WikiLeaks' Success Was Indictment of American Corporate Media

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These folks are good at examining the conduct of others—but never themselves. American journalism has failed on a massive level and compromised the careers of many fine journalists in the process. Greg Palast was forced to take his stellar work, proving the 2000 Presidential Election was stolen, to English outlets like the BBC.

[Speaking Truth To Power]

Over the last decade, the American media have failed the American people. They failed during the Election of 2000.

They failed when the lies precipitating a destructive war-for-profit in Iraq weren’t debunked. Now, with the winds of change upon us, aren’t these paragons of the press still failing us?

This week, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange received an influential award from Australia’s Walkley Foundation, on its 56 anniversary of giving this journalistic honor. The foundation’s award is Australia’s equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize. Wikileaks won in the category of Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism for 2011.

The Walkley Foundation for Journalism presents annual awards for excellence in a variety of fields in print, television, radio and online media. Journalists are judged in over 30 categories for these awards including: news and feature writing, radio and television reporting and interviewing, international news, business news, investigative journalism and social commentary.

The foundation applauded Wikileaks for its “courageous and controversial commitment to the finest traditions of journalism: justice through transparency.” They also noted that the innovative approach Wikileaks enacted in its brand of journalism could just as easily have been developed and nurtured by any of the world’s major publishers—but it wasn’t. Yet so many eagerly took advantage of the secret cables to create more scoops in a year than most journalist could imagine in a lifetime.”

The foundation also noted “While not without flaws, the Walkley Trustees believe that by designing and constructing a means to encourage whistleblowers, Wikileaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange took a brave, determined and independent stand for freedom of speech and transparency that has empower people all over the world. And in the process, they have triggered a robust debate inside and outside the media about official secrecy, the public’s right to know, and the future of journalism.”

Indeed, the time has come for a serious discussion about the corrupt and compromised corporate media. Examine their atrocious coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. During the first few weeks, they ignored the protesters before disparaging them as dirty hippy types. And, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg used the New York Police Department (NYPD) to trample on the First Amendment rights of protesters—and the media by grounding news choppers and banning reporters during the retaking of Zuccotti Park—why was the press so silent?

The truth is establishment news companies are ill equipped to perform, what should be, the real goal of journalism: publicizing and broadcasting factual truths—while allowing diverse perspectives to be heard. Instead, they pretend to practice neutral, “objective” journalism, whatever that is. That very myth must be smashed if we’re to have a press that realizes its primary function is to publish truth—without fear or favor. Does the public deserve any less?

On a daily basis, the fiction of “objective” journalism is preached by journalism professionals and professors. Under the guise of “objective” journalism media “gatekeepers” censor inconvenient truths that may embarrass their friends who manipulate the levers of power.

For example, a few weeks ago, Sam Husseini the communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy was suspended as a member of the National Press Club. Why? Well, Husseini asked Saudi Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud—who got testy and evasive during the exchange with Husseini—about the legitimacy of the Saudi Arabian government given their abysmal human rights record. What does it say about the journalistic profession when an organization like the National Press Club suspends a member of its body for asking a politician tough questions?

Husseini’s suspension has since been lifted. Other journalists have complained about the National Press Club’s, reported, penchant for suspending members who ask critical questions of those in power. These days, corporate media allows America’s elites, and their allies, to pervert factual truth under the pretense of journalistic “objectivity.”

Unfortunately, the sins of the news media are often covered-up. These folks are good at examining the conduct of others—but never themselves. American journalism has failed on a massive level and compromised the careers of many fine journalists in the process. Greg Palast was forced to take his stellar work, proving the 2000 Presidential Election was stolen, to English outlets like the BBC. America’s corporate media shunned his findings showing the connection between Katherine Harris, a company called Choice Point, and the disenfranchisement of Black Floridians.

Others had their careers and lives destroyed, like Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Gary Webb.

In 1996, Webb, a reporter for most of his career—from 1988—at the San Jose Mercury News, wrote a three-part investigative story called “Dark Alliance.” The expose highlighted the relationship between personalities connected to the CIA, the crack cocaine explosion in Los Angeles, and, the Nicaraguan Contras—who were illegally being supported by some in the Ronald Reagan Administration. Webb’s effort showed the Contras were smuggling cocaine into America—and that individuals in the Reagan White House, like Colonel Oliver North, were well aware of this.

For his labors, Webb became a persona non grata pariah within American journalism.  Showing spinelessness, Webb’s paper backed away from him when forces in government and media proceed to attack. In fact, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post all attempted to discredit the “Dark Alliance” series showing the connection between the Contras and the crack craze devastating Black communities. Mainstream media focused on minor mistakes and irrelevant minutiae which had nothing to do with the expose’s primary point.

Webb was, basically, forced from The San Jose Mercury News when he was reassigned to a bureau more than 100 miles from his home. American journalism tarred and feathered this journalist who was a winner of countless awards. On December 10, 2004, Webb reportedly committed suicide. However, some have posed this question: can someone commit suicide by shooting themselves twice in the head?

Today, the failures, and or connivance, of America’s corporate news media continue. Yet, because of the evolving technological landscape a democratization of media is unfolding.  This bodes well for the vision of a journalism that truly represents everyday people.

Julian Assange and Wikileaks give us examples of truly relevant journalism—investigating those “democratic” governments who make a mockery of the concept of transparency. By combining technological innovation with bold muckraking, Wikileaks and Julian Assange have blazed a path showing the possibility of what 21 Century journalism needs to be.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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