The Media's Blind Spot

By Saltzman, Joe | USA TODAY, July 2008 | Go to article overview

The Media's Blind Spot


Saltzman, Joe, USA TODAY


THE PEOPLE WHO RUN television news do not even have enough conscience left to be embarrassed anymore. It used to be different. When a mistake was made, when an ethical breach was discovered, the TV networks or local news stations would go to great lengths to apologize or explain themselves to the public. Today, they mostly ignore the criticism and go on broadcasting as if nothing had happened.

A case in point was The New York limes expose of the hidden ties between TV news media military analysts and the Pentagon resulting in a campaign to generate favorable coverage for the Administration's war in Iraq. The Tunes revealed that several dozen military analysts who came into American homes as experts on all military issues affecting this country, including war tactics and terrorism, were part of the Administration's propaganda machine aimed at shaping news coverage of Iraq, Afghanistan, torture of detainees, and terrorism, limes investigative reporter David Barstow wrote that the "Bush Administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform" the military analysts, many with undisclosed ties to military contractors "into a kind of media Trojan horse--an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks."

The news media giants who hired these military analysts included virtually all of the major TV news media outlets that citizens rely on for their daily information: Fox News, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, and MSNBC. As one media critic out it, "This failure of the watchdog not only undermines every standard of journalism, it also poses a fundamental threat to our democracy." Others decried these military analysts' muted criticism of the Bush Administration's war in Iraq in place of an unbiased view of the problems before and during the Iraqi and Afghan campaigns as well as the treatment of detainees and the war on terrorism.

So how did the TV news media respond to this expose? Was an immediate apology offered to the American people? Was there an announcement that the corrupt military analysts had been terminated? Was an official complaint issued with the Pentagon? No, it simply was business as usual--coverage included photographs of nearly nude teenage celebrities, a polygamy mid in Texas, and the news media's favorite subject, the news media itself, this time Rupert Murdoch's taking control of the Wall Street Journal.

The networks not only ignored the story but, by not reporting it, tried to minimize its influence. The Project for Excellence in Journalism studied approximately 1,300 stories from 48 different news outlets and discovered only two during the week of April 21-27 related to the TV military analyst scandal picked up by other media outlets. Those two pieces appeared on the April 24 PBS NewsHour broadcast. This in a time when anything Britney Spears does is fodder for thousands of newspapers and TV and radio news shows around the world.

Fox News, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, and other TV news outlets not only ignored the story, but most also refused even to comment to reporters about it. …

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