It is the job of the Fourth Estate to act as a check and a restraint on the others, to illumine the dark corners of Ministries, to debunk the bureaucrat, to throw often unwelcome light on the measures and motives of our rulers. ‘News’, as Hearst once remarked, ‘is something which somebody wants suppressed: all the rest is advertising’. That job is an essential one and it is bound to be unpopular; indeed, in a democracy, it may be argued that the more unpopular the newspapers are with the politicians the better they are performing their most vital task.
– Brian R. Roberts from a October 29, 1955 article in the London periodical “Time & Tide”
I’ve used the above quote before, and it is one that many others have paraphrased in various ways over the past century. The key point is that news is supposed to be delivered by people who do not have direct financial conflicts of interests that will cause their news or opinions to be biased based on receiving a fat paycheck from an outside entity. If such conflicts exist, they should at the very least be disclosed. It’s hilarious that so many pundits call Glenn Greenwald an “activist” and not a “journalist,” when it is clear he is delivering information based on a genuine passion for civil liberties. Many of these same people that accuse Glenn of “activism” are paid shills for public relations (PR) firms that represent large corporate clients and special interests. Even worse, it is almost never admitted on air. I’d much rather a person report the news biased with a genuine passion for a cause than based on a bias that revolves around his or her bank account size.
I’ve been waiting for someone to put together a more comprehensive article on this topic, because while many people recognize that television news is nothing more than tabloid garbage or statist/corporate propaganda, most people don’t understand the inner workings of it all. One of the primary reasons television news is so bad is because the so-called “experts” or pundits are actually quite often highly paid spokespeople for special interests, something which is disgracefully almost never disclosed by the anchors.
Earlier this month, the organization FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) put out an excellent article that called out some of the more egregious examples of the above practice. They leverage the excellent article, which I highlighted in June, by Lee Fang in the Nation in which he calls out NSA defender and television pundit Mike Murphy. Mr. Murphy was merely identified as a “Republican Strategist” on Meet the Press, when in reality the lobbying firm he founded, Navigators Global, represents large private contractors that work with the NSA.
However, the most ridiculous example of television news fraud outlined by FAIR relates to Michael Steele and Lanny Davis. FAIR writes:
And then there are the times when the ideological lines get a little blurry, if they weren’t blurry enough already. Former RNC chair Michael Steele and Fox News liberal Lanny Davis are cable news fixtures—and business partners. Steele’s tenure at the RNC was marked by gaffes and scandal (Washington Post,4/7/10), while Davis’ history has included working on behalf of the dictators of Equatorial Guinea and Ivory Coast (Salon, 12/21/10).
In June 2012, they founded the bipartisan-themed Purple Nation Solutions, a communications firm that specializes in “solutions through legal means, political lobbying and media management” for “CEOs, Fortune 500 companies, political leaders, lobbyists and individuals facing a crisis.”
You have to check out the website for Purple Nations Solution. Don’t just read the description, also check out the logo on the top left. It has the Republican elephant and the Democrat donkey happily together. That’s exactly how things really work in the District of Criminals, as Bill Moyers excellently demonstrated here.
So they take different positions while on air, while serving the same corporate masters off the air. TV news in America would make Joseph Goebbels blush.
I strongly suggest reading the entire FAIR article, it is excellent.
Follow me on Twitter!