May 172005

Without a doubt, the mainstream media has become a product of its corporate owners. Rather than placing a premium on good journalism, they seem to expect and reward people for doing a good job of presenting the Administration’s spin on the issues. Gone are the days of the investigative journalists working hard, putting in the log hours, and doing their part as a recognized protector of our democracy.

In a democracy, the primary responsibility for the success or failure of that democracy lies with the people. We each have a duty to view critically the actions of our elected leaders. In this, American’s receive a failing grade. There is another leg of democracy which the founders recognized and gave special consideration. That leg is a free press.

Unfortunately the press is no longer free. They may be technically protected from interference by the government, but mainstream journalists are not protected from their corporate keepers, and those corporate keepers have deep ties to and interests in the politicians. Even CPB, that last bastion of free thought is now being taken over by the Bush Administration and the right wing.

Bill Moyers, maybe one of the smartest people to ever put pen to paper, talks about this in a speech to the Annual Conference of Media Reform. You can read the entire transcript on the Democracy Now website. There is so much good information there, but I think one line precisely sums up what journalism should be about. Moyers says, "I came to see that news is what people want to keep hidden, and everything else is publicity." I don’t believe there is any possible way better define news, but alas, today all we get is a stream of publicity blather. And the sad part is, we settle into our sofas, turn on Fox News and believe the crap we’re handed. Moyer’s goes on to say: 

"I realized that investigative journalism could not be a collaboration between the journalist and the subject. Objectivity was not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference. I came to believe that objective journalism means describing the object being reported on, including the little fibs and fantasies, as well as the big lie of people in power. "

I am no longer sure we can save this democracy, largely because I’m not sure we as a people have the wherewith all and the fortitude to maintain a democracy. Democracy is not easy…it doesn’t come from a daily pill or a single news channel…so I’m just no longer convinced we can are prepared for the effort it takes to be a democracy. As someone once said, in a democracy, you get the government you deserve.

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