Category Archives: Media

Freedom Of The Prez

There is no democracy without a free press

Today, hundreds of newspapers across the country are publishing editorials to fight back against repeated attacks on the media. The brainchild of The Boston Globe, newspapers were asked to publish their own editorials that highlight the dangers of the assault on the press.

The Society of Professional Journalists stands in solidarity with these newspapers and applauds their efforts to explain the importance of the work they do every day. We know that without them, the country would be a much darker, more secretive place.

After all, it’s journalists who uncover stories of children being abused by people in positions of authority; of drinking water being contaminated because regulations and laws weren’t followed; of the misuse of money and power by government officials and agencies.

Freedom of the press was included in the writing of the First Amendment for good reason. Our founding fathers knew that it is human nature for those in positions of power to sometimes abuse that power. For democracy to thrive, they believed it was important to ensure there would always be a watchdog – the press – to maintain balance and, when needed, protect citizens from their own government by helping them obtain information. (As the Washington Post tagline states: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”)

Journalism is a public service. Journalism is done for the public good. We’re taught as journalists to show the story, not tell the story. The best way to show the public that we are not “the enemy” is by telling accurate, fair, truthful stories. By showing that we care about the people and communities we cover. By acting ethically at all times.

But while a majority of journalists do just that, they remain at risk. According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, 27 journalists have been attacked so far in the United States in 2018. Worldwide, according to Reporters Without Borders, 50 journalists, 10 citizen journalists and 3 media assistants have been killed in 2018.

Journalists should not have to consider hiring security guards to accompany them to political rallies. Journalists in every city and town across America should not worry for their safety every time they go out to cover a story.

A segment of the American public is clearly angry about what they describe as “fake news” or too much opinion and not enough facts. Journalists don’t understand why the average citizen struggles to tell the differences among news, opinion, commentary and analysis, or to realize that not every journalist produces each kind of journalism.

The United Nations Human Rights Chief said earlier this week the numbers of incidences of violence and death against journalists will increase worldwide if the rhetoric does not stop. Other countries look to the United States to set the precedent, he said, adding that, “The U.S. creates a demonstration effect, which then is picked up by other countries where the leadership tends to be more authoritarian [in] character or aspires to be authoritarian.”

No profession is perfect. Journalism is no exception. But a United States without a free press is not a place most Americans would want to live. Simply put, there is no democracy without a free press.

 

-Reprint from Rebecca Baker’s blog.  She is President of the Society of Professional Journalists

Guest Spot On 105.7 “The Fan”

  Scott Garceau and Jeremy Conn (photo: 105.7, The Fan)

Just went on the air on the Scott Garceau Show on 105.7 “The Fan,” to discuss the upcoming parole of O.J. Simpson.   Flattered to have done a guest spot on the top sports talk show in Maryland.  Amazing how it all came rushing back to me, the Bronco chase, the murder scene and the trials.  Thanks Scott, you’re the best!   Outstanding being back on the air with you after all those years.  And thanks for plugging my soon to be released book about covering O.J. Simpson.

The Re-Education Of America

Americans need to be re-educated to the fact that there are still solid, objective news outlets like the New York Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post, CBS and PBS. These are not left-wing news outlets, they are legitimate mainstream news operations that do their best to lean neither left nor right and can be depended upon for fairness and objectivity – or as Carl Bernstein calls it, “The best available version of the truth.”

Overseas, the BBC, France24 and Euronews also practice traditional journalism and can be accessed on the Internet. France24 is available on YouTube. In the US market, thankfully, CBS News appears intent upon returning to its former status at the very top of the broadcast journalism food chain.   A position it held for many years, until profits trumped public service.   

Across the country there is excellent reportage being done on a daily basis by journalists who do what they do primarily because it matters.   Wherever you live, there are broadcast and print journalists working daily to bring you not infotainment, but actual news. They are working in service to our democracy.   They should be commended for that service just as we commend our military.

It is too often forgotten that freedom is dependent upon both the sword and the quill.   It is not unreasonable to advocate re-directing some of our massive military budget over to public broadcasting and investigative reporting at the nation’s remaining great newspapers.

There was no question of the traditional news outlets veracity, until biased, right-wing outlets like FOX News came along and declared their slanted version of the news to be the only correct version available. This nonsense poisoned the minds of millions of Americans, who were attracted to a slanted, entertainment-based version of the news they wanted to hear, rather than real, objective news that made them uncomfortable because it forced them to think. And so entertainment programming disguised as news drew millions of viewers to outlets like FOX and right-wing talk radio. The country was forever changed because of it.

The time is long past to re-educate Americans that real news outlets are still available, and that there is a difference between news broadcasts and entertainment programming designed not to ferret out the truth but to come up with a formula to garner the greatest profit possible, even if that means putting a biased show on the air disguised as legitimate news or writing a headline that reflects more fiction than fact.

Its’ time for America to regain a sense of pride in its Journalism. I’m not sure how to get it done, I just know that somehow we have got to do it – because right now, a great many Americans think fake news is real and real news is fake – and that my friends, is a formula for disaster.