sources, the smaller their audience, and the less the MSM can charge for the kind of "nonconfrontational access" which leads to puff pieces for the big boys.

5. Censorship by the Government

Finally, as if the media's own interest in promoting war is not strong enough, the government has exerted tremendous pressure on the media to report things a certain way. Indeed, at times the government has thrown media owners and reporters in jail if they've been too critical. The media companies have felt great pressure from the government to kill any real questioning of the endless wars.

For example, Dan Rather said, regarding American media, "What you have is a miniature version of what you have in totalitarian states".

Tom Brokaw said "all wars are based on propaganda.

And the head of CNN said:
There was 'almost a patriotism police' after 9/11 and when the network showed [things critical of the administration's policies] it would get phone calls from advertisers and the administration and "big people in corporations were calling up and saying, 'You're being anti-American here.'
Go read the original to get the whole post and the embedded links.

I still remember my first big realization that the press was complicit in misrepresenting reality. I was a kid who had been a church camp and missed the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in the summer of 1964. So when I got home I read everything I could and couldn't believe what I was reading. The US "retaliation" was way beyond anything reasonable for a sketchy and possibly non-existent "attack". The fact that there was an "official view" was hammered home to me when I gave a speech in a high school speech class that Autumn. I got a failing mark on that speech despite the fact that I researched it the hardest and put my all into it. This hammered home the point that there is an officially sanctioned "truth" and if you don't toe the line there is a price to pay. It was a very disillusioning experience. Sadly, the above just points out that the same manipulation goes on today.

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