Tuesday, May 17, 2005

"A free press is one where it's OK to state the conclusion you're led to by the evidence."

According to longtime and recently retired journalist Bill Moyers, the American press, not even the public broadcasting corporations like PBS, would resemble his characterization. His address at the National Conference for Media Reform hits right at the uninformative way that political/governmental developments are reported.

He gets the Washington press corps. exactly right with this description:
...My colleagues and I at "Now" didn't play by the conventional rules of Beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if, instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news.

or, as Jonathan Mermin describes it,
if the government isn't talking about it, we don't report it,
meaning that news is not news by virtue of the journalist actively investigating it but rather after getting a press briefing from the White House.

As Moyers continues, this
permit[s] Washington officials to set the agenda for journalism, leaving the press all too often simply to recount what officials say instead of subjecting their words and deeds to critical scrutiny. Instead of acting as filters for readers and viewers, sifting the truth from the propaganda, reporters and anchors attentively transcribe both sides of the spin invariably failing to provide context, background or any sense of which claims hold up and which are misleading.

After understanding this fundamentally flawed method of "journalism," Moyers says he concluded that
investigative journalism could not be a collaboration between the journalist and the subject.

Read more here.

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