This article by Mark Tapscott raises some interesting points about the media of today. So many of the horrifying stories about the lawlessness mayhem in New Orleans have proved to be untrue. Some of them, such as the reports of people firing at the rescue personnel, have even resulted in deaths. This is especially true of the reports designed to take cheap shots at the government. We all watched news briefings where the press hounded the government with negative comments while most of us were aching for real information that would tell us what was happening and how we could help.
The recent scandals concerning the news media are indicative of the decline in journalism. Or perhaps it is a throwback to the yellow journalism. I picked up this well written description of this practice:
The Sensational Beginnings of Yellow Journalism
In 1898, newspapers provided the major source of news in America. At this time, it was common practice for a newspaper to report the editor's interpretation of the news rather than objective journalism. If the information reported was inaccurate or biased, the American public had little means for verification. With this sort of influence, the newspapers wielded much political power. In order to increase circulation, the publishers of these papers often exploited their position by sponsoring a flamboyant and irresponsible approach to news reporting that became known as "yellow journalism." Though the term was originally coined to describe the journalistic practices of Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst proved himself worthy of the title. Today, it is his name that is synonymous with "yellow journalism."
Does this sound familiar? In case you have been in the Himalayas, there was the fabrications by Jayson Blaire and and the misuse of stringers and interns by Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg in 2003. Then there was the situation which led to the early retirement of Dan Rather; a case of his desire to find anything that would cast the President in a bad light. Rather’s bias against the Bush family goes back to the presidency of George Bush, Sr. I will never forget Rather’s blatent rudeness during the debates.
After the irregularities concerning plagiarism and fabrication in 2003, several editors of large newspaper did some investigating and issued memo's to staff to change policy. "The concerns (improper reporting) have even reached the executive suite. Dow Jones CEO Peter Kann, who oversees the Wall Street Journal, said in a memo: "Any and every editor up the line in our editing process has the right -- and the responsibility -- to question sourcing." Kann also cited many potential misdemeanors well short of the crimes of plagiarism and fabrication. . . . I am thinking here of the anonymous negative quote questioning someone's character; the unreturnable post-office-closing phone call that permits a publication to say 'unavailable for comment'; the closed mind to an inconvenient new fact that doesn't fit a story line; the loaded adjective where no adjective is needed; the analysis that edges across the line to personal opinion"
Look at the piece by Mark Tapscott and see if you think things have improved. Fortunately, we are not in the position for the readers of 1898. We have the Internet. We can go back and look, for example, at the speeches of our politicians and find the quotes of President Clinton and many other prominent Democrats concerning Sadam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction. We can hear how they urged the military action that they decry today. We can catch John Kerry in all of his flip-flops and even his time served in Vietnam.
I spend a lot more time getting my news today. I like the Internet because I can go right to the source. I think a lot of reporters have forgotten what it means to simply report the news and not create it, so I am glad that I have another option, but what a shame for a once noble profession.