in part from Pelast's book by workingforchange.com.
series is part of the WorkingForChange campaign,
in cooperation with Martin Luther King III of
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,
to prevent the theft of the presidential election
of 2004. There is a link included to sign onto
the WorkingForChange/King petition.
of the Media Lambs
reports share three things: They are risky, they
upset the wisdom of the established order and
they are very expensive to produce. Do profit-conscious
enterprises, whether media companies or widget
firms, seek extra costs, extra risk and the opportunity
to be attacked? Not in any business text I've
ever read. I can't help but note that Britain's
Guardian and Observer newspapers, the only papers
to report this scandal when it broke just weeks
after the 2000 election, are the world's only
major newspapers owned by a not-for-profit corporation.
But if profit lust is the ultimate problem blocking
significant investigative reportage, the more
immediate cause of comatose coverage of the election
and other issues is what is laughably called America's
"journalistic culture." If the Rupert Murdochs
of the globe are shepherds of the New World Order,
they owe their success to breeding a fiock of
docile sheep -- snoozy editors and reporters content
to munch on, digest, then reprint a diet of press
releases and canned stories provided by government
and corporate public-relations operations.
Take this story of the list of Florida's faux
felons that cost Al Gore the presidential election.
Shortly after the U.K. story hit the World Wide
Web, I was contacted by a CBS TV network news
producer eager to run a version of the story.
The CBS hotshot was happy to pump me for information:
names, phone numbers, all the items one needs
for your typical quickie TV news report. I freely
offered up to CBS this information: The office
of the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, brother
of the Republican presidential candidate, had
illegally ordered the removal of the names of
felons from voter rolls -- real felons who had
served time but obtained clemency, with the right
to vote under Florida law. As a result, another
40,000 legal voters (in addition to the 57,700
on the purge list), almost all of them Democrats,
could not vote.
only problem with this new hot info is that I
was still in the midst of investigating it. Therefore,
CBS would have to do some actual work -- reviewing
documents and law, obtaining statements.
The next day I received a call from the producer,
who said, "I'm sorry, but your story didn't hold
up." And how do you think the multibillion-dollar
CBS network determined this? Answer: "We called
Jeb Bush's office." Oh.
I wasn't surprised by this type of "investigation."
It is, in fact, standard operating procedure for
the little lambs of American journalism. One good,
slick explanation from a politician or corporate
chieftain and it's case closed, investigation
over. The story ran on television, but once again,
in the wrong country: I reported it on the BBC's
Newsnight. Notably, the BBC is a publicly owned
network -- I mean a real public network, with
no "funds generously provided by Archer Mobil
Let's understand the pressures on the CBS TV producer
that led her to kill the story simply because
the target of the allegation said it ain't so.
The story demanded massive and quick review of
documents, dozens of phone calls and interviews
-- hardly a winner in the slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am
school of U.S. journalism. Most difficult, the
revelations in the story required a reporter to
stand up and say that the big-name politicians,
their lawyers and their PR people were freaking
It would be much easier, a heck of a lot cheaper
and no risk at all to wait for the U.S. Civil
Rights Commission to do the work, then cover the
commission's report and press conference. No one
ever lost their job writing canned statements
from a press release. Wait! You've watched Murphy
Brown so you think reporters hanker to uncover
the big scandal. Bullshit. Remember, All the
President's Men was so unusual they had to
make a movie out of it.
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