“Fit” to print

The United States has a long history of compromised journalism. Yellow journalism in the 1890’s trumpeted pseudo-science, underdog plots, specific politicians, and political parties with outrageous and misleading headlines, unnamed sources, and damning innuendos.All of it was a competition between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst for readership of their respective newspapers.

The famous “muckraking” at the beginning of the 1900’s was an unscrupulous and unsavory methodology for obtaining damning information on politicians and celebrities. Even President Teddy Roosevelt got swept up in the mess in 1906. The impetus behind the muckraking was the corporate interest in the new mass-market magazines, which were lucrative as long as the stories were salacious.

Standing in 2014, the business model is a bit more complicated but the corporate interest in newspapers and magazines remains steady. These are “for-profit” enterprises and the most important desks at these businesses are the advertising desks. No one is surprised when magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Time, which are owned by conglomerates, are accused of killing articles that put their advertisers in a poor a light. The further accusation is that the reporters are told to write stories that highlight their advertising customers with a positive spin. Those who do not comply are terminated. There is enough compelling evidence from a number of unique sources to make one pause.

Accusations of bias have been leveled at New York Times over the Hamas-Israel conflict, which is still ongoing. The tone this time is more than journalistic favoritism of Palestinians. The same accusations have been leveled at the AP and their large bureau in Israel. In this case a former reporter from the bureau details pictures suppressed and articles killed that were disproportionately negative against Gaza and the West Bank. Many media observers see the pattern of the glossy magazines being emulated in the news sheets.

Everything fit to print may not be fit for consumption.

I will leave you this little fact. The AP has not filled its stringer position in Congo. Stringers live in African countries among the inhabitants for $300 a month. The named reporters for the AP live in hotels across the continent at nearly $300 a day and they cover six to ten countries from one city. The AP pays for the big stories but not for the daily investigative journalism that matters more in the long run. It’s a business and therein lies the inherent problem of news consumption in the United States. It’s a business.