Obescient news media

July 17, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More

The American news media often fails, even in its self-appointed role as stenographer for powerful people. According to Glenn Greenwald,

“many American media outlets, including the NYT, give veto power to the Obama campaign (and, less so, to the Romney campaign), as well as political offices generally, over the quotes of its officials that are allowed to be published. . . . I genuinely do not understand how any self-respecting journalist could even consider agreeing to this. But they do, so much so that it is now widespread custom. I don’t primarily blame the Obama campaign or other politicians for this: it’s natural that they would want to manipulate the American media as much as possible for their own interests and use every instrument, no matter how journalistically unethical, to achieve that. But its extreme use now is reflective of the general fixation which the Obama administration has on secrecy and controlling the flow of information . . .”

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Category: Journalism, Media

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Brynn Jacobs says:

    Erich- Glenn Greenwald continues to showcase why I consider him a hero of journalism. I recommend everyone read the whole article, as it’s really stunning stuff. People still assume that we have a free and independent media, one immune to censorship. However, if the “censorship” is voluntary, who is left to complain? It ought to be the news consumer, but I doubt many of them realize the extent to which the “news” is shaped, spun, decontextualized, and/or altered by means of anonymous quotations from unnamed “officials”.

    I just finished a fantastic book on the subject: Into the Buzzsaw: Leading journalists expose the myth of the free press. It’s a series of essays from mostly former journalists, explaining the myriad ways in which their very important and doubtless newsworthy stories were killed, marginalized, or rendered impotent. Controversies covered include (among others) Monsanto’s rGBH milk, a former DEA agent explaining the shell game of the “war on drugs”, April Oliver recounting her experience in reporting Operation Tailwind, and the No Gun Ri massacre during the Korean war (for which the reporters eventually won a Pulitzer). It’s plain that several of the reporters and editors writing in the book are bitter after their treatment, and perhaps understandably so. Regardless, it’s a very interesting behind-the-scenes look at the media.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Brynn: As you know, I hold Glenn Greenwald in the highest esteem. He should be on a major national TV news show, but that couldn’t possibly be, because he tells the truth too much, and the truth he tells exposes media/corporate/political corruption to a degree that we should probably rip up the civics text that most school kids use, because they are confabulations and fantasies.

      I will take a look at Into the Buzzsaw. Thanks for the revelation. The conclusion doesn’t shock me because I’ve see evidence of this problem everywhere, by the way most stories are covered in most news media, AND by the types of stories that don’t get meaningful coverage.

      We are a dysfunctional country with a massively fucked-up set of priorities. We are intoxicated by the fear of outsiders and by the false belief that war can solve these problems. As Annie Leonard points out in the Story of Stuff, many of our priorities are dictated by an dangerously unsustainable lifestyle. We have a political system that is designed to exclude ordinary people from the process, as voters AND as candidates (None of the smart people I know would be interested in running for office because of the corruption of the system and what it would do to their families). Because all big media needs corporate dollars to survive, they resist telling these truths, yet we have no way to reset America’s priorities without consistent hard-hitting reporting on these issues. In short, an aggressive free-spirited news media is a prerequisite for turning this country around, yet the most prominent elements of our news media has been seduced by corporate money and contentedness to consider entertainment and freak shows as “news.”

      I would put Amy Goodman, Bill Moyers, Dylan Ratigan (recently retired from broadcasting), and a few others up on that pedestal with Greenwald. I would also include John Nichols and Robert McChesney of Free Press. And I believe that there are hundreds of highly skilled reporters out there with important stories they want to tell–stores that we desperately need to hear–but who are constantly having knock-down drag out battles with their editors and publishers, and losing those battles. I’ve met some of these people, and it’s a story that is horrendously discouraging. In the meantime, we do have some excellent Internet websites that are telling necessary uncomfortable truths, and we do need to support them.

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