What the media should be doing

This letter was just published in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette newspaper in Pennsylvania:

Oscar Wilde said, “In the old days men had the rack. Today they have the Press.” We are bombarded with what the media says is news, but, in most cases, does not identify a real source, or attribute the facts to a specific person, organization or official documents. All references are identified as “an anonymous or unidentified source” which should translate to: “this may or may not be true.” As a result, most local newspapers and TV news parrot their corporations bylines.

The media massages an event to make it favorable for a ruling party or to degrade an opposing party’s views. They print or broadcast what passes for truth with unnamed sources, then, usually near the end of the story, they admit it may be erroneous. Of course to the “average” reader. the headline and the first two paragraphs are usually all they read, so they take the story to be gospel.

I agree with Antony Loewenstein’s appraisal of the media. He asserts, the original purpose of the “fourth Estate” was to keep tabs on governments so they wouldn’t take advantage of the public or degrade the Republic. They were to keep tabs on governments, local and federal, and investigate their behavior and welcoming greater transparency about discussions being taken in the peoples’ name. However, the media became complicit in defending state power from public exposure. Along the way, the “right to know” about government malfeasance was abandoned and replaced with personal smears, innuendo and outright lies about those who were actually informing the public.

Framing ideas and debates, telling people what they should think about public issues and defending doctrinal orthodoxies is what lobbying on behalf of power is all about. The role of the media, journalists and commentators, is to challenge and expose these processes, not to endorse or amplify them.