RNC Chairman Threatens NBC and CNN Because He Knows Most Corporate Media Have Surrendered Journalistic Integrity

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Sheriff Reince Priebus

[Speaking Truth To Power]

Why did Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus tell NBC and CNN he will seek to boycott their networks by refusing to “partner” with them in 2016 primary debates if they run documentaries about Hillary Clinton?

Because Priebus knows that if history is a guide they will probably cave in or offer a weak response. He hopes NBC and CNN won't stand up for the principles of independent journalism, but instead kowtow to his bully tactics

This is what far too many “mainstream” media entities have been doing for decades now. Why is anyone surprised that some major newspapers are now being snapped up at garage-sale prices?

On August 5, 2013, in very similar letters to NBC Chairman Roger Greenblatt and CNN President Jeff Zucker, Mr. Priebus complained that documentaries both networks reportedly plan to broadcast were a “thinly veiled attempt at putting a thumb on the scales of the 2016 presidential election.” He claimed they constituted “unfair,” “special treatment” favorable for Mrs. Clinton.

In the letters, Mr. Priebus castigated the documentaries as “political"  ads "masquerading as an unbiased production.” Priebus complained that NBC and CNN had donated to Democrats in past elections saying “Executives and employees of Comcast, NBC’s parent company have been generous supporters of Democrats and Secretary Clinton.” He also complained that “David Cohen, Comcast’s EVP, raised over $1.4 million for President Obama’s re-election.”

In a statement, Mr. Priebus also said "It's appalling to know executives at major networks like NBC and CNN who have donated to Democrats and Hillary Clinton have taken it upon themselves to be Hillary Clinton's campaign operatives. I hope Americans will question the credibility of these networks and that NBC and CNN will reconsider their partisan actions and cancel these political ads masked as unbiased entertainment."

Mr. Priebus gave this ultimatum to NBC and CNN: “If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to the start of the RNC Summer Meeting on August 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates which you sponsor.”

This week much has been made of the relatively cheap sale of major media companies, like the Washington Post for $250 million and the Boston Globe for $77 million, and what this means for the future of journalism in America. However, the worry about American journalism’s future should not be just a matter of who owns journalistic entities. It is surely true that the conglomeration and monopolization of media has bastardized the concept of a journalism meant to serves the masses in a democracy. Today, it can hardly be said “mainstream” American journalism serves the interests of the American public. This is one of the reasons why media is failing in so many ways.

Yet, that aside, the brazen demand of Mr. Priebus points to several problems wrong with America’s corporate journalism. Why does the RNC chairman think he can dictate the terms of these future primary debates? Could it be because these establishment media companies have long ceded their independent integrity for access and acceptability to those in power?

Those who believe in independent journalism should be appalled by this blatant attempt of a political operative to coerce news organizations into shelving programming because it doesn’t support their narrow political views and objectives. Wouldn’t it be nice if NBC and CNN tell Mr. Priebus which cliff he can jump from? Will these companies rebut this ridiculous request and maintain some sort of principled stand? If the recent past is any barometer of what these corporate companies will do, then, we will see some sort of weak appeasement.

Unfortunately, the corporate establishment media’s main mission is making money and anything perceived as bad for business is avoided like the plague. It hardly seems to dawn on these people that informing and promoting the interests of the people at large should be the main ideal and mission of journalism—not, catering to the whims, or, whining of political personalities.

The issue of access is another tool politicians use to browbeat media companies into compliance. Sometimes, this can be seen in political press conferences. Recently, veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas died and some lauded her accomplishments. However, many will like us to forget the treatment Ms. Thomas was subjected to because of the critical and principled critiques she often subjected presidential press secretaries and presidents to.

As a White House reporter, Ms. Thomas who covered every president since President Kennedy would oftentimes be ignored and avoided by press secretaries and presidents because of her probing, insightful questions which were often too annoying to White House political spinmeisters. If Thomas was a junior reporter she may well have been denied credentials and refused access all together for not behaving. And because of the threat to deny access, media organizations often play nice and allow themselves to be co-opted by corrupt politicians. Consequently, some politicians feel they are entitled to make demands of news companies—and usually in the process they use media to promote their agenda.

Here we should revisit something that occurred, on Election Day 2000, when Hillary Clinton was running for political office to represent New York on Capitol Hill. In an attempt to get out the vote for Hillary, former President Bill Clinton was apparently busy that day calling radio stations in New York. Then, he made a call to 99.5 WBAI Radio and an infamous exchange occurred between him and Democracy Now host Amy Goodman who was on air at the time.

Seizing the opportunity, Goodman asked President Clinton a variety of serious questions about several topics including: racial profiling, American Indian Movement leader Leonard Peltier, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and NAFTA and Iraq sanctions. Goodman’s incessant pressing of the president on the Iraq sanctions issue incensed President Clinton who accused her of being “hostile and combative.”

President Clinton was obviously not given the memo that WBAI is a station known for hardnosed journalism—where reporters are not afraid to ask the questions that need to be asked. In today’s supposed “liberal,” “mainstream” media landscape that is anathema—as is any type of muckraking bulldog journalism that exposes the misdeeds and deception of those in politics and power.

This kind of journalism is far from the norm within “mainstream” media where “objective journalism” really means the powerful are allowed to twist the facts and murder truth to advance the interests of politicians and the powerful. Consequently, there are many instances of establishment journalism’s failure that can be listed including: botching the story of the stolen 2000 Presidential Election, The New York Times sitting on the Bush wiretapping story until after the 2004 Presidential Election, the curious actions of famous reporters like Bob Woodward in the Valerie Plame affair and the wretched coverage which failed to educate and name the names of those on Wall Street responsible for crashing the American economy—along with the futures of many Americans.

Amidst the angst about the shifting foundation of American journalism we must remember American journalism never reached the level of being a fully independent entity dedicated to empowering the people with information

The demand of Mr. Priebus is another example of the problems with American journalism—and why current, chaotic, changes in journalism ushered in by, among other things, the Internet digital age might, eventually, lead to a new era of a more free and fully democratic press. 


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