The Mayor’s office in NYC responded to accusations of mass arrests of reporters during Occupy Wall Street protests by stating that only five of the 26 reporters arrested were “credentialed by the city.” It seemed to have gone right over the spokesman’s head that he was confessing to the city having arrested five reporters for the crime of reporting a story that the city was uncomfortable with. To be clear, it is not uncommon for fully legitimate reporters to work in NYC without having been credentialed by the city, so it is likely that the count is higher than five, even if a few of the persons self-identifying as reporters were not actually “legitimate” journalists (whatever that means).
Right now, the mainstream media (MSM) has not been giving a lot of coverage to the current challenge to the media’s right to report stories without being subject to arrest. This is hardly surprising, given the American media’s lack of interest in covering the hard-hitting expose-style stories. This may be part of the explanation for the sharper decrease in newspaper sales in the US vs. Europe. Both are well developed industrial markets that attribute the loss of readership to newer technologies luring away the younger readership. What is really different is the willingness of the European media to take on hard-hitting news stories, and pay experienced reporters to travel the world and write the stories. Much of the best reporting on events in the Middle East and beyond is coming from European reporters and newspapers.
During the Occupy Wall Street protests, there has been little mention of the hypocrisy involved in condemning the violent oppression of demonstrators overseas, while using some of the same methods within the US. You know that something is wrong with how the media is working when a conservative commenter at Forbes magazine, who has spent time and ink criticizing the OWS protests, speaks out against the police tactics used at Berkeley before much of the MSM finds its voice in the matter.
Looking at who owns the media tells us why it is so slow to criticize elements that are set up to protect the 1% of the nation that controls finances in America – those same interests control the media! We are now used to turning to news programs and seeing extensive time spent on stories about celebrities such as the Kardashians, the Hiltons, etc… As this is written, the day after thousands of protesters interfered with normal operations of Wall Street and tied up bridges and landmarks in NYC, along with cooperative events in dozens of cities across the country, CNN’s web site’s lead story is the continuing scandal at Penn State. Whatever we think of the state of college sports, it cannot be mistaken as a story that will change the average American’s life.
Even if we ignore the worst offenders, such as Fox News, it is widely acknowledged that American media acts as a stenographer for those in power. As major corporations spin the story of their involvement in the real estate mortgage collapse, the media has been faithfully reporting their version of affairs. Even when the media does try to focus in on financial malfeasance, it often gets the story wrong, claiming that the Government spends $16 for a muffin, when it turns out that was the price for a whole breakfast at the Hilton, missing the bigger stories in the process. It is much easier to try and play “gotcha” journalism than it is to tell the difficult story of what is really going on with corporate influence in our nation.
One of the most important stories for the average American is climate change. Rather than giving the facts on what science says about climate change, the American media continues to cover the story as if it were two sides debating the meaning of the evidence. The reality is that science has long ago come to the conclusion that climate change is real and caused by human action, but this story might be discomfiting to the corporate overlords of the media. We can expect continued misreporting on issues that corporate America has an interest in.
So, if the average American cannot trust the corporate media, what should he/she do to stay informed? There are good alternatives. For foreign affairs, Al Jazeera and the BBC do excellent reporting, as does The Guardian out of London. To know what is going on politically within the US, independent media such as Democracy Now and Truthout are good options. For environmental news, keeping up to date with Greenpeace and other environmental groups will let you know what is really going on. It is more work than just watching a single news show, or reading the local paper, but if you want to know about the important issues that affect our lives, the only reliable method is to do the research yourself. The reason the American Main Stream Media is collapsing is that the quality is just no longer there, and it no longer has the guts to even cover its own demise.
Mike Davis is a local community organizer for groups such as the Coffee Party and Moveon.org and works with Veterans for Peace on a regular basis.