|US media: Telling it like it
By Akhilesh Upadhyay
NEW YORK - In submitting too easily to
the official line on Iraq, the United States media
have grandly fallen short of their all-important
responsibilities to reflect diversity and to keep the
government at arm's length, according to a group of
journalism educators and working journalists.
They say that the country's dominant
media corporations have presented the current buildup to
war on Iraq with a shocking homogeneity that fails to
reflect the pluralistic vibrancy that exists in the
United States. In an open letter sent to major media
outlets this week, more than two dozen professors,
journalists and authors warned, "This is no time for
relying solely on official sources and their
"The media should never confuse
patriotism with obeisance and a rubber-stamp mentality,"
the letter states. "There is a duty to seek out and
quote the many experts who express skepticism about
claims by the state, rather than simply to rely on the
same pundits repeatedly."
history, independent journalists argue, more and more
people in the US are relying on the Internet to get
alternative viewpoints, a trend that took off during the
1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, where
media corporations failed to give adequate and accurate
information on what many now regard as a turning point
in a broad-based international anti-globalization
The media debacle in Seattle led the
much-venerated Christian Science Monitor to note, "The
new media in Seattle provided a glimpse of what lies
ahead for journalism in the new century. It is a message
that older media ignore at their own peril."
"The first thing US readers need to do is stop
reading the US corporate media," said Jeanne Strole at
the Independent Media Center (IMC) in New York. "They
should start reading the foreign press - British,
French, Spanish, Arabic - anything other than the
goddamn US corporate media."
The IMC homepage
features two articles related to war, neither of which
has found much room in the US media. One describes a
weekend report in Britain's Guardian newspaper based on
a leaked memo describing how US agents have increased
their spying on representatives of the United Nations
Security Council member countries in a bid to get their
approval for war on Iraq. The expanded surveillance
operation includes intercepting home and office
telephone calls and e-mails, according to the paper.
The other IMC article describes recent anti-war
protests in the Turkish capital Ankara, where parliament
on Saturday failed to approve the deployment of 60,000
US troops inside the nation's borders.
after the vote, the New York Times, for instance, did
carry the news on its front page, but failed to mention
that thousands of protesters had gathered outside the
parliament in Turkey, a secular Muslim state and the
only democracy in the region.
seeing this increased need for alternative news sources
because many more people are feeling generally
disillusioned with our government, our corporate leadership and
the mainstream media which favors these interests," said
Strole's colleague Catriona Stuart.
signed the protest letter include retired Times
columnist Tom Wicker; a former reporter at the paper,
William Serrin; Ben Bagdikian, former dean of the
journalism school at the University of California at
Berkeley; author Studs Terkel; independent journalist
and filmmaker Barbara Koeppell; and author and politician
The letter describes
six patterns of poor media coverage, which
characterized reporting during the 1991 Gulf War and which are being
repeated in the present run-up to war in Iraq. The
"horse-race syndrome" and highlighting military tactics
over political analysis means that the media are endlessly
churning out news features with titles like "Showdown
with Saddam" and "presenting a grave matter as though it
were a high-stakes sports contest", the letter says.
It indicts the media for failing aggressively
to protest government control of information, adding
that newspapers and TV news have under-reported this
"freeze-out". The letter also accuses the media of failing to
maintain "an arm's-length relationship" with government,
noting the over-reliance of TV news in particular on
government-approved retired military and intelligence
According to IMC's Strole, the
US media are run by "a handful of corporations who all have
a stake in making sure the Bush administration gets its
[expletive] war. More and more Americans are waking up
to the fact that the US corporate-mainstream media has
been bought and paid for."
The Los Angeles
Times, Associated Press and the New York Times declined
to comment on the letter, telling IPS that they react
only to specific points about their own coverage.
(Inter Press Service)