GLENN GREENWALD: American media officials are incredibly subservient to American political officials. That’s been—you know, American media figures are. But when it comes to Israeli political officials, it’s virtually cringe-inducing to watch how accommodating and deferential and submissive they become.
There’s a fundamental problem in our world today: neither our governments nor our press are doing their jobs. Both groups seem to be working for someone else, because governments are either trying to conceal their motives (hence their love for secrecy) or they try to obfuscate by presenting a false motive for their actions. The press is worse than useless, because they go along with the desire of the politicians to hide their motives and conceal their bad behavior from the people. The press behaves more like a cheering section than “the fourth estate,” whose job is to inform the people. As the old champions die off or retire, they are not being replaced. The news media are more concerned with entertaining their audience than they are with informing them. Poor show, as the Brits would say! Shame on you!
Because of the move from news to entertainment (“infotainment,”) the media insist that every news story supports their print media arm, their TV “news” arm, and their Internet facilities. Production values become more important than the information value. The news media have abandoned their traditional role, to seek ratings, and governmental approval. No wonder they are incapable of informing the public!
Writing a REAL story requires work. First, there’s the research – give the readers/viewers some background to clarify how the current situation developed. Second, report the story. Tell everything you now, as clearly and concisely as you can. Third, offer a reasonable view of alternative actions, solutions, etc. Fourth, if the story is a continuing one, keep people aware of the changes. Assign blame when you know the truth. Don’t speculate, and when politicians speculate or offer unproven assertions, remind the audience that’s what they’re doing. Do not let the politicians spin the story. When there’s more than one possible cause or person responsible, list all of them, and give your best view as to which one is most likely to be right, and why you think so. Reporters, it’s YOUR JOB to keep the public informed, and make sure that they are getting the truth, to the best of your ability. If you don’t know how to do that, you belong in the entertainment industry, not the news industry.
Let’s get away from “If it bleeds, it leads.” Focusing on emotional reactions to events, instead of focusing on the events themselves may lead to winning a ratings war, but by spending the time exclusively on pictures of pain and suffering, you deny your audience the information they need to judge the situation for themselves, and to hold the politicians accountable for their sins. A pundit spouting opposing views in the name of “balance” isn’t news, either – it’s THEATER! When was the last time you felt better informed after hearing a Democrat and a Republican yell at each other in front of the camera? We need experienced reporters, who can build a coherent story, and who can show how the situation developed, and assign responsibility, the way Edmund R. Murrow, or Walter Cronkite could, or maybe Dan Rather. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to create an informed report, and then publish it. Even if some politician is going to be upset, no… ESPECIALLY if a politician is going to be upset. That’s your job! Think of Woodward and Bernstein, who led the crusade regarding Watergate and corruption in the Nixon White House.
In our current news streams, there’s MH17, the Israel-Gaza war, and all the death and misery that an infotainment organization could use to entertain their audience. Or, that a true NEWS organization could delve into, and produce enlightening commentary that informs their audience and enables the audience to see a way forward. If you’re merely an infotainment organization, go and start a new hourly series. Don’t pretend that you’re trying to inform when all you want to do is entertain.