You can’t depend on the media–trust me

It is likely that the war in Iraq will begin before this paper hits the stands, and as such, we the viewers will be able to watch coverage from the front lines on TV. The journalists, however, will be “embedded” with American troops, meaning that they eat, sleep and travel with soldiers and therefore only record what the U.S. military allows them to see. While the military claims that they will not censor any coverage, the fact that they can control a reporter’s mobility and access is enough to compromise journalistic integrity.

But it doesn’t start there. Journalistic integrity in mainstream media is already compromised. Television news outlets such as CNN and MSNBC broadcast biased, conservative and patriotic coverage that ignores any possible anti-war dissention. The strongest invectives are reserved for the oxymoron that is FOX News. Unabashedly right-wing and pro-American, FOX News was hilariously spoofed in a recent Simpson’s episode when Krusty ran for Congress. Sample news item: JFK alive, now Republican.

Like FOX, CNN also colours its coverage red, white and blue. Top stories focus on Bush’s latest exploits at the UN, while ignoring international events in countries as far away as Serbia. CNN has become the propaganda outlet of choice for the U.S. military. This past weekend, it aired a feature entitled “A Day in the Life of a Soldier” in which a reporter spent a day with a Marine Expedition Unit. By placing the reporter in the soldiers’ positions, the viewer is also encouraged to take a militaristic point of view. Objective reporting? Certainly not when the anchor’s response is “you have to admire the way they adapt to the desert.”

The search for news that diverges from the “Showdown: Iraq” and “Showdown with Saddam” formula leads to alternative media and the Internet. Sites such as indymedia.org and Guerilla Television (gnn.tv) claim to offer democratic news and explore issues ignored by mainstream media. While this is commendable, alternative media sources themselves can be just as biased as their mainstream counterparts.

In terms of news coverage, the Independent Media Center (www.indymedia.org) focuses upon grassroots protests and incidents such as the death of human shield Rachel Corey in Gaza. Its mission statement reflects and directs this coverage. Indymedia claims to offer “grassroots, non-corporate coverage.” It is, according to its website, “a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth.” Promoting “radical” and “passionate tellings of truth” illogically pairs radicalism and passion with truth, something that is objective and unemotional. Calling Rachel Corey’s death a “murder” is one example of this incongruity. The coverage of this story does not question the effectiveness of human shields at all, only stating that “This time the IDF [Israeli Defence Force]’s brutality has done what every peace activist visiting Palestine has anticipated it would do.” At the end of the story are links to a call to action, alerts, and other activist movements.

The Independant Media Center was created to effectively communicate during the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle in 1999. As such, it is an effective means of sharing information about upcoming protests and other anti-war demonstrations. As a news source, however, its affiliation with activism taints its objectivity.

Another alternate source of news and information is the Guerilla News Network (www.guerillanews.com). It is more reporting-based than Indymedia, but is also driven by a clear agenda. Its mission is to “expose people to important global issues through guerrilla programming on the web and on television.” While it offers analysis as well as news, GNN focuses narrowly on events without offering context or dissention. Its answer to “A Day in the Life of a Soldier,” for example, is “Hangin’ with the Human Shields.” Even though the human shields piece acknowledges criticism that they are being used by Iraq, the fact is not followed up and the protesters themselves are not questioned on it.

The search for fuller, more comprehensive news programming seems like a fruitless one, and in some ways, it is. To get the whole story (or as much of the story as possible), it is crucial to get as many perspectives as possible, and therefore we must read as much as we can, and carefully consider the information we receive. Only when we think critically about everything that we read will the curious, the intelligent and the skeptical be rewarded.



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.