Sunday, March 06, 2005


The Greatest Threat to Freedom

I have felt for some while now that he single greatest threat to freedom is not terrorism, not George Bush, but corporate ownership of the press.

The Wall Street Journal is a conservative but still fundamentally honest newspaper. Jerry Seib, the paper's Washington Bureau Chief, recently returned to his beloved Alma Mater in Lawrence, Kansas, to receive a journalism award. Here are a few of his comments from his acceptance speech.

"Briefly put, I fear that 2004 became the year when many Americans decided they could go out and get the news not as it is, but as they want it to be. Technology and the proliferation of pseudo news outlets on the Internet and cable TV have made this possible. Our country's intense political polarization has fed the urge. Mainstream journalism's own failings have fueled it.

"And left unchecked, I think this trend is extraordinarily dangerous, not merely for journalism. I fear it is dangerous for our society.

"What do I mean, specifically? Well, if you don't like the facts as presented by the mainstream press, you now can cruise around cable television or the Internet and find somebody, somewhere, who will present the facts not as they are but as you WISH they were. If you're a liberal and you want to think that John Kerry really won the vote in the state of Ohio and therefore should have been declared the winner of last year's presidential election, you can find somebody on the Internet masquerading as a journalist who will tell you it is so. And then you can choose to ignore the findings of the squadrons of real reporters who dug into that question and found out otherwise.

"If you are a conservative and you want to believe that Democrats planted votes on electronic voting machines in Pennsylvania, or broke into Republican party offices, you could find that last fall too. These things are the kinds of rumors that float into newsrooms every day, but don't come out. But now they are distributed by people who care little, or not at all, whether there is any evidence to support a charge, or have no system for checking it out."

Incidentally, if you happen to be looking for a good, honest, pollution-less newspaper that hews rigorously to old-fashioned standards of journalist integrity and impartiality, you might try The Christian Science Monitor Treeless Edition. Its committment to Christian Science extends to the inclusion of one article about the creed in every edition. In every other way, it is a fine independent newspaper--even for an atheist.

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The Quotidian Meander

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