Do you remember the good old days of broadcast news when real journalists weren't afraid to deal with real and big issues? The broadcast journalists of the late sixties and early seventies covered major news events with a semblance of fairness and integrity. Do you remember when the staff of news magazine shows did genuine investigative reporting about issues that had a direct bearing on our health, safety, well being, personal rights and freedom? I remember a slew of news magazine stories in the early 70's about employee pensions being in danger. Those stories helped protect pensions by causing public outrage. These days, the national news media just echoes right-wing shill organization attacks on Social Security, Medicare and employee pensions and news magazines tend to cover Hollywood gossip stories.
Now that I've complained about the sorry state of our national broadcast news media, let's take a look at local broadcast news. What passes for broadcast “journalism” in my part of the country, the Tampa Florida market, is sad indeed. I'm sure that it is representative of most other local markets. Local stations cover the usual crime stories that are part and parcel of the business. They do a great job on weather coverage, which is essential in our neck of the woods. Where they fall down is in the area of consumer and investigative stories. They seem to be waging a war of the roaches, with each station visiting restaurants that failed Health Department tests for cleanliness, etc. I have a suggestion for stations that call that consumer reporting, instead of playing count the roaches cover major consumer stories! How about a thorough and not superficial story on why the dropping price of oil that lowered the price of gas at the pump didn't lower the sharply rising cost of food in the Supermarkets? After all, food corporations used rising fuel prices as a rationale to help cause an increase in prices in the first place! How about suggesting a story to your national networks about rising costs versus Stagnant wages?
National broadcast networks and local stations have to start serving the real needs of their viewers as opposed to their advertisers or other corporate special interest groups. If they continue along their current paths, alternative media people will be more than happy to fill the void and disseminate truthful and relevant newscasts, talk shows and news magazines.
So now I hear, via Think Progress, that NBC's David Gregory is going to be the keynote speaker at a conference that is run by a Republican advocacy group that will also have notorious notables like Karl Rove and John Boehner. One of the fundamental tenets of journalism is that reporters must maintain their integrity by avoiding conflicts of interest that could bias their reporting. Could Mr. Gregory's appearance at that conference mean that the mainstream media has given up hiding behind their charade of impartiality?
About three years ago, I made a comment (that grew legs and became part of our political dialog) on the Working Family Radio Network that we should make our Congressmen and Senators wear NASCAR style blazers bearing the logos of the corporations that own them. Perhaps we can get the FCC to enact a rule that forces broadcast "journalists" to wear blazers that have the logos of their conflicts of interest and biases? If nothing else, old school style broadcast news blazers, with a few additional logos added, will make the talking heads look like the Ted Baxters that they really are!
If you happened to watch most of the network and local TV news coverage of the One Nation March On Washington, you probably noticed several massive distortions of the truth. The most glaring and most prevalent out and out LIE came from several broadcast "journalists" who stated or implied that the One Nation March was hastily done in reaction to the Tea Party rally that was fielded by a certain right wing talk show host one month earlier. Correct me if I'm wrong, as I recall, the One Nation March was announced in early spring (in March, I believe) of 2010, probably planned way earlier. The second major distortion of the truth was the inevitable crowd size comparison between the September march and the One Nation March, there was none because the One Nation March had double the crowd size! Finally, we had to subject ourselves to the glib remarks implying that the the purpose of the march was to shore up support for a Democratic Party that is desperate for help in November. Hello mainstream media, the One Nation March On Washington's purpose was to unite working people, the unemployed, the middle class, the poor and fight for their interests! The march wasn't a mere pep rally for the Democratic Party!
We have a couple of ways to fix sloppy journalism, be it intentional or otherwise. We can call the offending station's news department and demand that the "journalist" in question be given a course in remedial journalism 101 where he or she will be reminded of the meaning of the five W's of journalism. We can call the offending TV stations and tell them that we are going to boycott their sponsors until they clean up their act. While those methods provide immediate personal satisfaction, they only fix a small part of a widespread problem.
The only way we can fix the distortions and undue political influence that is rampant in the broadcast media is to contact our electeds and demand that they enact modifications to the Communications Acts. similar to the Fairness Doctrine, etc. that empower the FCC to enforce equal, fair and undistorted broadcast journalism. As a broadcaster, I know that biased and slanted reporting in some segments of the mainstream media can literally change the results of an election by what is said or not said about a person or issue. We're talking about a future of our democracy issue here! If you can distort how you report the news, are Federally licensed to use the airwaves, a natural resource that is owned by every American and on loan to you to be used in the public interest and are big enough to influence enough potential voters, you should be subject to regulatory oversight. We the people can no longer allow you to hijack the truth on behalf of a few corporate interests!