JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: NAIVE COLUMN IN THE GUARDIAN SPEAKS OF PRESS STANDARDS AND “VITAL BOND OF TRUST” THAT MUST BE WON BACK – WHY THIS IS NONSENSE – SOME BASIC FACTS ABOUT JOURNALISM IN TODAY’S WORLD   Leave a comment

John Chuckman

EXPANSION OF COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE BY JANE MARTINSON IN THE GUARDIAN

 

“Press standards: the vital bond of trust that journalists have to win back”

 

It simply ain’t going to happen.

Even if many individual journalists wanted to change their industry, they could not.

Newspapers and broadcasting have always been viewed as means of influence, and I think today that is truer than ever.

I say that because there are so relatively few newspapers and broadcasters left owing to decades of consolidation and mergers and take-overs, all permitted by governments.

We have newspaper and broadcasting empires built on the desirability of exercising the power to influence.

The relatively small number of owners left are very much committed to the concept, influencing government itself and influencing the public in favor of the government, as any brief survey of the major corporate press starkly reveals.

That on-going effort should be obvious to all critical readers and listeners.

Other changed technology and economic conditions also affect the press greatly. The press has lost a lot of advertising revenue to the Internet. It simply cannot afford much in the way of foreign correspondents, investigative reporting, and other costly activities. And, for sure, you won’t find much of them in any survey.

Pages are filled today with extremely light and low-cost or even costless stuff. What anyone could even term journalism, whether good or bad, is often a small proportion of content.

And national governments are busy in all kinds of dark or covert activity – perhaps at a level as never before. They will not tolerate much true or accurate reportage in those dark matters. They very much do have tools to discourage and punish it. Anyway, most of the corporate owners today – extremely well-off members of the establishment – have zero interest in embarrassing their governments. They are “all in it together,” as it were.

Imagine, just as one example, the New York Times undertaking an intense set of reports on what has actually happened in Syria? They would embarrass their own government, they would embarrass key allies like the Saudi Princes, they would be accused of undermining the policies of the United States, they might be charged in court, they would immediately lose all cooperation from government officials and no longer receive helpful leaks, and they would lose serious advertising dollars from companies loyal to or associated with the government.

They would also embarrass Israel, a country with whom they are intimately tied, having admitted not long ago that every story connected to Israel is passed by that state’s official censor before being published.

The further into ‘deep state” stuff, “dark ops” and the like, any government goes, it is guaranteed that its own press will be deliberately negligent or dishonest in reporting about it. Today, the United States is not only up to its armpits in such dirty stuff, it very much browbeats and intimidates allies to follow the pattern. And that is exactly what we see in the press in Britain, in Canada, in France, in Germany, and in other member states of “the West.” The West does much the same things with the press the old Soviets did, it just does them in subtler and less obvious ways.

Such are the realities of contemporary journalism, and journalists themselves are, after all, just salaried employees who can be sent packing in an instant plus with the threat of bad references to any potential new employer. Even the very best of journalists has no real leverage, and the silly journalism schools keep graduating troops of new hopefuls each year. Any idealism about journalism and truth and trust is just fantasy.

As someone once wisely said, the only way to enjoy freedom of the press is to own one.

 

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