Hello everyone, welcome to the SIS 640 Group 1 blog! I'm sure this class will touch on many interesting topics this semester and hopefully we can provide some insightful comments into those. I'm looking forward to reading what everyone else thinks of the readings.
For my first post I wanted to focus on something I noticed in both Thussu's and Matteart's articles, which bothered me a great deal. The use of the media and journalism to promote specific agendas. First, full disclosure, I was a newspaper reporter for a while before coming to American, so I may have idealizations about the industry, but I do realize that many people do not necessarily think of news in such a way. For me, journalism and news reporting overall is about the facts. Letting people know what is going on either close to home or far away, the good, the bad, the ugly, everything, and then allowing them to make their own conclusions. In my mind it is not about trying to sway a reader (or viewer or listener) to your side or distort the facts to make one side look better and the other look worse. It is also most certainly not (to me) a vehicle for pure entertainment and the chance to make a profit publishing falsehoods because it sells papers.
However so much of both of those articles focused on government, corporation, or individual attempts to do just that. Governments held a disturbingly large stake in this business in order to promote their own propaganda. The USA used Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to wage propaganda war against the USSR and the article stated that similar radio and television stations are currently in use to prop up the Western case against opponents in the Middle East. This especially bothers me as it is propaganda disguised as news. The listeners are led to believe that what they hear is the whole truth. While it may be true it also most likely a highly biased version of that, which the listeners may never realize.
Governments also used the media to manipulate the public's view of their own actions. In the Mattelart article there is discussion of the Crimean War and how photographers were told to only take pictures of idyllic scenes of soldiers that made war look like a picnic, under the guise of not scaring families. After reports of horrific battles and massacres the military then required official accreditation in order to report on its activities. While some parts of the military activities should be confidential for the safety of soldiers, families and the public do deserve to know what their loved ones and country are actually doing. They need the facts in order to make their own judgements, not just blindly believe whatever their government tells them. It is a slippery slope to fascism and dictatorship after that.
I was equally, if not more disturbed by William Randolph Hearst's blatant disregard for journalistic integrity. When his photographer told him there was no war in Cuba, Hearst said he would provide it. Which he did in the form of the Spanish American War. While factual reporting on actual events is one thing, to manufacture a war, which kills people, can ruin countries, and otherwise destroy lives, just to sell papers is reprehensible. If you want to sell scandal and excitement when their is none, write a fictional novel or make a movie, don't toy with others' lives for your own personal gain.
These acts give journalism a bad name, leading people to (sometimes rightfully) mistrust the media. Even today it is hard to find sources of unbiased reporting. Recently there were reports that the US government was denying access to reporters who published unfavorable stories about the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Every major news channel and paper seems to have their own "slant" on a story despite their frequent claims to the contrary.
I suppose journalism never was what I idealized it to be, a search for and desire to spread the truth and inform people about the goings on of the world. It has always been and always will be a business and a tool for profit and propaganda. I suppose the best we all can do is question our sources, look at multiple points of view, and figure out the truth for ourselves.