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The fight for Media Reform

Reported by Chrish - May 23, 2005

The recent incident with Newsweek and the reports of abuse of the Qu'aran in Gauntanamo Bay, and their subsequent retraction of a story which is true has handed the Rovians another victory. It was unnecessary and unfortunate.

Exactly like the Dan Rather/Bush's incomplete TANG service report of last fall, the major media outlet at first refused to correct or retract the story, standing by its factualness. It then hedged a little, casting doubt on its source, and finally relented and had to retract the story when the source became more of an issue than the content. In both cases the substance was never proven to be incorrect, so two major news outlets now do not stand behind true reports because of flip-flopping sources. They bring discredit on themselves and they not only do not inform their consumers, they confuse them.

The evidence of this confusion comes in many forms. The ombudsman at the Kansas City Star received correspondence which, in part, said "With all these other fabrications we're seeing in other places like CBS and The New York Times, I just can't decide whether I can believe anything I'm reading in the media anymore." Writers to The St. Petersburg Times said "Maybe it was, indeed, a false report, to Newsweek's shame and to the increased distrust of the media at large." and "Gutless Newsweek. The editors had it right but backed down under pressure from someone. What has happened to integrity in news media?"

There need not be confusion. As Molly Ivins points out in a recent column, the Qu'aran desecration taking place at Guantanamo has already been reported, unrefuted, and confirmed by numerous eye witnesses. As for Newsweek being responsible for rioting and deaths in Afghanistan, as accused by Bush Press Secretary Scott McClellan, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers has said it is not the case. US Rep. John Conyers has called on McClellan to make a retraction, which we have yet to see.

The media needs to stop playing into the hands of those who wish to silence them. The next call we hear from the Bush administration will be for "media reform" by which they'll mean regulations, requirements, and unreasonable demands to hamstring the independent press. Access will be denied to anyone who does not toe the administration line; individuals and companies not favorable to the administration and their policies will be called into question and reputations will be ruined. It is already reported that corporate backers of the admininistration are threatening to withdraw advertising if unflattering reports are published.

The Newsweek reporting and retraction, alive and well on Fox today (Monday 5/23/05) is still being blamed for the violent rioting and insurgency in Afghanistan. Afghan President Karzai himself says the riots are aimed at disrupting his government and are not a result of the article. Buried in the brouhaha is the recent revelation of even further abuse and torture of Afghanis at the hands of wayward American soldiers. The New York Times reported last Friday, May 20, that "A confidential U.S. Army report contains graphic details of widespread abuse of detainees in Afghanistan in 2002 carried out by 'young and poorly trained soldiers'..."

The Newsweek incident is a two-fer for the Bush administration and their media arm, Fox News, is playing it to the hilt. It first serves to divert attention and blame for the unrest and bloodshed overseas from the disasterous Bush administration policies. Secondly it allows Fox, through repeated trumpeting and amplification, to make it seem that the entire fourth estate (except them, of course) is not to be trusted or believed. They are co-opting "the media is the problem" frame to their advantage, and the clueless mainstream media is handing Fox the shovel to help bury themselves.

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