Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The cost to us all When the News Media Fails

The latest episode of Media Matters with Bob McChesney is an interview with Lance Bennett. Bennett is a Professor of Communication at the University of Washington. He is also founder and director of the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement. The interview covers some very important ground to consider, the role of Journalists, the failures of Journalism to present the truth, and the desire we all have for truth and justice to be the norm rather than the official lies and deceit we are getting today.

In the interview they discussed a wide range of issues related to Bennett's latest book, When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina. Increasingly the Press is dominated by inside-the-beltway discussions, and is largely about inside-the-beltway people talking to each other through articles published in the news media. Increasingly the Press is disconnected from the rest of the country, and not in a dialog with us, etc. This leads to failures of Journalism to do the job it claims to be doing.

The role claimed by Journalism is about seeking out truth and act as a watchdog over the government. Remember that in the U.S.A. the Government is (supposedly) working for We The People. Yet increasingly we are asked to kowtow to whatever the Government says, and the Press is increasingly only speaking the government line.

Part of the issue is the reliance by Journalists on Official Sources. In order to get information to report, Journalists are increasingly addicted to getting information spoonfed to them by Official Sources and only reporting what the Official Sources are saying. The only time, increasingly, a Journalist practices the freedom to question the truth of what the Official Source says is when another Official Source themselves question the statements of other Official Sources. The Journalists then engage in reporting the debate between Official Sources.

The question I had was very aptly put by the last caller who expressed a lot of angst at a broken Media who is mouthing to us the lies of the Administration. What are we to do? Where are we to get the truth?

The blogosphere, for example, is an opportunity for anybody to build their own soapbox, as I'm doing here. But the blogosphere isn't quite focused on Journalistic endeavors. Each of us bloggers are following our own passion about what to write etc. Often bloggers who are acting as government oversight are not producing original Journalism pieces and it is easy to brush us off, as Lance Bennett does, as simply rehashing the stories printed in the news media. While that is often true it's also true that the large picture only comes clear when you connect the dots between dozens of disparate news articles. It seems the news media splits the big picture into small chunks, and unless you proactively connect up the pieces between those articles you'll miss the real story.

Journalists have an advantage over a blogger like me. They have access, they can more easily go into war zones, they know how to find 'Fixers' who can guide them safely through dangerous territories, etc. I on the other hand have to hold a day job and sneak time out of the rest of my life to write on my blogs.

In any case the interview is excellent and offers a lot of great insight and thought about the role of media and whatever is the truth. The cost to us for allowing the journalistic nightmare to continue is that we are being lied into war after war after war. The sort of journalist failures which allowed the Bush Administration to create the Iraq war are being perpetrated upon us right now with the Iran war that's due to begin any day now.

The Media Matters site does not have individual pages for each show, but the MP3 is available at this URL: http://www.will.uiuc.edu/media/mediamatters071125.mp3