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Scary Report: Students Would Submit To Government Controlled Media


By James Donahue

March 2005


The propaganda machine apparently has been working very effectively in our colleges and universities. And that scares me more than most stuff I read about human behavior these days.


A story in the Oregonian said many college students trust the government more than they trust the press, and they believe newspapers should fall under the watchful eye of government before publishing anything.


Where have these students been getting their education, in Communist China? What happened to the student activists of the 1960s, when anti-war protests and environmental issues brought protest groups to Washington to press for laws to save the planet?


There were no students around in those days that might have said such a thing? Or even thought it.


Of course, at that time the media deserved much more respect than it has coming today. Those were the days of the Watergate Scandal when a couple of bold reporters for the Washington Post dug up enough dirt to bring down President Richard M. Nixon.


Those were the days when news reporters and cameramen went to the front lines in the Vietnam War and sent home gory nightly television news footage that taught us about the reality of war. It wasn’t pretty.


Today the media has gone soft. Reporters don’t dig for news like they once did. Instead they attend press conferences to get their daily “feed” of news from public relations people representing leadership in high office.


They covered the Iraq invasion from the inside of tanks, or on hummers while surrounded by special military teams assigned to protect them. Of course their stories were slanted. They wrote about what they were allowed to see.


Any reporter that digs too deep and finds something scandalous may now be ordered by a judge to name his or her source. Reporters have been known to go to jail rather than reveal that source.


Veteran newsman Dan Rather took some political bait, trusted his source, and got caught up in an anti-Bush report that could not be proved. He and various members of his staff fell hard from the scandal that followed. From where I sit it appears that Rather was set up by some very clever tricksters in the Bush camp.


All of this has led to a reluctance by reporters to generate good news sources. Is anybody really that dedicated to the news they are willing to go to jail to protect their source? Can they always trust their sources to give them fair and accurate tips? Because of the changing times we are living in, it appears that we cannot.


There has been a slow evolution in the media world from gutsy and daring reporting, where reporters put in long hours for low pay because they are dedicated to the profession. Today we have master’s degree level writers that don’t know how to dig for stories. Instead they concentrate on taking handouts and then turning the information into prose for the talking heads on our television sets.


No longer dressed in dungarees and casual dress, the writers today wear business suits and ties to the job. They work nine to five and spend a portion of that time in staff meetings, propping one another up and talking about how they can do what they do better.


I know. I have been a journalist for some 40 years. I saw the best of American journalism and I have lived to see it degenerate to what it is today. I know what I am writing about.


What is needed is for the media to tear itself away from that cozy relationship with the government it covers and learn to dig behind the scenes for the “real” story. We don’t get that in the official media much anymore. We have to search the Internet where gutsy reporting is still happening. And our government is searching for ways to sensor those writers as fast as possible.


Thomas Jefferson said: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable."


It would do us all well to reflect on those words. This especially applies to journalism students and the professors responsible for shortchanging their education.

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