Tag Archives: PBS

The Myth of Democracy and the Demise of the Fourth Estate

Our system of government is based on a concept of checks & balances between branches of government. Executive, legislative, and judicial. A fourth “branch” or “fourth estate” has historically been the informal final arbiter of truth within this system.

Journalism had enjoyed a reputation of objectivity for some years. Think Murrow, Cronkite, and the unsung heroes of truth that trudged the wires for AP and UPI. Broadcast journalism was the first to fall (the “Eyewitness News” model) and the line between truth and “message” became blurred.

NPR and PBS were my last hopes. NPR has increasingly come under fire for some administrative personnel decisions (Juan Williams) but for my money, continues to provide generally objective, thoughtful content.

Then PBS. Another stalwart of objective journalism. The PBS Newshour and Frontline are, in my opinion, unmatched for in-depth editorial content. Other news organizations such as Al Jazeera and BBC also continue to produce top quality content.

Now this.

I read this article from David Sirota and another piece of me died. To summarize, PBS is launching a two-year series called “The Pension Peril”. The series promotes cuts to public employee pensions (disclaimer: I am a former county employee who is not receiving a public pension and is adamantly opposed to exorbitant public pensions).

Here’s the poison pill: the series financed by, as the article states “former Enron trader John Arnold, a billionaire political powerbroker who is actively trying to shape the very pension policy that the series claims to be dispassionately covering.”

Et tu PBS? Your argument that you retain editorial control over content is a shameful expression of crap clearly designed to save face in light of the disclosure of your masters.

That the PBS Newshour promotes the series sickens me. When I think PBS, I think objectivity, truth, integrity.

Whether it is an economic reality forcing this funding or not matters little. They’ve entered the partisan arena inhabited by subjective “news” organizations such as Fox and the Wall Street Journal.

I have no argument with balance. The MSNBC counter to Fox and their ilk. What I have issue with is the demise of the Fourth Estate…

Of truth…

Of integrity…

Of the myth of democracy…

Say it ain’t so Joe (McCarthy)

 Being an innocent young lad afforded me a wide variety of beliefs that if people just did the right thing, or were shown the error of their ways, all would be good.   I had a recurring fantasy that if a bad man ever did anything to me or my family, I would simply reason with him and the situation would resolve.

As I got a little older, this line of thinking faded, but was replaced by incredulity that episodes in our history like Hitler or McCarthy could ever be repeated…especially in MY country.  Thankfully we have seen nothing close to the Third Reich mentality in the mainstream, however I find myself increasingly distressed that ‘ol Joe is right around the corner.  And his name is Roger Ailes.

I grew up believing in icons like Edward R. Morrow, Walter Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley.  The MacNeil/Lehrer Report, NPR, and PBS continued to carry on (or at least try real hard) the traditions of these journalistic giants.  “Journalism” to me was a science…the reporter developed and reported the story based on multiple “sourcing” that could be verified.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was the best we could do and allowed for the least amount of bias.

I have long since stopped watching local TV news and the Infotainment that it spews.  Even the Big Three Networks turned me off…then CNN finally shoved me out the door with their brand of ratings-grabbing fluff.  What was left?  What had journalism become?

Joe McCarthy.  Yeah, THAT Joe McCarthy.  The man who turned innuendo and intimidation into fact.  The guy that took an agenda and through a mixture of pomp, bullying and fear, ruined lives and changed the national debate.  Welcome to 2012 Joe, and meet Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News.  You would be proud.  Along with Rupert Murdoch and Karl Rove, you would be proud of their accomplishments.  They have perfected your art of outrage, fear-mongering, and absolute lack of sourcing into a slick, marketable brand of “News”.  God, you would have had a field day on Hannity.  Beck would have been licking your Oxford’s every morning.

I don’t see an end in sight.  But I do know this:  the constant attacks on the “Liberal Media” is all about smoke and mirrors.  If the “Liberal Media” implies solid journalistic sourcing and un-biased journalistic integrity, then let’s embrace and hail the moniker.  But don’t call what you do “News” then hold up what I know to be verifiable facts as a “liberal movement”.

I know it’s a two-way street.  I took guilty pleasure in Olbermann’s rants before the sheer mean-spirited tone left me sour.  It is natural to tune in to what you want to hear, but at some point the “truth” becomes shaded, and reality suffers.  Let’s take a step back and call Fox what is it…a biased and well-funded wing of the Republican party.  It is not “news”.  It is not analogous to the “Liberal”  New York Times (one of the last balanced dailies).  Fox is an attempt to sway the national agenda to a particular point of view.  I’m okay with that…just don’t call it news and don’t call news the “Liberal Media”.

Sorry to say Joe, but there are some of us that still remember you and the insidious nature of your brand of sickness…and we’re still watching.

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