In school we were taught that a free and unbiased press is essential to our democracy, because they could be counted on to report the facts, to shine the light on what our government and the other countries in the world are doing, to keep those we have placed in power over us accountable to the masses. We were told that a free press reports the facts, investigates all sides of a story and presents "the truth". Seems nothing could be further from the truth today.
If all you watched was CNN, and if the only report you saw was from about 2:00 that afternoon, you would have concluded that the Chicago Tea Party was filled with crazy, ignorant and racist people. I was there on the edge of the crowd around the CNN reporter and watched her zero in on one of the very few signs that was blatantly offensive. Then she interviewed a man who was concerned about the debt our country will pass on to his daughter. She interrupted him, scolded him, tried to convince him he was wrong, and then ended by drawing conclusions about the event that had nothing to do with the reality. She even managed to throw in a dig at one of her competing news organizations, which didn't help her already suspect credibility.
It was obvious that this reporter arrived with a pre-conceived notion of the event. She started with the conclusion and then sought out the "facts" to "prove" it. I was shocked. It would be equivalent to seeing somebody breathlessly proclaim that "Lake Michigan is filled with styrofoam cups!", when all the reporter actually found were a few cups floating at the shore.
I am not saying that other news organizations don't do this kind of thing. I have just never witnessed such blatantly misleading reporting in person before. My point is, don't trust any one source for news. My morning routine includes reading news web sites and political blogs while I eat my breakfast. The first news sites I read are CNN, Fox News and the Chicago Tribune. Whenever I'm in the car, I've got the radio on. My three most-used buttons are for what are considered all news, conservative talk, and liberal talk.
Do not believe that one news source is always telling the truth and another is "in the tank" for your political enemy. What you see and hear is shaped by the political beliefs and objectives of the owners, editors, writers and reporters of that organization.
Don't believe me? Give it a try. Research one current news story using as many different sources as you can find. Carefully read or listen to the reporting and determine how much is "fact" and how much is opinion, dramatization and spin. Then, research a story on the same topic from a different time period (say before this last national election) and notice the difference in how each news organization reported it when a different political party was in power. A very good topic for this exercise would be the national deficit.
Maybe I'm being naive. Maybe the profession of "journalism" was never what it purported to be. Maybe they have never been what we need now more than ever - the guardians of our democracy. But if that were the case, Richard Nixon would not have left office early, would he?
This was actually my favorite sign from the event:
America, and all freedom-loving people, should mourn.
I attended the Chicago Tea Party on Wednesday. It was my first ever politcal protest, and I almost didn't go.
For one thing, I'm not comfortable in large crowds. I was once caught in a very fast-moving crowd of people leaving a baseball game - it was almost a stampede - and the fear of being trampled may be unreasonable but it's there. Another reason I almost didn't go was the publication of a report by a government agency that labels people who believe in some of the things I believe in as possible threats to national security. It frightens me to think that my own government may be monitoring me because I don't agree with its policies.
The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press (among other things). These are critical in a healthy democratic society. They are related and, when exercised with integrity, help protect each other. But what happens when the people exercise their freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and the press purposely misrepresents it?
At the Tea Party I spent the entire time moving into, out of and around the crowd. I took pictures of signs. I listened to people reacting to the speakers and interacting with each other. I did so with a purpose...I wanted to compare what I saw with what was reported in the news. And I witnessed something that frightened me even more than the government report...the intentional distortion of the event by a major media organization.
If CNN were truly what their motto purports - "the most trusted name in news" - this country would be doomed.