The media meltdown about the Mueller investigation has underlined the corruption of journalism in the United States.
That corruption started in the 1980s when journalism emphasized making money over creating public debate, wended its way through significant ethical scandals from Jason Blair, Brian Williams, and others to the Rolling Stone’s rape of the University of Virginia, and culminated in the dismay over President Trump’s election and the scandalous reporting of the Russia investigation.
Matt Taibbi, a contributor to Rolling Stone and a leftist of the first order, has written a stinging indictment. “Nobody wants to hear this, but news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is headed home without issuing new charges is a death blow for the reputation of the America news media,” he wrote. Here is the full story:https://taibbi.substack.com/p/russiagate-is-wmd-times-a-million
Taibbi continues: “There will be people protesting: the Mueller report doesn’t prove anything! What about the 37 indictments? The convictions? The Trump tower revelations? The lies! The meeting with Don, Jr.? The financial matters! There’s an ongoing grand jury investigation, and possible sealed indictments, and the House will still investigate, and…
“Stop. Just stop. Any journalist who goes there is making it worse.”
The enigmatic Glenn Greenwald has been chronicling the failures of the media during the Mueller investigation. His top 10 list is worth reading at https://theintercept.com/2019/01/20/beyond-buzzfeed-the-10-worst-most-embarrassing-u-s-media-failures-on-the-trumprussia-story/
“All of these ‘errors’ go only in one direction: namely, exaggerating the grave threat posed by Moscow and the Trump circle’s connection to it. It’s inevitable that media outlets will make mistakes on complex stories. If that’s being done in good faith, one would expect the errors would be roughly 50/50 in terms of the agenda served by the false stories. That is most definitely not the case here,” Greenwald wrote recently.
It’s worthwhile recounting some of the stories from Greenwald’s top of the pops:
–On June 12, 2017, Fortune claimed erroneously that Russia hacked into and taken over C-SPAN.
–On December 30, 2016, The Washington Post reported incorrectly that Russian hackers penetrated the U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, causing predictable outrage and panic.
–On December 9, 2017, in what Greenwald described as “one of the most humiliating spectacles in the history of the U.S. media,” CNN and MSNBC reported that Donald Trump Jr. was offered advanced access to the WikiLeaks’ archive of material from the Democratic National Committee.
Can the media recover from this disaster? It’s unlikely, but here are some suggestions:
- The Telecommunications Act of 1996 and subsequent changes in 2017 allowed significant concentration of ownership across all the media. Six corporations—AT&T, Comcast, Disney, Fox, CBS, and Viacom—own the lion’s share of the U.S. media. Here is a chart: http://fortune.com/longform/media-company-ownership-consolidation/
It is time to break up these operations, which promote business results through ratings and advertising over the public interest. That’s why the networks, particularly cable, promote shouting matches over constructive analysis and 24/7 coverage of mass shootings and other disasters.
- Social media operations, such as Facebook, Twitter, and others MUST be held accountable for myriad problems in the transmission of information, such as the live streaming of the New Zealand shooter.
Journalists must examine underlying news practices. Let’s face it. The media have become partisan. As a result, the press must examine its ethics codes, including a widespread move toward transparency of reporters’ political beliefs and biases.
Journalism programs must admit their leftist bias and seek to correct it. Many programs emphasize a subset of social work over accurate reporting. The faculties are filled with social justice warriors who hide behind a façade of objectivity, fairness, and balance.
It saddens me to see how bad journalism has become after the more than two decades I spent as a reporter and more than two decades teaching others how to become good reporters.
I hope the Mueller debacle will force the media to try to fix what’s gone wrong. Unfortunately, I doubt it will happen.