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The Media Government Politics

Are Journalism and Politics Inextricably Joined? 473

An anonymous reader writes "Retiring figure Bill Moyers makes his case in a recent speech delivered at the Society of Professional Journalists 2004 national convention. 'But I approach the end of my own long run believing more strongly than ever that the quality of journalism and the quality of democracy are inextricably joined.' It is a deep argument, made poignant by the recently murdered Francisco Ortiz Franco of Mexico, Manik Saha of India, and Aiyathurai Nadesan of Sri Lanka, among others. It is a broad argument, touching on history from America's first best seller to yesterday's blog. Is it a convincing argument?"
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Are Journalism and Politics Inextricably Joined?

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  • Whew- (Score:4, Interesting)

    by thewldisntenuff ( 778302 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:00PM (#10293543) Homepage
    What a long FA......

    I'm going to go off a bit (and get modded down), but here we go -

    Anywho, does this mean that our quality of democracy is weakened?

    Who (who defined loosely as the media) has pushed the envelope or sought more answers against the war on terror, or the Patriot Act? While the megacorps clamp down on individual rights, who goes after them? Who goes after Bush when science is thrown aside in favor of religion? When beauraucracies(sic) withhold information in the name of "protecting from the terror threat", who questions it? I mean, yes, there are a few investigative reports every now and then, but it's rare.......

    "This "zeal for secrecy" I am talking about - and I have barely touched the surface - adds up to a victory for the terrorists."

    Indeed.....An interesting read with a lot of insight into our current situation......Might be worth RTFA-ing this time around.....


    • Re:Whew- (Score:3, Insightful)

      Please.... Journalism, Politics AND technology has always been closely tied. Read "The 70 greatest conspiracy of all time." This is really nothing new. Except we have slashdot to speak out nowadays. Before it was the same shit without the internet.

      • Re:Whew- (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jtrascap ( 526135 )
        Surely you mean "vent" and not "speak out".

        My greatest fear is that by bitching on slashdot, some of us feel as we've "done something" - something on the scale of protest.

        Please folks - remember to get up off the couch.
    • Quick Synopsis (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AmericanInKiev ( 453362 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:23PM (#10293686) Homepage
      For those with seconds to digest the point.

      Journalists in the US aren't murdered, they have it too easy, and as a result, they're soft - soft on the truth - and letting the government tell them what they can and cannot know.

      In other countries people are dying for it - but getting to the truth.

      Corporate "homeland Security State" is the threat. Corporate interests can and do manipulate news. They have before (long example re:pesticide v monsanto).

      So buck up - get the real story - the one that would get you killed if you were in Sri Lanka and skip the gossip.

      - I think that about does it.

      • Whew. (Score:5, Funny)

        by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:29PM (#10293709)

        That was a close one; I almost had to read the article.

      • Re:Quick Synopsis (Score:2, Interesting)

        by kcbrown ( 7426 )

        Journalists in the US aren't murdered, they have it too easy, and as a result, they're soft - soft on the truth - and letting the government tell them what they can and cannot know.

        Journalists don't let the government tell them what they can and cannot know -- they let their corporate masters tell them that. If they didn't, they'd quickly find themselves without a job. Their corporate masters are now so firmly in control of the government that there's little difference, but what little difference ex

    • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) <Satanicpuppy@nOspam.gmail.com> on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:40PM (#10293759) Journal
      Hello! Are Journalism and Politics inextricably mixed? Why don't you ask the obviously analogous question: Are senses and perception inextricably mixed? You need the whole article title to even say anything intelligent on the subject.

      As for the quality of journalism, I'm not so sure. The question becomes, "Are people more likely to make a good desicion if they have access to better facts." I don't think I've ever seen anything that would prove that. People have access to some pretty damn good facts, and rarely if ever bother to avail themselves of them. On the contrary, people go out of their way to find facts that back up their preconceived notions. I even do it myself on occassion.

      What would really happen is what's happening now: political candidates are judged minutely on everything they've ever done in their whole lives. I don't like Bush, but does it really matter that he did coke, skipped out on the national guard, or had a DUI? Does it make that much of a difference? But it's a much larger issue than his foreign policy blunders and blatant cronyism.

      No, it's all reduced to soundbites, and all the issues are reduced to shady poll numbers and the pundits dissect every tiny piece of information into meaningless atoms, before producing unfounded tripe to throw at both sides. We're obsessed with things that could not matter less, and the things that people SHOULD be caring about, no one even TALKS about. What's Kerry's voting record REALLY like? How many times has Bush vetoed things that are popular to the American people? Who knows? You'd have to read fringe papers and the goddamn Congressional Report to figure these things out.

      So yea, I think we need "better" journalism, but it's not the same "better" that everyone thinks of. It's not better scandal mongering, or even more psychotically in-depth coverage of shit that doesn't MATTER in people's personal lives, but instead real coverage of the issues, and real coverage of what the candidates have actually DONE in office (we're not talking interns here)!

      The complete lack of substance in the political debate is utterly fed by the media. They need to stop playing the game, and stop pandering to the lowest common denominator and start covering shit with substance. I don't see it ever happening, but that's what needs to happen.
      • by AmericanInKiev ( 453362 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @09:14PM (#10293931) Homepage
        Recently I got very angry with the conservative spammers in my family email list for sending along the drivel such as "John K voted against every military program . . . ala Zell *spitball* Miller's bit."

        My Beef is that commitees make decisions by voting up or down on a series of compromised bill starting with the compromise closest to the heart of the bill's author and ending as close to the middle as it takes to reach a majority.

        And inevitable the bill's title sounds like
        "Bill to buy baby formula, flak jackets, schoolbooks, and lower the price of gasoline."

        But the actual text says stuff like "Send or keep a billion dollars of useless production in my home district, my friends home district - screw the minority members in their districts, and give me a raise - plus, but enough of the stuff on top that foxnews will let it pass quietly.

        In other words - it seems that the goal of congress is to complicate the actual vote, while the media is trying to explaint all that to the soccer moms who vote based on the 2 seconds of news they get while surfing between two lifetime movie channels.


        PS - if you're a soccer mom who does keep up on the news - I apologize - my experience with soccer moms is limited by the bigamy laws of the state - your mileage will vary.

      • by woodhouse ( 625329 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @09:42PM (#10294052) Homepage
        In the UK the news media is vastly different to yours. Reading the coverage on CNN and other US news sources, it's hard to see any real analysis of issues that matter. Week in, week out, all I've seen is pointless tripe about various candidates' vietnam war records, and what the dems and republicans are saying about each other. What about questioning one particular candidate's very recent war record? What about questioning whether the US (and the world) really is a safer place after Bush attacked a foreign country without justification in a war which most (including the UN) say is illegal. How Bush came out of this relatively unscathed is beyond me. The UK democratic system is far from perfect, but the media do a pretty good job of getting to the issues. As a result, Blair is suffering at the polls. For a country with probably the most liberal libel laws in the world, your media do a poor job of questioning the government on anything.
      • by artemis67 ( 93453 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @10:12PM (#10294208)
        It's the "stupidest question ever," because everyone already knows that politics and journalism are linked.

        A more salient question for the day would have been "How has the internet changed the relationship between politics and journalism?" Ten years ago, it was unthinkable that grass-roots journalism could question the authenticity of a CBS News report, and even more unthinkable that they could cause CBS News to flinch.

        Six years ago, Matt Drudge scooped a news story that Newsweek was sitting on [drudgereport.com]. Newsweek had the Monica Lewinsky story and did not want to run it, possibly because of the potential of the story to upset politics in an election year. Then there was also the possibility of the story to impact Paula Jones's civil suit against Bill Clinton, and the impeachment of the President by Congress.

        Whichever side of the fence you were on politically, it was this story that marked the end of an era. The end of the Big Media News monopoly on the news business, and the beginning of grass-roots checks and balances.

        Big Media hates people like Matt Drudge and the "bloggers in their pajamas". Granted, they don't have the investigative resources that the big news organizations have, but they have the power to raise questions about the direction of the news.

        It used to be said that the liberal NY Times set the headlines across the nation every day. I doubt this is the case any more. The internet is able to provide reporters with far more story options, and provides readers with vastly more story choices.

        I agree with the op-ed pieces that have looked at Memo-gate and procaimed the era of Broadcast News to be over.

        This is a good thing.
  • by Chess_the_cat ( 653159 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:02PM (#10293561) Homepage
    I approach the end of my own long run believing more strongly than ever that the quality of journalism and the quality of democracy are inextricably joined.

    That's the whole idea behind the First Amendment isn't it?

    • by sg3000 ( 87992 ) * <sg_public@ma[ ]om ['c.c' in gap]> on Sunday September 19, 2004 @10:26PM (#10294299)
      > That's the whole idea behind the First Amendment isn't it?

      In as far as this question goes, your statement can't be moderated high enough. (as of this post, you're at +4; let's see what the moderators with a chip on their shoulder do to your comment)

      The press is the only business that I'm aware of that is protected explicitly by the U.S. Constitution. With that protection comes a huge amount of responsibility. As Thomas Jefferson said, if he had a choice between a free government and no press and a free press and no government, he'd take the latter. The reason this is important is because people can't make smart decisions unless they have the right information.

      However, as of late, I think the press is abdicating their constitutionally protected role. I ran across a scary, but telling fact. The Christian Science Monitor reported that after the 9/11 attack only 3% of people polled thought that Iraq was behind it. However, a steady drumbeat of the Bush administration insinuating that Iraq was behind the attacks turned this around. For example, during Bush's prime time press conference during March of 2003, he mentioned Saddam Hussein and 9/11 in the same sentence often, talking about 9/11 eight times trying to make his case in going to war in Iraq (while simultaneously forgetting he was going to find Osama bin Laden dead or alive). The White House's misinformation campaign worked. Just before the war, 44% of people polled in a Knight-Ridder poll said that some or most of the hijackers were from Iraq. In Sept 2003, the Associated Press reported that 70 percent of people believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks. The truth is Iraq had nothing to do with Sept 11, and 17 out of 19 of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

      If the press had been doing its job, we wouldn't have seen 70% of the American people believing in a lie.
      • by goon america ( 536413 ) on Monday September 20, 2004 @02:51AM (#10295395) Homepage Journal
        Don't worry, the American people are only as out of touch with reality as the leaders!

        Donald Rumsfeld said these things in a speech a week ago: [latimes.com]

        "the leader of the opposition Northern Alliance, Masoud, lay dead, his murder ordered by Saddam Hussein, by Osama bin Laden, Taliban's co-conspirator."

        "Saddam Hussein, if he's alive, is spending a whale of a lot of time trying to not get caught. And we've not seen him on a video since 2001."

        Let me say that again -- he said this *last week* -- 9/10/2004.

        Here's the original CSPAN realvideo clip [videoc-spa...rumsfeldrm]. The whole thing is a prime example of 9/11-Iraq-9/11-Iraq conflation by repetition and insinuation. Iraq was celebrating shooting an unmanned American drone, and at the same time, Hanni Hanjour was checking into a Marriott in New Jersey...

        This stuff goes on all the time, and no one seems to notice. Instead all they do is chant shit like "Al Gore said he invented the internet!" but I can't even imagine what kinds of spasms they'd go into if he was in charge and said shit like this on a daily basis. Paul Wolfowitz said a couple of months ago that there were 350 combat deaths in Iraq [commondreams.org], at a time when there were more than 700. '"He misspoke," spokesman Charley Cooper said later. "That's all."'

        And Orwell wrote this in 1949:

        O'Brien silenced him by a movement of his hand. "We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not do. Invisibility, levitation -- anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wish to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of Nature. We make the laws of Nature."
        • > "Saddam Hussein, if he's alive, is spending a whale of a lot of time trying to
          > not get caught. And we've not seen him on a video since 2001."
          >Let me say that again -- he said this *last week* -- 9/10/2004.
          >Here's the original CSPAN realvideo clip. The whole thing is a prime example of
          >9/11-Iraq-9/11-Iraq conflation by repetition and insinuation. Iraq was
          >celebrating shooting an unmanned American drone, and at the same time, Hanni
          >Hanjour was checking into a Marriott in New Je
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Please correct it, Manik Saha has nothing to do with India. He's from Bangladesh and killed there as the link shows.
  • Freedom of Bias (Score:5, Insightful)

    by captnitro ( 160231 ) * on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:08PM (#10293603)
    The reason freedom of the press is so important is that they serve as the town criers for the people. "Making sure the Enquirer can write whatever it wants is the only way I can be sure the New York Times is writing whatever it wants."

    The first thing you learn in Social Studies is the concept of bias. Bias is in some ways, unavoidable, and in others desirable, because it allows you to see what viewpoints people are coming from. We know the Washington Post is liberal, we know the Washington Times is conservative, and that there are plenty of people who would disagree with either of those claims. And a newspaper is only so many pages long, and some things get cut. Is it political? Much of the time, yes. But only because 'politics' is a better synonym for beliefs, those oh-so-irrational parts of the human experience that can easily trump the logical parts of us. And if I publish one thing and somebody disagrees, they'll publish another. The press isn't there to tell us what is True and Right, they are there to report on What Is Happening so we can make Our Own Decisions About the World. Whether this means I have to pick up a few papers instead of just one is an exercise for the reader.

    As an example, a few months ago when ABC (I think?) decided to read the names of the young men and women who had been killed in Iraq, some stations refused to cover it. Not because they didn't think those people had died, but because it was believed there were motives beyond respect for the dead that had come into play. Whether there were matters less -- so much as the perception of those who decided to air or not to air it because they believed there were other motives. We see the same thing in the climate debate -- we see things reported or not reported about greenhouse gases because they believe the other side is 'junk science'. And in some ways, the bias is desirable; that way I know if I pick up the Post and the Times, I get both sides of the argument and not just what the editors think is right.

    The late Martha Gellhorn, who spent half a century reporting on war and politicians - and observing journalists, too -- eventually lost her faith that journalism could, by itself, change the world.

    It can't. It requires people to be informed about their situation to do something about it.

    And guess what? That's the way it's supposed to work; God Bless America. True journalism is absolutely essential to a democracy; voters must be informed to make informed decisions. And I can't imagine a situation where everybody reported the same stories in the same way being anything but very accurate, or very censored. There is no middle ground.
    • Re:Freedom of Bias (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:24PM (#10293690) Homepage Journal
      People do not want to be informed -- they want to feel informed. I agree with everything you say, but it is this which has doomed true journalism. People want so much more to be "right" than to understand, to think, or to suffer challenge to their long-held beliefs.

      What we get in America today is not true journalism. Partisan bias, which is largely demonstrated in the choice of what is and isn't "newsworthy", has been pushed to the fore of our media. Talking heads on a us-and-them political debate program on the news network of your choice where you are guaranteed moments to feel alternately indignant and superior and ultimately well-informed that you are right and they are wrong. The format is popular to the extent that almost all news has one pro- and one con- to give you a well-balanced viewpoint.

      And at the end of it all you've seen a lot of sizzle with absolutely no steak. How many hours have been spent on Hurricane Ivan? Or decades-old military documents? The corporate media has no place for politics save those which fill an entertainment quotient -- anything meaningful is not newsworthy.

      It's when you go out on the web to find news that you see just how joined journalism and politics can be. In fact, to the point you can't trust anything you read. This journey is much like the one through corporate media, except all the stories seem to end in police state or end-of-world scenarios.

      Consequently, the news fails it.

      • Re:Freedom of Bias (Score:5, Informative)

        by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @10:03PM (#10294146) Homepage Journal
        People do not want to be informed -- they want to feel informed. I agree with everything you say, but it is this which has doomed true journalism. People want so much more to be "right" than to understand, to think, or to suffer challenge to their long-held beliefs.

        What we get in America today is not true journalism. Partisan bias, which is largely demonstrated in the choice of what is and isn't "newsworthy", has been pushed to the fore of our media.

        There is a very interesting study here [americanassembler.com] that basically tries to gauge how minsinformed the US public is, and then break that down by which candidates they support, which news channels they watch, how clseoly they follow the news etc.

        Now, the report has its biases in the sorts of questions they ask, and to some extend how they present the data, but if you read the report as well as just skimming through the somewhat damning graphs littered throughout, you'll see that there are some real systemic problems with US media coverage. In general, if you watched/listened major news outlets (Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC etc.) you tended to be more misinformed the more closely you thought you followed the news.

        And then there's the problem that this study didn't even consider - all the significant and interesting questions that are simply never be asked by the mainstream US media. Ah well, what can you do? Try and seek out other news sources I guess.

      • Re:Freedom of Bias (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mmarlett ( 520340 )
        You are correct. But the problem with journalism in America is not its bias. It is a two-fold problem of striving to give the people what they want and maintaining a (limited) monopoly.

        Corporate media outlets fight to meet shareholder expectations of better bottom lines, etc... . One way to increase your bottom line is to diversify your revenue stream and consolidate your redundant expenses. To normal people, that means you buy newspapers, radio stations and television stations and cable companies and anyt

    • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:45PM (#10293792)
      The press does get controlled by governments. In the US, journalists that don't "play ball" get bumped down. Instead of getting immediate responses they will get put on hold and generally shunted around. This does not make for free press.

      The journalists that go into war zones will get left in the cold if they don't say the right things. This makes them part of the political system. In theory, the journalists are independent observers, but they are not. No wonder the Iraqi forces etc treat them as "enemy".

    • Re:Freedom of Bias (Score:3, Interesting)

      by csguy314 ( 559705 )
      What a load of crap... The vast majority of American media (Wash. Post & Times included) is right wing and just not that informative. And this is completely by design. All that mass media intentionally tries to keep people poorly informed as to the reality of many situations and that's because the majority of the mass media is owned by massive corporations. The 'liberal' post is owned by a multi-billion dollar corporation and those corporations will (in fact are legally obligated to) do what is best for
    • Re:Freedom of Bias (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sg3000 ( 87992 ) * <sg_public@ma[ ]om ['c.c' in gap]> on Sunday September 19, 2004 @10:53PM (#10294448)
      > We know the Washington Post is liberal, we know the
      > Washington Times is conservative, and that there are plenty of
      > people who would disagree with either of those claims.

      Republicans have been trying hard to call the mainstream media "Liberally-biased" forever. This comes from the fact that whenever the press reports on Republicans doing something wrong, they're biased. Republicans started on this because the Washington Post exposed Watergate, which is what started the whole "bias" claim. The Washington Times, on the other hand, was founded in 1982 by the Moonies as a conservative newspaper and help provide conservative spin to the news.

      The truth is the press is far more interested in sensationalism and getting the "scoop" first, to have a bias towards Democrats or Liberals. One would have to ignore facts to say otherwise. Let's look at an example. During 1998 and 1999, the so-called "Liberal-biased" Washington Post published 233 articles about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. On the other hand, regarding the allegations that George H. W. Bush had a long-time affair with staffer Jennifer Fitzgerald, the Washington Post dedicated exactly two articles published in August 1992 and Sept 1993. So much for the Washington Post having a Liberal bias.

      However, Republicans have succeeded in the "big lie" where if you make an accusation long enough and often enough, people will believe it. By claiming that there is a Liberal bias, it allows them to explain away negative stories, while promoting stories that help them ("see, even the 'Liberal-biased media' says so"). At the same time, it also allows the Republicans to have blatantly partisan news organizations like Fox News and the Washington Times for what they claim is balance. As Matt Labash, a writer for the conservative Weekly Standard (like Fox News, it's owned by Rupert Murdock) put it:

      > "We've created this cottage industry in which it pays to be
      > unobjective. It pays to be subjective as much as possible. It's a
      > great way to have your cake and eat it, too. Criticize other
      > people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want.
      > It's a great little racket. I'm glad we found it, actually."
    • Re:Freedom of Bias (Score:5, Insightful)

      by superdude72 ( 322167 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @10:57PM (#10294466)
      We know the Washington Post is liberal, we know the Washington Times is conservative

      No! They are not flip sides of the same coin, damn it!

      There isn't a left-wing equivalent to the Washington Times. When the Washington Post gets facts wrong, it's a BIG DEAL, because people of all political persuasions expect them to be accurate. The Washington Times is like Pravda. No one expects them to be accurate. The only reason anyone reads it is to find out the GOP's talking points for this week.

      Post editor Ben Bradlee defined a difference between "objectivity," and "fairness." News staff have points of view which inevitably influence coverage, but nevertheless, in the spirt of fairness, they are expected to present other points of view in the best possible light, and to present them accurately, whether they agree or not. The Times doesn't hold its news staff to that standard, and that's why they aren't credible. They exist to promote the agenda of their owner, cult leader Sun Myung Moon, who thinks he is the messiah.

      We would not be well served by a left-wing equivalent to the Washington Times. Two lies don't add up to one truth.

      Moreover, the Washington Post hasn't been exactly hospitable to Democratic candidates in recent years. If they've been tilting their coverage to get Clinton, Gore, and Kerry elected, they've been doing a lousy job of it. Bob Woodward was given unprecedented access to the Bush White House to write his book, for Christ's sake. Do you think they'd do that for a reporter from some Leftist rag? And the editorial page publishes Charles Krauthammer.

      I will stipulate that Post publisher Phil Graham was probably a little too close to John F. Kennedy. But that was a long time ago. In general, the Post is too intertwined with the power structure in Washington. But that doesn't make them a liberal newspaper. It makes them an objective newspaper with some problems. Given the structure of our institutions (government officials don't have to talk to you, if they don't like you), I'm not sure the Post can be less establishmentarian than they are without losing the access that makes them a newspaper of record.
    • Re:Freedom of Bias (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mshurpik ( 198339 )
      >The press isn't there to tell us what is True and Right

      Wrong. Journalists are supposed to be trustworthy. They are supposed to be able to make the Right judgement, even if it conflicts with their personal allegiances.

      That's why you can open the newspaper and see a photo of an Iraqi guy waiting for his chance to fire a rocket at an American tank. There's nothing patriotic or comforting about that photo, but it is unabashedly True.

  • Excellent Points (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ravenspear ( 756059 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:09PM (#10293607)
    The FA has some good observations but most of it has been said elsewhere. An excellent book on this subject is Manufacturing Consent : The Political Economy of the Mass Media [amazon.com].

    It comes down to the fact that freedom of the press is not what most people think. What it really means is that the media is free to make you hear what they want you to hear.
    • I agree, but I think that Noam Chomsky has less nuanced arguments than some. A book that I enjoyed was The Media Monopoly by Ben Bagdikian --- multiple editions. He focuses on the impact of economic concentration of ownership of media outlets. My favorite is Lawrence Lessig though. His sensitivity to the interaction between politics and, for e.g., the internet, is amazing.
    • Every American should have to read Chomsky's _Manufacturing Consent_ . You can find excerpts of it here [thirdworldtraveler.com] and here [thirdworldtraveler.com]
      Much of his work and speeches can be found here [chomsky.info]

      When I finally went right to the source, and actuully read chomsky , it helped me make sense of what I had seen and read on the news after 9-11 and during the run-up to the Iraq war.

      Edward Herman also has a lot of excellent and insightful material on the media and politics.
  • quality? (Score:5, Funny)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:10PM (#10293610) Homepage
    the quality of journalism and the quality of democracy are inextricably joined.
    Counterexample: slashdot is very democratic.
  • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:15PM (#10293640)
    When someone says Journalism what they are really describing is the quality of the information that people are receiving about their world. Often the only information people will have about a topic will come from one news outlet or another. The decisions made based on the information then has great real world impact.

    There are many easy examples that do not involve the political arena. If you have been following the SCO case and made a decision to invest based on the mainstream reportage you would have been badly hurt. If you acted on the reporting and information present on Groklaw you would be laughing now.

    SCO is an example where the presence of alternative sources of information has served to minimize the damage that would have been done. Most aren't so fortunate. In the 80's there was a scam that went by the name ZZZZ Best. It was a stock pump scam that managed to persist for quite awhile untill it was exposed by the then editor of Barons Alan Abelson.

    There are also the clasic examples in the legal arena. Lawyers seem to be very fond of drumming up cases based on bad reportage. Examples include 20/20 rigging trucks to explode to prove mismanufacture, 60 minutes reporting volvo;s have an unexplained sudden acceleration. The perpetuation of junk science seems particularly popular witness the near miss that the cell phone companies took over brain tumors, or that cook thats continuing suing video game companies over violent behavior in children.

    Its not that the democratic process that requires good reporting its that of governmental systems it makes unbiased reporting possible. It needs to go much further. We all lose when the news is manipulated.
    • by LenE ( 29922 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @09:40PM (#10294044) Homepage
      Examples include 20/20 rigging trucks to explode to prove mismanufacture, 60 minutes reporting volvo;s have an unexplained sudden acceleration.

      That should be Dateline NBC for the trucks and Audi, not Volvo for the cars. A much more recent and politically linked example is the current Rathergate with the forged documents and a steadfast refusal by Rather and company to admit that they are wrong.

      In the Rather case, he has been personally invested in the Texas Democratic Party for several years. Because of his politics, he blatantly manufactured news with a few of his daughter's cronies. In this case it is the journalistic equivalent of throwing a previously shot cat into Shroedinger's box, and then accusing Shroedinger of being cruel to animals.

      The real world impact that was hoped for in this case vanished when the sham was unraveled. First the forged documents and the strings of experts. Then the star interview of Barnes was found to be both not in power at the time, and discredited by his own prior statements and his own daughter. The most recent national polls are probably reflecting a backlash to the "dirty tricks" aspect of this little episode, more than Bush or Kerry's own campaigning. This kind of journalism in action is fair to neither Kerry or Bush, and shouldn't be practiced by any of the press.

      Now CBS is still feeling the pain and can't escape from it until they perform a major mea culpa or have a major purge of their perceived bias (Mr. Rather). In this case they lost right leaning viewers because of perceived left slant, and principled left leaning viewers because of tainted credibility. Now their ratings rely on rubberneckers waiting to see what the next act is in this train-wreck. Witness the strings of press releases announcing that they will be announcing something. Pathetic.

      -- Len
  • by here4fun ( 813136 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:17PM (#10293652) Homepage Journal
    it took me awhile after I left government to get my footing back in journalism. I had to learn all over again that what's important for the journalist is not how close you are to power but how close you are to reality.

    But everyone has a different "reality". The guy who lives in a ghetto probably sees very differnt things than the guy in suburbia with the gated communities. But in reality, nothing is differnt than perception. I think the problem is the people in the gated communities have such blinders on they don't understand the rest of the world. They are like the monday morning quaterback who says "if only they would get a job.... blah blah blah". Then they realize the person is working overtime and they say "if only they would get a better job blah blah blah". A good journalist shows it how it really is, without any value statements.

    But I approach the end of my own long run believing more strongly than ever that the quality of journalism and the quality of democracy are inextricably joined

    I would agree with that statement. Ever since new stations hire people like Fox does, their reputation goes into the toilet. For example, people like Orielly are nothing but paparazzi in disguise. Didn't he work for inside edition or some equally worthless tabloid? And now he is a news reporter? Wouldn't that be about the same if Jerry Springer decided to anchor the news?

    • "For example, people like Orielly are nothing but paparazzi in disguise. Didn't he work for inside edition or some equally worthless tabloid? And now he is a news reporter? Wouldn't that be about the same if Jerry Springer decided to anchor the news?"

      O'Reilly did work for six years on the TV-tabloid Inside Edition [foxnews.com] according to his bio on the FOX News website. It looks like a career low for O'Reilly, no matter what your opinion of FOX News is you'd have to say it is at least more credible a news source th
  • No, sorry. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel Ellard ( 799842 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:19PM (#10293659)
    Democracy depends on the populace having the information to make informed decisions, the freedom to do so, and the power to make these decisions stick. Journalism plays a role on this, but it's hardly enough on its own.

    To the extent that jounalism provides useful and accurage information, it's helpful. If it provides a way for leaders to share their considered opinions about matters of state, even better. When it's a tool of the government, then of course it sucks. In the long run I think that bad journalism is worse for democracies than good journalism is good...

    • by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:30PM (#10293718)
      Democracy depends on the populace having the information to make informed decisions

      Democracy depends on the populace having the CAPACITY to make informed decisions. We're doomed.
      • Democracy depends on the populace having the CAPACITY to make informed decisions.

        Careful -- it's a slippery slope from there to saying that smarter people should get more votes or that uneducated people shouldn't be allowed to vote at all... and that's the sort of thinking that makes people very, very upset...

    • Re:No, sorry. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by metlin ( 258108 ) *
      Maybe it's a question of security -- security of life. In other countries, life isn't as secure as it is, in say, the US.

      Security tends to bring in stagnation, because people are afraid that if their security is affected, their life will enter a state of turmoil. Therefore, everyone (the society as a whole) chooses a safe path -- and as we all know, a safe path will always lead down stagnation.

      Whereas, if you consider Srilanka or India or Bangladesh, there is security, but it's gotten at a price. And peop
      • Re:No, sorry. (Score:3, Interesting)

        The USA has a lot of diversity in its roots, but most of it has been homogenized at this point, at least from what the outside sees. As far as "white" goes, does that mean Italian, German, French, British, Irish, Nordic, Dutch, Russian, Spanish ancestry, or what? And as far as Christianity is concerned, there are many varieties (sects, if you will) of Christianity and the notion that one is the same as the other is not accurate -- although it also might not seem particularly important given that Christia
    • Re:No, sorry. (Score:3, Interesting)

      You forget: The populace has to be willing to make the effort to be informed. I think more than anything else, this is the problem. People believe what they see on the TV news of their choice, and they don't bother to add more facts or even check the competition.

      I mean, the amount of our political discoure that is decided by the radical right and left is ridiculous. Most of us are neither, yet look at the big issues: Abortion, gun control, prayer in schools. Jesus.

      And god, so uninformed. I'd like to see a
      • Re:No, sorry. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by zulux ( 112259 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @09:24PM (#10293972) Homepage Journal
        I'd like to see a day where you had to answer a five question multiple choice test about each candidate you vote for, and if you blow more than one, NO VOTE FOR YOU!

        Good luck!

        Some people in Florida were so stupid that they failed to punch their voting card properly. Let alone answer 5 questions.

        I sometimes agree with your sentement - but unfortuntly such tests have historically been a used a bludgeon against the less powerfull.

        For example: we use to have a literacy tests - but all to often they were only used to exclude minorities.

      • Re:No, sorry. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by csguy314 ( 559705 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @09:32PM (#10294009) Homepage
        I mean, the amount of our political discoure that is decided by the radical right and left is ridiculous. Most of us are neither, yet look at the big issues: Abortion, gun control, prayer in schools. Jesus.

        Sorry, what country are you talking about?
        What political discourse in the US is controlled by the left? With the majority of media owned by companies like Westinghouse, GE, AOL-TW, Disney and Fox, (and having numerous GOP donors among them) the only real choice you have in US media is between the far right and the right of center (that is, in relation to the rest of the world).
        I'm not trying to be insulting, but in a country where "liberal" is used as an insult (and yet it's the name of the governing party in your neighbour to the north), your view of 'left' isn't really in line with the rest of the planet.
  • Yes... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThomasFlip ( 669988 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:24PM (#10293688)
    If journalists choose to cover unimportant issues such as Howard Deans debacle, Zel Millers flaming, Bill Clintons sex scandal etc, then people aren't going to be well informed, hence they won't make smart decisions. People vote based on what the media tells them. What else do people have to go on ?(except inherited family/geographic leanings and here-say from other people)
  • by JThundley ( 631154 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:25PM (#10293696) Homepage
    Look in the upper left corner. Slashdot: Politics for Nerds. Your vote matters.

    And what is today's Slashdot poll? What color is your stapler?

    Your vote matters!
  • by PapayaSF ( 721268 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:30PM (#10293716) Journal
    If Moyers really believes what he writes, then shouldn't he be calling for Dan Rather's head on a platter? It seems to me that trying to influence a presidential election with forged documents is not exactly quality journalism.

    Honestly, I'm not trolling or flamebaiting, just saying that Moyers isn't really Mr. Objectivity when it comes to journalism and politics. I found his laudatory reference to I.F. Stone a bit much, considering that we now know Stone was in the pay of the KGB [wikipedia.org]. And Moyers, for those of you who don't know, produced LBJ's infamous "Daisy" TV ad of 1964, certainly a landmark of American political campaigning, but hardly a positive one.
    • by fizban ( 58094 ) <fizban@umich.edu> on Sunday September 19, 2004 @09:13PM (#10293929) Homepage
      Then we should also call for Fox News journalists' heads on platters, because they are trying to influence the presidential election just as much, and probably moreso than Dan Rather.

      The key is the search for truth, and no news organization I've seen has completely done that, which is sad, because that's what true journalism is.

      The problem today is that people don't want to be given information. They want to be given answers, thus the large number of "editorial" news programs (instead of "fact" news programs). Once people hear the answer they want, they don't listen anymore, and it takes tragedy and calamitous events to wake people up.

      Because of this, I believe our democracy is on a downward spiral, and I'm not sure what it's going to take to send it back up...
  • Journalism != Fact (Score:3, Insightful)

    by asciiwhite ( 679872 ) <asciiwhite.gmail@com> on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:41PM (#10293773)
    One of the big problems with the media is people make a judgement from an opinion. Media isn't fact, it's nothing more then an opinion.
    In law we wont accept a case unless we get at least two opinions, the defendant and the prosecutor opinion. But yet in journalism most people will make a judgement from the one opinion. This undermines democracy.
    Anyone who thinks Journalism is more then an opinion should flick between different channels reporting the same story, and see the inconsistencies between the reports,Then if interested spent about 1 hour researching the topic and you'll soon see how inconsistent and how opinionated the story is.
    Media has a big influence on politics, The average person gets his world news and politics from the TV and/or newspaper. If these sources are bias, then the average person isn't going to be able to make a fair judgement.

    IF you belive in democracy then everything and nothing is more then just an opinion,nor fact or certainty thats why war is never an solution its a failure....

    But hey democracy sure has changed as of late...
  • Odd that Moyers chose to complain of "raging idealogies" in his little screed. He should have turned his gaze inwards, I think.
  • by Cryofan ( 194126 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @08:59PM (#10293856) Journal
    The media act as a set of filters that propagate a particular set of ideas to the citizens. This set of ideas is just happens to be about the same as what the rich and the powerful believe and think. More about this here [chomsky.info]
    • " The media act as a set of filters that propagate a particular set of ideas to the citizens. This set of ideas is just happens to be about the same as what the rich and the powerful believe and think."

      And since all mainstream press and media has now been bought up by the rich and powerful, this should not be surprising to us. Of course the media filters the news in a way that is pleasing to the rich and powerful. That's how they get advertising dollars from companies that are owned by the rich and powe

  • Just a little commont on some history -- Thomas Paine was severely criticized because his writing style was all venom - he was the ultimate muckraker. He was great at tearing things down (deprecating the monarchy and royalty), but his invectives were ineffective at 'building up' the idea of democracy, and his contemporaries were well aware of this (there's a famous quote about him that elludes me at the moment).
  • Awesome article! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This goes part of the way to helping understand why so many Americans were surprised by 9/11. Your government (and mine) are able to do atrocious things in the world, and get away with it because they are able to close the veil.

    I urge you to read documents that have now been released relating to Nicaragua (US displaced popular govt), Iran (US displaced democratic govt), Indonesia (US assisted displacement of democratic govt, replaced with tyrant who, by own admission, quickly killed over 500K people), Lao

  • 'But I approach the end of my own long run believing more strongly than ever that the quality of journalism and the quality of democracy are inextricably joined.'

    Isn't that an obvious truth? For democracy to work, people have to be informed. They get their information mainly from the mass media. Hence, without quality journalism no quality democracy.

    The sad state of journalism in America might well be the principal reason for the sad state of American democracy.

    Another reason is that people aren't ta

  • by gestapo4you ( 590974 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @09:08PM (#10293902)
    These quotes pretty much sums up who runs the media nowadays. Make people believe they actually have a choice.

    "The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone
    of any significance in the major media."
    - William Colby, former director of the CIA

    "Any dictator would admire the uniformity
    and obedience of the media"
    - Noam Chomsky

    "Truth is the greatest of all national possessions.
    A state, a people, a system which suppresses the truth
    or fears to publish it, deserves to collapse."
    - Kurt Eisner

    "Whoever controls the media--the images--controls the culture."
    - Allen Ginsberg

    "We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things
    the general public does not need to know, and shouldn't.
    I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take
    legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press
    can decide whether to print what it knows."
    - Katherine Graham, late owner of the Washington Post,
    in a speech to CIA recruits in 1988.
  • For years we have top quality journalism in Soviet Union: Izvestia and Pravda. See how for years Russian people flock to polls to vote 99% to return Communist Party to the helm of our glorious mother Russia. Is proof: your journalists are corrupt, scandal-seeking, sensationalists, traitors to the revolutionary ideals of your forefathers and sow the discontent that leads to many political parties expending precious resources of the working people for election campaigns. With better journalists you then

  • It is a simple concept. Whatever issues that Journalist feel strongly about or they think that other people will feel strongly about will be covered while other issues that although may be more important but doesn't cause ones blood to boil will not be covered. American Journalism is a commercial activity and covering information that will make the most money will be showed. Unfortunately if the Journalism is truly controlled by the government then you get the issue of the government only telling the peo
  • in the us, in the era of newt gingrich, a day wouldn't pass without the right screaming about how the media had a liberal bias.

    now, in the '00s, in the days of fox news broadcasting, it's the left screaming about the media covering things up and placating the masses and a right wing bias in things.

    all i know is, the pendulum swings left, the pendulum swings right, and complaining about the media seems to just be a scape goat for the right or the left, depending upon the era.

    the truth i think is this: the
    • by Slur ( 61510 )
      The "left wing media" meme has been trotted out for the past decade and a half by the right wing as a pre-emptive measure to embed that idea in the mainstream memosphere. Currently they are pushing the meme of "feminization of culture" in order to push people towards a more rigid and kneejerk form of "decisive, masculine" thinking and get them behind whoever acts toughest.

      Everything the right-wing pushes out these days is designed to undermine our liberal democracy and to keep power entrenched and centrali
  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @09:18PM (#10293957) Homepage
    The disturbing trend in journalism to me is the activist journalism. Like Fox News. If you think Fox News is really "fair and balanced", you're probably somewhere to the right of Reagan. Fox isn't reporting the news, they're spinning the news.

    Coupled with that is the new focus on controlling interaction with the media and the neocon culture of retaliation. If the White House doesn't like what you write, you might find your access restricted, or your CIA agent wife named in the right wing media (hey, there's a switch). Expect payback. And if that level of pressure is applied to media companies and the same retalitory practices on the macro level, the overall chilling effect could be huge. Start peppering Bush with tough questions and you might not only be excluded from inside acess but might be out of a job or reporting on the rug weavers of western Pakistan.

    And before some neocon drone steps up and tries to justify their behavior by saying the Democrats did the same thing when they were in power, the previous administrations were not nearly as draconian about trying to control access and what the media reported as this bunch. Stop justifying the horrendous tactics and amoral behavior of this administration by pointing back to the excesses of other political entities. This one claims the religious and moral high ground, then employs the tactics of evil and acts despicably.

    • Lyndon Johnson made the current administration look like nice people. When a reporter pissed him off, he called that reporter's boss and got him reassigned or fired. LBJ, the most strong armed tactical administration of the 1900's. He treated Congress the same way. During his 20+ years in the House and Senate, he learned where everyones skeletons were. When needed, he threatened to expose them.

      The days of the press turning a blind eye to Presidential mis-behavior are thankfully over. Thats why Clinton got
  • by Keck ( 7446 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @09:40PM (#10294043) Homepage
    Politics and EVERYTHING humans do are inextricably joined. Everything that matters to someone, who exists in a group of two or more people, has some political meaning..
  • by Usagi_yo ( 648836 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @10:03PM (#10294149)
    News doesn't sell as well as controversy. Here, in the U.S, a stable Democracy, we don't get news, we get controversy and opinion which is marketed to us, and now even targetted marketing.

    Nobody here in the U.S gets killed because they exposed some powerfully rich pecadillos. Instead they get character assinated and overwhelmed with high priced lawyers. This of course is more controversy and the news media plays both sides and fuels the story so that we can get our dose of Shadenfrauden.

    When I think of the U.S news media and politics, I distinctly remember two incidences that sum it up.

    Number one, when Clinton was first running for office, he came in 4th in some primary, and I was writing him off as an also ran. The very next primary, some 2 weeks later, Clinton came in 3rd and was annointed the "Comeback Kid" with all the news media worshipping him.

    Number two, when Clinton got caught with his cigar in the cookie jar -- I mean caught dead to rights complete with smoking cigar -- the news media was all agog and in awe of his "genius" in the syntax of his denials. Even admitting that on the surface they appeared to be lies, but where actualy very subtle and genius denials that technicaly were correct. Culminating in "Depends upon what the meaning of is is".

    These point to one of the big shortcommings in U.S news today. They are Lazy. Any well funded and controversial organization can simply make up the news and make up the story and the networks buy it up wholesale and then dress it up and retail it to us.

    • I agree with your points, except it not just the US press, it is worldwide.

      Not only is the press lazy, they have become self-asorbed and believe themselves to be the un-elected fourth branch of government. Well, fuck them, I did not elect them and they do not speak for me!

      A prime example is Dan Rather's mental contortions to explain their manuafacturing a story and/or getting duped and/or producing forged documents. Wipe the shit off your nose and the cum off your lips Dan, it's distracting...

      The p

  • by jgaynor ( 205453 ) <jon@gayno[ ]rg ['r.o' in gap]> on Sunday September 19, 2004 @10:06PM (#10294169) Homepage
    I had heard something extremely similar from Moyers last week on some dude's homepage. Found it again because it really blew me away. This was his keynote speech at the Media reform conference and is a bit more left-wing (warning Faux News viewers - your heads may explode).

    Part 1 [mac.com]
    Part 2 [mac.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 19, 2004 @10:19PM (#10294255)
    To quote Bill Moyers:
    " I believe Tom Rosenthiel got it right in that Boston Globe article when he said that the proper question is not whether you call yourself a journalist but whether your own work constitutes journalism. And what is that? I like his answer: A journalist tries to get the facts right, tries to get as close as possible to the verifiable truth not to help one side win or lose but to inspire public discussion."
    Very amusing! By that standard, Dan Rather and the "60 Minutes" team at CBS aren't journalists. They not only used memos that two of their outside experts said were bogus, they hid that fact from the public on the show and for days afterward.

    And to quote a Boston Globe reporter on journalistic honesty is almost as funny. Next on to Rather and CBS, the Boston Globe was the most aggressive at defending those forged memos with bogus claims they could have been churned out on an early 70s typewriter.

    The day after this now discredited CBS expose, Google news listed over 1000 stories in papers around the world. In none that I read did the reporter make even a cursory examination of those memos. They simply repeated CBS's doctored tale like parrots.

    Into the breach stepped a handful of blogs, notably Powerline [powerlineblog.com] and Little Green Footballs [littlegreenfootballs.com]. In less than a day and using the expertise of their readers much like open source and Groklaw, they demonstrated that the memos were clumsy forgeries done with a recent version of Microsoft Word. Five years ago, perhaps even two years ago, that would have been impossible.

    It was easily the biggest Internet story of the year. A handful of blogs take on a powerful TV network, charge it with using forged documents, and win. It demonstrates perfectly the democratic, leveling influence of the Internet.

    But those depending on Slashdot for their window on the world would have heard almost nothing about this amazing development. A story that should have been shouted from Slashdot's main page and updated several times a day, was buried on the politics page.

    The select few that determine what stories Slashdot displays are free to vote for whoever they want in the November election. But they're not free to caption their pages with "Politics for Nerds. Your vote matters" and expect us to trust them. If they want to champion Kerry by burying contrary stories, they should change that slogan to "Partisan Politics for Nerds. Vote for Kerry."

    --Mike Perry, Inkling blog [inklingbooks.com], Seattle

  • Journalism and media clearly impacts freedom and democracy. The vast majority of the population relies on the media for their information. You can easily manipulate the population by simply messing with the information. Good media will keey an eye on these things. Unfortunately, there has never been any good journalism. Journalism generally degenerates into nationalism during tough times.

    Propaganda is the most powerful tool to control adult humans. You can easily get someone to kill another by using propaganda--try doing that with some other means!
  • by gordgekko ( 574109 ) on Sunday September 19, 2004 @11:03PM (#10294485) Homepage
    He's never been able to extract his politics from his reporting throughout his career. Then again, this is the man who invented modern political mudslinging while working for Lyndon Johnson.
  • Eyes and Ears. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stephen Samuel ( 106962 ) <samuelNO@SPAMbcgreen.com> on Sunday September 19, 2004 @11:26PM (#10294599) Homepage Journal
    A society's media is it's eyes and ears. When your eyes and ears see and hear, for you something other than the truth, then your society can quickly get into a state similar to a person going delusional.

    This is the situation whether we're talking about WMD's the Iran Hostage 'crisis' (my first media beef), health care or whether Kerry's medals are more important than Bush's lies about Iraq.

    When the press is more interested in Janet Jackson's nipples than world affairs and local politics, that's rather like me watching the butt of the girl that just passed me and walking into a light pole (or traffic).

    It's the same thing for intelligence services... It's the reason why the US Military was so interested in satellite-killer technology; stealth aircraft and GPS selective-service. It's also why, when they went into Iraq in 1991 radar installations were pretty much the first things to be taken out followed by missile sites and air bases.... If the enemy can't see you, they can't defend against you.

    Similarly: When Bush and Blair got so pedantic about wanting 'proof' of WMD's that their respective intelligence services started ignoring their own rules of intelligence triage, they put their own countries into a delusional state and left the rest of the world seeing double.

    It's why The US put so much money into VOA during the cold war and why propaganda is considered a tool of war. The truth is nowhere as important as what you can get your enemy to believe.

    As our media sources get distracted by the hunt for money, our societal eyesight gets fuzzy. If you want a healthy society, you need a healthy and independent media. A democracy making decisions based on bad media is like a blind man driving in traffic: If traffic is light or you're driving a tank, you'll be OK until you find a cliff. I think that the US has been like this... The country is essentially a tank. The countries that have gotten run over so far have been felt like bumps. Iraq may be the first sign that there's a cliff up ahead, or a deep lake.

  • by Zhe Mappel ( 607548 ) on Monday September 20, 2004 @12:40AM (#10294892)
    Former presidential aide and press secretary Bill Moyers spent the 1960s helping Lyndon Johnson sugarcoat the Vietnam war for public consumption. It was, by any measure, including obviously his own, a shameful performance--one surely as corrosive to truth as that which he excoriates today in right wing corporate journalism.

    Since that time Moyers has demonstrated, through his PBS work specifically, a desire to see more clearly and chart more honestly the nature and exercise of American power. And he has come to understand, better than he did as a willing flunkie in his youth, what costs are paid when our journalism is left in the care of corporations.

    He laments the backlash in our present reactionary period. "Journalists who try to tell these (critical) stories, connect these dots, and examine these links are demeaned, disparaged, and dismissed," he writes. True, however it's hardly a new phenomenon. Things have not simply gone sour since 9/11 or since Rupert Murdoch's ascension. Reading corporate US journalism from the 1960s is little different to reading the current product today: both are bland, dependent on elites for their least utterance, concerned foremost with selling a product, careful not to offend, sure to look the other way when their masters might be embarrassed. (The 60s and 70s also saw a burst in critical journalism that sometimes--as in the My Lai massacre, the Pentagon Papers or Watergate--reached the mainstream, but what survives of that vigor is now mainly to be found in the alternative press. Blogging is a hopeful sign, little more.)

    Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American life; well, Moyers has had one. He quit the browbeating game and went on to become critical, passionate, and curious about our world. Today the dire shape of the Republic may well be as due to malfeasors in office as to yes-men and yes-women in journalism, but we cannot say that people like Moyers haven't been there to show us how to do it all better.

  • by Mulletproof ( 513805 ) on Monday September 20, 2004 @12:51AM (#10294930) Homepage Journal
    "Are Journalism and Politics Inextricably Joined?"

    Don't lessen the importance of what the man was trying to say by substituting your words for his-- "the quality of journalism and the quality of democracy are inextricably joined." Perhapse it's just me, but that entire story (or novel) was more than just concern for something as pale as 'politics'. His article tried to go several levels higher than a concern on mere political saber rattling. We're talking about democracy, the will and freedom of the people and their lives, not simply who will be elected in 2004 or the party platform. Nor was his article merely covering the topic of 'politics'. Most of it had to do with the welfare of the people and how the quality of journalism was a direct representative of that.

    I may disagree with his 'half-empty' focus on the state of affairs, and even some of his conclusions; But don't dilute his thoughts and exact words with such an inadequate replacement just to fit into an easily noticed Slashdot shoebox topic when he obviously meant so much more.

  • by realmolo ( 574068 ) * on Monday September 20, 2004 @03:20AM (#10295477)
    Have you noticed that most of the stories about the presidential campaign are about exactly that? The CAMPAIGN.

    Almost EVERY mass-media story on the election isn't about anything except the ELECTION PROCESS. Dicussion of actual political issues, and the candidates views on said issues, are rarely attempted.
  • by Genda ( 560240 ) <mariet@goTIGERt.net minus cat> on Monday September 20, 2004 @03:38AM (#10295521) Journal
    Let's face a few simple facts...

    The vast majority of people in this country get their ideas handed to them by the warm glowing box in their living rooms. Yes, I know there're a growing number of younger folks who don't allow that banal appliance, to limit or control the content of their minds or their imaginations, but the polls would at least suggest that >50% of the American public get's their quasi-truth predigested and sanitized for their convenience, through video.

    The American media is owned by an ever shrinking handful of multinational conglomerates who would be just as happy if there was only one super-duper-hyper-megacorp that owned and controled every sound, image, thought, and the means by which to transmit, communicate, store, and deliver said IP.

    Once in America, there was a plethora of privately owned publications, with different views, opinions, perspectives, and takes on the truth. This didn't seem to alter the fact that as a whole Americans have pretty much done as they bloody well felt like doing and damn the hindmost, but at least you couldn't say you went to hell blind and stupid. Today it's almost impossible to find a fact that hasn't been so thoroughly masticated by people who have one agenda or another to foist upon their readers, that truth has become kind of Orwellian double-speak for propagandist excrement.

    The internet has indeed been at some level relief to the nauseating trend of politicizing and comercializing the truth as though it were some informational of comodity. The problem with the internet is that it's the gourmand to finer journalisms gourmet. The internet is an open pipe that mixes (without consideration) the finest delacacies with equal parts raw untreated sewage, and if "Caveat Emptor" is the rule for the open market, it's a bloody sacrament on the internet. That, and as a few have already pointed out, one can justify any point of view with the right filter or Google search. A greater mass doesn't make feces any finer a thing, nor BS any closer to the truth.

    This was the whole point of a forth estate. After disasters caused by yellow journalism, people demanded men who they could trust without question. The kind of journalists so committed to truth, justice, and the American way, you could gladly bet your ass they were more dedicated to delivering the goods, then you were dedicated to breathing tomorrow. The last century saw giants, men who you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt had no capacity to lie, who would stand before the nation bare-assed naked if need be, to deliver the unadulterated truth. Edward R. Morrow, Huntley and Brinkley, Walter Kronkite, and a handful of others came into people's home, and you could bet you last dollar, they would tell you precisely how it was, straight up, no spin, no doctoring.

    Somewhere between then and now, we went from news to infotainment. Then added the kind of mud sucking pandering to lowest common denominator mouthbreathers that could only be provided by the British then U.S. tabloids (any sense of dignity went flying straigt down the toilet.) Now in the beginning of the third millinium, we have government crossbreeding with what's left of journalism, and their bastard child half politician, half wallstreet marketing spin doctor, has replaced all but the holiest journalistic bastions (can you say PBS.) I can totally understand why Bill Moyers is retiring, hell, I'd be putting on asbestos underware and looking for a good bomb shelter. People, we've let the criminally stupid, and morally corrupt steal our society away from under us.

    I don't know if this is to paraphrase Jefferson "A time refresh the tree of liberty with either the blood of patriots and/or tyrants...", but it's getting pretty dang certain that good men of conscience can ill tolerate what's passing for truth and justice these days.


It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's