A Lesson for Students of Journalism
I don’t mean this as an attack on those individuals who chose journalism as a profession, but more as a plea to the yet-to-be-compromised youngsters moving through the institutionalized bowels of their higher education. The fourth estate is fucked, and if you want to make a living reporting the news, you will inevitably be employed to shit on its remnants.
On The Death of the Fourth Estate, Billy O’Connor opens with this:
“Even if your mother says she loves you, check it out,” my professor preached. “Believe nothing you hear or read without verification.”
When I earned my journalism degree from the University of Florida, Mike Foley chiseled those two sentences in my brain.
Non-journalists are also beginning to question print and broadcast news. According to a recent Gallup survey, only 40 percent of Americans believe what they read in newspapers.
The scattered remnants of the fourth estate now flitter across the digital landscape, disembodied bits of data that must be sought out, often to confirm one’s bias. That Gallup poll putting belief in print at about 40 percent signals a growing cynicism over the accuracy of the old-guard media form of information dissemination. And for good reason.
In a more desperate plea, John Pilger opens his piece about War by Media and the Triumph of Propaganda with a clutch of rapid-fire questions:
Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers?
Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what’s called the mainstream media is not information, but power?
These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.
Americans should never forget or forgive the role of the New York Times in selling the Iraq war by peddling Bush regime lies. Journalist students should spit on the ground at the mention of the Grey Lady. The mainstream media has grown too monstrous to not revile in the harshest of terms. Millions of people have been slaughtered as a direct result.
Here’s more from Pilger about the current state of the MSM:
The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.
The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.
Add to the rubble the Rolling Stone for allowing its UVA rape piece by Sabrina Erdely to hit print without, apparently, enough pre-print scrutiny. From A Note to Our Readers:
Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university’s failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school’s troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations.
Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone’s editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie’s credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie’s account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.
In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.
Honoring her request or not doing your fucking job? Misplaced trust or abandoning journalistic standards?
The media environment journalism students enter after their higher education (probably loaded with debt) is a landscape of compromised principles that directly correlate with the career ladder and the paycheck. The more you make, the more prominent you become, the less you should be trusted.
This lesson comes free of charge. You are welcome.