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Controlled News

What Happened To America’s "Free Press?"

By James Donahue

A recent Gallup poll has shown that American distrust of the corporate press and specifically political news coverage has dropped to an all-time high. The poll shows that 60 percent of the people have little or no trust in the so-called "news" now being dished out by the established news outlets.

The negativity toward the media appears to have hit an all-time high during the 2012 presidential campaign, which dominated the television news outlets for two years before it came to a mud-slinging advertising barrage conclusion on Election Day, November 12.

The problem appears to be the fact that nearly all of the newspapers and television stations are now owned by six media corporations, General Electric, Walt Disney, News Corp., Time Warner, CBS and Viacom. The corporate bosses control what Americans read, see and hear on their televisions, radios and in their local newspapers.

The television channel "news" stations like CNN, MSNBC and Fox feature a daily barrage of talking heads . . . people presented as experts in the political arena, who spew biased opinions about just about everything occurring in Washington and in hot-spots around the world.

Some of the people involved in gathering and reporting the news have become so concerned about the way contemporary news is distorted and controlled that they are beginning to fight back . . . often at the cost of their jobs.

Most noted among them were Cindy Michaels and Tony Consiglio, anchors at ABC affiliate WVII and Fox affiliate WFVX in Bangor, Maine who both resigned on the air. They said in interviews with the Bangor Daily News that management prevented them from running a balanced newsroom.

CNN journalist Amber Lyon walked away from her career after publically exposing her employers as accepting government money to hide certain stories from the public. She said she did want to participate in the promotion of "government lies." Lyon said CNN International was accepting money from oppressive Islamic nations, including Bahrain, to promote flattering stories and hiding the regime oppression that was occurring.

A recent essay by Paul McMasters, former editorial page editor at USA Today and ombudsman for the Freedom Forum, described the government’s successful management of the news media. He wrote that "the press and its advocates must confront the hard reality that the press cannot serve as an instrument of freedom when they become a tool of government."

McMasters does not imply that government and corporate bosses are in total control of the news, but he points to the power people in high places have in defining the news about key political issues when journalists allow it.

Because all big media outlets are corporate-owned, the bottom line is always profit. Thus staff writers are encouraged to produce their stories without taking the extra time to dig for additional information. Investigative journalism is an almost forgotten art. Reporters can’t do it because they don’t have the time.

Consequently the Washington Press Corps reporters often get by with attending briefings and making a few telephone calls. Whatever their sources tell them becomes the news story. Management encourages reporters not to go beyond the canned press releases, briefings and insider interviews.

Reporters that dare to step out of these boundaries and make waves can quickly be branded as trouble-makers. They are the ones that get passed by when decisions about promotions are made.

This is the subtle way in which today’s news is controlled.

It had a lot to do with the failure on the part of American journalists to get all of the facts leading up to and during the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq under false assumptions that Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein was harboring "weapons of mass destruction."

Critics are now questioning why the media failed to inform the public about the reasons Bush went to war against Iraq and the way the war was fought. They are looking at the embedded reporter system, which became a key factor in the way the Pentagon twisted the media to become a propaganda outlet.

Indeed, the Fox News Channel’s motto: "Fair and Balanced Reporting," has become an oxymoron in the business. It is something news reporters once strived for. But fair and balanced news is something we rarely get.

As long as the business end of the corporate-owned media maintains its grip on the news that is reported, this will never change.