Sadly, this is a question that needs an answer in the United States of America.
Freedom of the press is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is generally understood as the primary means of prohibiting government from interfering with the publishing of information and opinions.
What could be more obvious than the intent of the creators of our nation’s constitution? They made it Amendment Number One for a reason, largely based on the tyranny of lives lived in other countries.
So law protects media from government. But what protects media from Big Media. Corporate media.
Just a couple of examples. Dylan Ratigan has Tom Coburn on his MSNBC show. Senator Coburn, among the very, very most conservative members of congress, went on and on again about the great need for elected members of both parties to be more rational-that is, to strive for consensus. This is a man who had signed onto Grover Norquist’s pledge never to raise taxes of any sort. While Coburn, as others, may be rethinking having taken an oath, he can’t distance himself from the basic concept of placing a pledge to a group ahead of the oath he swore to obey upon taking office.
What did Ratigan do? He thanked Coburn for appearing on his show and complimented him on his new book-the only reason the senator made an appearance in the first place. It was not Coburn who that day’s sellout. It was preachy Ratigan who lectures his audience daily about the need to change how America works. Ratigan, like almost every big media host, realizes that if you take a guest to task, ask questions that most viewers are screaming their TV, realizes that he needs these people to return in the future. Hence, gloves off.
Mind you that this is the same Coburn who invoked the Grim Reaper in criticizing the Medicare Advantage cuts:
If were truly gonna take this money from Medicare… What [is] this going to do for our seniors, I have a message for you — you’re gonna die sooner. . . And [Democrats] are gonna go.
There are countless instances of this. I am certain you can recount specific instances of hosts avoiding the really important questions. Meet the Press does this every time. They walk a politician right up to water’s edge, but rarely, rarely, rarely ask a question that might make the person uncomfortable.
That’s why I don’t understand the reason that Romney refuses to make appearances. None of the hosts is going to put him a difficult position. Having won an opportunity to interview a potential president, are they going to give away an opportunity for a return visit?
Far more often, hosts pose ask a question to a political operative. Big deal. We all know the canned response before it’s spoken. And should the operative not return, there’s lots of fish in that sea.
But I admit my surprise when, earlier this week, Chris Matthews acknowledged my point. He stated that a host posing an uninvited question to a politician would all but guarantee that the person would not pay a return visit. And, to TV hosts, that is the big deal. Not the freedom of the press they enjoy guaranteed by America’s Constitution, but the assurance that cutting to the chase might cost them their guest. Or, more importantly, their job.
Big media rules.
As long as I’m on the topic of the media, let’s look at the print media as well. Consider Friday’s Newsday.
Things that irked me as I turned the pages in just one issue:
Dan Janison wrote of the likely demise of the minimum wage increase being discussed in Albany. Janison is a balanced reporter. In this case my indignation is directed at our state’s elected officials. Republicans argue raising the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 will hurt business. Explain to me how putting more cash in the hands of people who no choice but to spend it on basic necessities hurts the local economy. These guys have no idea what it is to work a forty-hour week and take home $15,080-gross! Try living on $15K a year-not in Phnom Penn-on Long Island. Any argument you make to the contrary would make you a frighty.
Assemblyman Chuck Lavine introduced a bill prohibiting private individuals or corporations from paying for a public referendum (case in point, the million and a half buckaroos Nassau County spent on the Coliseum referendum that Wang would have repaid IF his referendum had passed). Just one more way for corporations to shape the public agenda. The Assembly passed Lavine’s bill 124-3 with three Republicans voting against.
The Feds won’t name the LIRR retirees who collected phony disability pensions. They won’t even ask for the money back. Not even part of it. Their names will be kept secret. The deal is that the retired workers could keep the looted loot, avoid prosecution, if they admit they had erred. Not so bad a deal for a bunch of cunning goniffs. Will this set a precedent? Provide incentive to others? Seems reasonable to me.
Test scores, imperfect and inappropriate as a measure of student proficiency could be, may be published — identifying teachers while ignoring the complexities of the classroom. But making public the names of people who have stolen large amounts repeatedly, who have been caught red-handed — noooooo.
Just a few pages further into Friday’s edition, there is a piece, At Issue: Retirees’ Insurance, focusing on NY Civil Service Acting Commissioner Patricia Hite’s ability to set the payments for state employees and retirees. Her argument is that only pension payments-not health insurance benefits-are guaranteed in the state constitution. The Retired Public Employees Association maintains that past practice is precedent. I have a solution to this that will save everybody lot of time and money. Simply include the retirees in the group of LIRR retirees who knowingly stole from the pension system and make all retirees, upon submission of pension papers, admit the error of their ways.
Then there’s Newsday ’Our Towns’ page that daily invites readers’ input on a range of current events. Who are the people whose opinions are published? How is the very limited number of replies selected? How does the reader know they are representative opinions? Why are the replies anonymous? Are Edukate, Mkunama, Beedenbender2012, Limomto5 (May 25) actually one and the same person?
On the Opinion page, Jonathan Alter, a respected journalist, predicts that the presidential campaign will NOT–I repeat NOT–be as dirty as people expect. His conclusion is that there is agreement between the two sides not to do Willie Horton attack ads this time around. He pretends that Swift Boat ads will be avoided. Alter believes that the candidates, given the current mood of the country, would probably be forced to denounce them. He continues that this sounds counterintuitive. I am wordless. I am unable to reply. My fingers will not strike the keyboard.
Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO, has been treated ‘fairly’ by shareholders. Thank goodness. I thought he might have to lobby in favor of the minimum wage increase and be personally denied. Seems there was not a lot of shareholder interest in IPO shenanigans (noted that affair was JP Morgan’s, not G-S). But if shareholders do well, what’s there to complain about? Blankfein made a case for lobbying elected officials. After all, that’s why he and Dimon are paid the big bucks.
And just for the hell of it, there’s a tiny item tucked away on page A50: Loan Impasse Continues. Seems the Senate can’t bring itself to pass legislation that would prevent student loan rates from doubling this summer. Conservatives want the money to come from a fund set aside for health care reform–imagine that! The rationals want the money to come from a miniscule tax increase on the highest earning Americans.
Things were bad enough. I turned to the sports section. Miami Heat won their playoff series. Oh, it hurts. It hurts.
Going to read the Times until the rain lets up. And hope my anger subsides.