Fair and balanced and a government mouthpiece.
It’s been a week of disillusionment for me. Public employees in Wisconsin are protesting the proposed budget cut that leaves them with fewer benefits and a weaker ability to unionize. The House of Representatives slashed $56 million in funding for Planned Parenthood, attempting to justify their actions with the thin excuse that citizens shouldn’t have to pay for things they don’t want. (Somehow we’re still funding Iraq and Afghanistan and big business bailouts, though.) Both of these political episodes make me angry as a citizen. But we expect the government to disappoint us 98 percent of the time. What we don’t expect—or don’t realize—is the failure of the news media to report these disappointments.
On February 16th, Hillary Clinton gave a speech at George Washington University. She talked about supporting the free speech of protesters in the Middle East, with a particular regard to Internet freedom. Ray McGovern, an army officer veteran and former CIA analyst, silently protested her speech, standing up and turning his back to Clinton. The response? Security tackled McGovern violently, and unlawfully arrested him for practicing his first amendment right—you know, the one that Clinton had just been encouraging. The Secretary of State didn’t bat an eye. Clinton continued her speech without even acknowledging what had just happened. The entire incident was a disgusting portrait of the flagrant hypocrisy that reigns in the United States.
You might not have heard about this. That’s unfortunately not surprising, considering neither the Washington Post nor The New York Times deemed it newsworthy enough to publish. Bloggers and other alternative news sources were quick to publish a recount, but mainstream presses completely ignored the incident. Why? Because the news media is so immersed in the cozy world of Washington insider politics that they can no longer act as an independent institution anymore.
Major newspapers cater to government officials because they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds. A journalist’s job depends heavily on administrative sources and official quotes. No longer is the press a thinking, breathing establishment that both scrutinizes and criticizes our leadership. Instead reporters become mouthpieces and editors become government-favored censors.
As an aspiring young journalist, this first understanding of harsh reality tastes acrid on my tongue. As an idealistic college student (is there any other kind?) I don’t want to welcome the phrase “profit motive” to join or defeat the concepts of truth seeking and critical analysis. I don’t like how this feels, and yet I need to recognize these disheartening paradoxes in order to become a good journalist.
I went back to the news stories archives for the February 17th online edition of the Post, just to see what could have possibly taken precedence over reporting the events of the speech. I found this headline: “New Prince George’s Wegmans becoming a social hot spot.”
“So this is America?” McGovern asked when he was forced out of the room. What a telling question.
Posted in Wingin' It