Monday, April 13, 2009

The State of the Fourth Estate

The State of the Fourth Estate
By Ron Powell

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." --- George Orwell

Contemporary politics is full of deceit, evasion, distraction, hostility, and confusion. Contemporary political reporting, commentary, and analysis is a reflection and hence an instrument of the environment in which it functions.

The enemy of clarity in communication is insincerity. The language used by most politicians is designed to make lies sound like the truth and give the feeling of substance to that which is no more than hot air. Political news reporting, commentary and analysis is designed to help them do it.

‘Spin’ is the attempt on the part of the person speaking, to influence or alter the meaning or interpretation of what he or she has said or done. ’Slant’ is the way the media chooses to handle, manage or manipulate the ’news’ or the reporting of the ’news’ that is related to what was said or done.

Because, most news organizations are now driven by the profit motive inherent in business, instead of the ethical or moral imperatives inherent in journalism, the obligation and responsibility to be truthful, honest and objective is seen as a costly impediment to turning a profit. When a news operation reduces costs to increase the bottom line, the first victim of the reduction is the truth.

Today, for most newspapers, the process of deciding what is ’news’ and what isn’t, is either a reflection of the biases and prejudices of the people who read them, or is a reflection of the biases, prejudices and agendas of those responsible for publishing them.

No longer content with reporting political events as they occur, most news operations now choose to participate in the political process, not by simply trying to influence the outcome, but by manipulating the process in such a way as to profit from the outcome as well. Factual reporting in pursuit of the truth is simply not considered profitable. The primary reason why newspapers are dying all over the country is that truth, honesty and objectivity in gathering and reporting the news no longer exist.

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