From Murrow to Murdoch: Why Media is Failing Consumers

And now, an editorial comment: First, let me say; while I love to see words form a coherent and logical statement appear before me, as I lust for an understanding of this planet and of those who live upon her and long to gather diverse points of view while forming my own, I am neither now nor have I ever been a journalist, so this by definition is purely opinion.

It is my point of view; that which I formed while reviewing and analyzing information from around the world and here at home. And, just as you, I am quite capable of forming my own opinion, free of interference or exploitation from any source.  I need no middleman interpreting the information I gather.  I need no one telling me where or with whom my political alliances should lie.

Just as some of you may, I clearly remember the early years of broadcast news making household names of historic journalists such as Edward R Murrow, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite.

But that was when media and politics maintained a separation essential to freedom; before the media focused on polarizing the world’s political climate for the homogeneity of one or two viewpoints; before journalism became a tool used to direct thoughts and opinion as if managing traffic jams of mindless drivers on a congested downtown avenue.

Curiously enough, each of these journalistic icons had their own concerns over the “news” becoming commercialized, editorial propaganda outlets, a concern they frequently and openly aired, even at peril to their own employment.

Recall; news, the whole news, and nothing but the news was then almost entirely free of commercial influence and quite literally free of commercials; the only “word from our sponsor” was a short blurb at the very beginning of the news broadcast and headlines were of substance while advertisement held its own separate space, next to the comic pages.

Not realizing it at the time, these men formed my unquenchable thirst for factual news as I sat on the floor listening to their words, enthralled by their presence on the black and white television.  When it came time to editorialize they ALWAYS indicated it was precisely that; an editorial comment.

In this era, an age in which lines are severely blurred, if not obliterated, between journalism and propaganda, dogma and transparency, news and editorial comment, it has become increasingly difficult to find facts in the watershed of words we read on the Net, in the newspaper, hear on the radio, or view on the television.  We pay dearly for information and yet; can we rely upon the information for which we pay?  Are the media and our politicians separate, or do they share common goals?

“One of the basic troubles with radio and television news is that both instruments have grown up as an incompatible combination of show business, advertising and news. Each of the three is a rather bizarre and demanding profession. And when you get all three under one roof, the dust never settles. The top management of the networks with a few notable exceptions has been trained in advertising, research, sales or show business. But by the nature of the corporate structure, they also make the final and crucial decisions having to do with news and public affairs. Frequently they have neither the time nor the competence to do this. It is not easy for the same small group of men to decide whether to buy a new station for millions of dollars, build a new building, alter the rate card, buy a new Western, sell a soap opera, decide what defensive line to take in connection with the latest Congressional inquiry, how much money to spend on promoting a new program, what additions or deletions should be made in the existing covey or clutch of vice-presidents, and at the same time– frequently on the same long day–to give mature, thoughtful consideration to the manifold problems that confront those who are charged with the responsibility for news and public affairs.”   Edward R Murrow

The New York Post, a “news” media outlet boasting:

The New York Post is America’s oldest continuously published newspaper – and one of its most provocative, impactful, and beloved news brands.  We shine a bright light on the people and institutions that shape our readers’ lives; we break big stories and set the news agenda;” 

As the US rushes towards yet another war in the Middle East; as Fukushima radiation levels jump by 20% to the highest levels of radiation leakage since Chernobyl; as countries around the world lodge complaint after complaint over the United States’ (NSA) spying program, America’s oldest running published “newspaper,” ranked the sixth highest in circulation in the US runs these “headlines:”

“Stop dithering, Obama! If we’re serious we must TARGET ASSAD

PUSSY RIOT kittens halt subway for two hours”

“KERRY: Syrian gas attack killed…. 426 CHILDREN

LIAM’S LOVE CHILD

FRENEMIES McCain backs bitter foe Bam’s call to strike Syria”

HID & TWEEK Zoo kept drug toll from cops”

As his cherished medium of printed news has fallen prey to the same manipulative, Hollywood extravaganza of his nightmares; as Fox displays a continuous loop of sensationalized and heavily editorialized soap operas, I wonder; what would Mr. Murrow say?

Would he be steaming with the same consternation towards commercialized news as he was with Senator McCarthy?

I sincerely believe so, and he would be grieving the loss of truth and self-determination as much as we all should be.

In our busy world we are now, more than ever, falling prey to the shell game of commercial media as we convince ourselves that what we see is truth and reality.  However, obfuscated by a well crafted slight of senses, we can easily allow ourselves to follow the shell rather than the keeping a skeptical eye on the person at the other end of the arm as the media outlets hide the peas in their hands.

Contrary to much of the commercialized media today, forming our OWN opinion and seeking the truth does not require extreme polarization such as that which is rampant in the main stream press and among political alignments; it does require us to analyze, negotiate and even compromise as we seek that truth.

The world has of course changed and along with it, so has journalism; now the facts must reside within our ability to either find unfiltered sources or critically analyze the superfluity contained within the clutter of embellished views.  It falls upon us to decipher the very truthfulness of information we see as we attempt to understand the world, or risk making a pitiful soap opera of it as commercial media outlets strive to polarize our opinions and our lives for what should be clearly seen as obvious gains for them.

Nothing worthwhile is easy and in a world of over 7 billion people, gathering unfiltered information free from manipulation and grandiose misrepresentation to reach jointly beneficial compromise most certainly never will be, but it is vital if freedom is to survive.

In the immortal words of Edward R Murrow: “This I Believe”