Thursday, December 21, 2006

what happened to the vaunted U.S. press corps ?

* bob parry has a long piece about gary webb - it starts:
When Americans ask me what happened to the vaunted U.S. press corps over the past three decades – in the decline from its heyday of the Watergate scandal and the Pentagon Papers to its failure to challenge the Iraq WMD lies or to hold George W. Bush accountable – I often recall for them the story of Gary Webb.
and ends:
"Yet, the big media’s consistent mishandling of the contra-cocaine scandal in the 1980s and 1990s carried another warning that the nation missed: that the U.S. press corps was no longer capable of reporting complex crimes of state.

That unaddressed danger returned with disastrous results in late 2002 and early 2003 when George W. Bush sold false stories about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction while the major newspapers acted as cheerleaders and accomplices.

At the time of Webb’s death on Dec. 9, 2004, the full scope of the Iraq disaster was still not evident, nor was the major press corps ready to acknowledge that its cowardice in the 1980s and its fecklessness in the 1990s were the direct antecedents to its complicity in the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Gary Webb had been a kind of canary in the mine shaft. His career destruction in the 1990s and his desperate act of suicide in 2004 were warnings about grave dangers that, if left ignored, would wreak even worse havoc on the United States and the world.

But – on this second anniversary of Webb’s death – it should be remembered that his great gift to American history was that he, along with angry African-American citizens, forced the government to admit some of the worst crimes ever condoned by any White House: the protection of drug smuggling into the United States as part of a covert war against a country, Nicaragua, that represented no real threat to Americans.

It is way past time for that reality – and that gift – to be acknowledged."


steven andresen said...

I decided to change plans and not go to journalism school in college. News reporters seemed to be owned too much. What they wrote, how they wrote it, what stories were important to cover, were too controlled by their editors and publishers, the people who paid their bills.

I don't think this fact changed over the last thirty years. Maybe the economy changed so that reporters had fewer ways of getting around the wishes of their bosses in order to write about what really had been going on. Maybe reporters themselves, as well as people in general, have changed so that they no longer question what the government or business interests do or say.

There are changes in the concentration of ownership of newspapers, for example. There is less diversity. There have been changes in broadcasting regulations to make it easier to keep out a diversity of opinions and political analysis. People don't spend a lot of time worrying about the news, I believe. They have to concentrate on just working all the time.

As for Mr. Webb, it is no surprise that his story went nowhere. That's connected to just how many times you hear that the police have shot an unarmed person fifty times and under suspicious circumstances. People will not say anything bad about the police, or about government, because they think it does no good to hurt those who are supposed to protect them from long haired flesh eating zombies.

lukery said...

thnx steven

There are changes in the concentration of ownership of newspapers, for example. There is less diversity. There have been changes in broadcasting regulations to make it easier to keep out a diversity of opinions and political analysis.

i dont think it helps that the people who own the networks are often a part of the MIC either.

that is, yes, it appears that many (most?) people don't really care about 'news' - it's basically just a form on infotainment - but on top of that is that the media magnates have a vested interest in spinning the news (even beyond the infotainment/ immediate-profit motive)

we've moved beyond the hearst model where 'war sells copy' to something much more sinister.

Anonymous said...

I don't regret my choice to go into journalism some 30 years ago. Your observations and gripes are in the ballpark, albeit not very productive (sorry).

Print media is very much the same corporate empire as broadcast. Make no mistake about that.

The changes, in my perspective, were a direct result of Clinton's support and signing of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

It's a thorn in my side when asked to support any Clinton. Corporatists know no party boundaries, and corporatism is the fast lane to fascism.

So, after 1996, Gannett amd MediaNews and a handful of others bought up lots and lots and LOTS of print properties, many in the same markets, and print also bought radio and broadcast in the same markets, as did Sinclair and others. The FCC had forbidden monopolies in any geographic market, to ensure diversity of opinion.

And, it was after Clinton signed the 1996 act that the Associated Press started hiring a full stable of reporters. It still has tax exemption as a nonprofit "cooperative" of independent media -- about 90% or more of its transmissions were simply shared stories from member independents, with member credit info -- but after 1996 it certainly began operating as a monopolist "news" provider. It transmits almost exclusive NOT to independent media that can't afford reporters beyond their limited geography, but rather serves the very few megamedia companies (except what bloggers steal, heehee).

The quality of that AP news judgment now is inconsistent. And you'll see poorer, more propagandist judgments as us oldies are pushed out .... UNLESS something is done to change that. Wake up your federal legislators, while there still is a free Internet to use to counteract the battle MSM will put up.

As for Webb, it's not a certainty in my mind that he committed suicide. Maybe, but it's very, very difficult for someone to shoot themselves in the head twice, as the coroner said of Webb. And I can tell you that some of his sources continue to be in the wilderness talking to us, and there are people who would like to learn more about where to find those sources.

Webb had good reason to feel hopeless, as his peers moved on as corporate shills, but I think we'll never know for sure that his death was suicide.

The Cockburn St. McClair book, "Whiteout," gives an extremely well documented and authentic history (according to some shared sources) of the making of Webb's "Dark Alliance" series.

lukery said...

thnx anon - fp'd