1) Holding Government Accountable
The watchdog function is often the hardest to perform well. Government agencies and officials are not always willing to be transparent, especially if there is no tradition of public scrutiny.
"Freedom of speech and exchange of information are not just luxuries, they are the currency on which global commerce, politics, and culture increasingly depend," observed David Hoffman, the founder of Internews, an international nongovernmental agency that helps train and develop independent media in 50 countries.
2) Publicizing Issues
Without a free and independent press sector, the full responsibility for public information and safety resides only in the government. This lack of public engagement can seriously undermine a country's security and economic growth.
For example, the Chinese media did not report the unfolding SARS epidemic in 2003 accurately, because they were following their government's wishes to minimize the crisis.
In this case, the independent foreign media held the government accountable on behalf of the people when the local media were not allowed to do so.
3) Educating Citizens
When they are able to function freely, local newspapers and radio and television stations can be important building blocks of democracy. In addition to serving as a watchdog on local institutions and alerting the public to safety issues, they can help citizens understand and access their distant government.
The news is watched by the authorities as well as the citizens. When the government tried to shut down the station at one point in order to control its political influence, the public and sponsors protested, and the government had to let it reopen.
4) Connecting People
Access to the local news can even save lives. When Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on New Orleans, Louisiana ...
To be sure, the free press does not always perform professionally, and there can be unintended consequences to opening up the media. But the more the news media offer balanced news and community discussions, the more the public values them.
This civic information is the fuel of democracy. The people become better educated and take more responsibility for their own well being.
The media can act as a safety valve by offering a forum for diverse voices to be heard.
A second World Bank report, Consultations With the Poor, studied 20,000 poor people in 23 countries and found that what most "differentiates poor people from rich people is a lack of voice. The inability to be represented. The inability to convey to the people in authority what it is that they think. The inability to have a searchlight put on the conditions of inequality. These people interviewed do not have Ph.D.s but they have the knowledge of poverty, and the first thing they talked about is not money. It is lack of voice, it is lack of the ability to express themselves."
A vibrant media sector, with competing independent newspapers, radio, Internet Web sites, and television, allows those voices to be heard. These media can spotlight problems, encourage fellow citizens and government officials to address them, and empower even the destitute with real information. Everyone gains if the poor have a chance to improve their lot, taking part in the opportunities afforded by free speech, free press, and the right to assembly in democratic societies.
Ellen Hume, Director, Center on Media and Society, goes on to summarize the importance of the Free Press by equating Information with Power:
... it is impossible to maximize political stability, economic growth, and democracy without the free flow of information.
Information is power.
If a nation is to enjoy the political and economic advantages enabled by the rule of law, powerful institutions must be open to scrutiny by the people. If technology and science are to advance, ideas must be openly shared.
And if government is to be valued because it is accountable to the people, free and independent news media are essential to that process.
That is why Thomas Jefferson, the primary drafter of the American Declaration of Independence, insisted that the U.S. Constitution include the public's right to free speech, a free press, and public assembly.
"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter," he wrote in 1787.
Hosted by usinfo.state.gov
SO, how is the Media doing in meeting these 4 essential goals of a Free Press, in a Free Society? While there are no hard and fast rules for evaulating the MSM against this idealistic Scorecard, I will try to take some topical issues from current events, and see if the Media is dealing with these issues in responsible manner. In my opinion, Corporations, including Media Corporations NEED TO BE GOOD CITIZENS TOO! (At least until that future day when the Supreme Court, reverses the ruling that "Corporations are really persons" too)
1) Holding Government Accountable
... it was fitting that in covering the final chapter of the Libby saga, the press, as if on cue, badly bungled the commutation story last week by often downplaying its significance, reading off White House talking points, and leaving gaping holes of context for news consumers trying to make sense of Bush's audacious power grab.
Libby, Bush and the lapdog press
Jul 10, 2007
The double-standard Media loss no time, portraying Libby "as a Victim",
SO, NO the MSM FAILS TO HOLD GOVERNMENT LEADERS ACCOUNTABLE!
(This one was a no-brainer!)
2) Publicizing Issues
Somehow Michael Moore’s principal message with his latest film Sicko has been amazingly written off as, simply, another Michael Moore publicity stunt, when in fact, Sicko is Moore’s most fully realized message movie to date. This one really has a point.
In Sicko, Moore examines the by all accounts broken US health care system. He isn’t even looking at those millions who are uninsured (of which I am one, full disclosure), but instead focuses on those who have been thus far screwed over by their HMOs.
Rather, it is asking us to answer a fundamental question about why we live in a country where it is considered unpatriotic to take care of its people?
Santa Monica Mirror
At The Movies: America, Heal Thyself
July 19-25, 2007
The Media's response to Moore? I had to go to Austriala to find a "critical look" at the US Health Care System, SO, NO the MSM FAILS TO PUBLICIZE IMPORTANT ISSUES!
America spends more than any other nation on health care, twice as much per person as Australia. But despite the outlay the US continually ranks below other countries. In 2006 the estimated total tab spent on its health system was expected to hit $US2.2 trillion ...
US health under examination
July 21, 2007
3) Educating Citizens
President Bush has gotten into a bad habit of using his executive powers to distance himself from laws passed by Congress that contain provisions he doesn't like.
Rather than veto bills outright, he routinely signs statements taking exception to all or parts of the measures - in essence giving executive agencies permission to ignore the law.
Bush has said he doesn't need to execute laws he believes are unconstitutional. If that's the case, he has the power to veto entire bills, which is the presidential function that allows the executive branch to check the powers of the legislature.
He shouldn't use signing statements as a backdoor way of achieving the kind of line-item veto the Constitution doesn't give to American presidents.
Congress should examine Bush's signing statements
By The Denver Post Editorial Board
Does the average citizen realize the many dangerous implications of Presidential "Signing Statements" -- that they effectively put the Bush Administration "above the law"?
Or another example, does the average citizen know where the Candidates stand on the Issues? (Hardly, unless you consider haircuts, gender, ethnicity, fund-raising, and polls, to be "important Issues"; which seems be all the MSM cares to report about the Candidates.)
SO, NO the MSM FAILS TO EDUCATE CITIZENS TO BE INFORMED AND EFFECTIVE CITIZENS !
[ Here another Example, where Huffington Post, shows the correlation of number of News Articles on Global Warming and the public's awareness of this as an "important Issue". I would argue that the MSM was very late to the Global Warming Debate, and it was public outcry that led them to increase their News Coverage, and not the other way around.]
4) Connecting People
This one is bit of a mixed bag. To the extent MSM asks for Feedback, and allows people to Comment on Stories, they are "helping people to feel connected", to form alliances, to share their Ideas.
However, on the other hand, the overwhelming effect of the MSM is to indoctrinate the average citizen to feel helpless, and insignificant -- SO, NOT SURE ... BUT the MSM SEEM TO PERPETUATE THE CONCEPT THAT INDIVIDUAL OPINIONS DON'T REALLY MATTER IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS ???
According to Markus Prior of The Washington Post, the greater access to information that Americans currently enjoy has a detrimental effect on their political awareness.
Although 24/7 news fosters a more fervent "news junkie" culture, many Americans are apparently content to replace political coverage with more vapid, superficial, and immediately gratifying media.
Another effect of the current media environment is that more people are tuning out from the constant stream of information. Indeed, a recent Harvard University study found that most young Americans claim to be "consuming" the news, even if it is only playing in the background.
Prior worries that constant media exposure will also foster an environment in which Americans may only consume information from sources biased in the same direction drowning out alternative viewpoints. ...
The Editors Weblog - New Media
US: Over-mediated environment cultivates political apathy and obsession
July 17, 2007
Decades into the "information age," the public is as uninformed as before the rise of cable television and the Internet.
Greater access to media, ironically, has reduced the share of Americans who are politically informed.
Consider the broadcast networks' desperate struggle to hold on to an ever-shrinking news audience. The problem is not that shallow, loud or negative coverage of politics causes viewers to tune out in disgust.
A relatively small segment of the population -- my own research indicates it's less than a fifth -- specializes in news content.
The new fault line of civic involvement is between news junkies and entertainment fans. Entertainment fans are abandoning news and politics not because it has become harder to be involved but because they have decided to devote their time to content that promises greater immediate gratification.
As a result, they learn less about politics and are less likely to vote at a time when news junkies are becoming even more engaged.
Unlike most forms of inequality, this ... is a result of voluntary consumption decisions. Making sure everybody has access to media won't fix the problem -- it is exactly the cause.
The Washington Post
The Real Media Divide
By Markus Prior
July 16, 2007
Maybe when "Freedom of Choice" is combined with "Freedom of the Press", it's destined to result in a dumbed down, tuned out, apathetic electorate? Given SO many different Media choices, maybe it's like Bruce Springsteen says "There's 500 channels and nothin' on"? (Although, I doubt Thomas Jefferson would agree with this assessment, as he preferred Newspapers, over Government, given a choice!)
When will Reality (and all its weighty consequences) finally trump the Angst/Apathy of this Media-saturated generation? (I'm talking about Reality-in-the-World all around us, NOT Reality-TV, which is staged and edited entertainment.)
Perhaps if the MSM stepped up its efforts to publicize important issues again (like our "broken Health Care" system), and to educate citizens (like on "our system of checks and balances", and the threats it now faces), and perhaps if the MSM actually helped Congress, to hold Leaders Accountable -- instead of holding those same Leaders harmless -- well then just MAYBE ... that would WAKE UP the "tuned out" public from its yawning "Civic Apathy"?
Perhaps IF ONLY the Media would work for the "Public Good", for a change, instead of its all-consuming Corporate Profits, well MAYBE then "We The People" would finally start to "feel good" about our Country, and our Future again? Maybe the MSM could actually restore Hope again? ... Could be?
Until then it's up to Bloggers, like at the Daily KOS, to fulfil these all-important "Roles of a Free Press in a Free Society". It's up to us to be the 4th Estate, the Government Watchdogs, to act as the crier in the public square, as an important linchpin of our Constitutional form of Democracy; And it's up to us to value Fact-based Information above all else! Afterall that's where the Power is!
(If only the MSM valued Facts and Issues again, like they once did! ... like back in the day when they actually put their own "Civic Duty" over and above their "Corporate Profits" ... Hmmm... Maybe Jefferson was on to something, by placing such a high priority on a FREE Press in the Constitution, afterall? ... Could be? ... "Corporate-Persons", I think, just don't get it -- how could they? ... just look at what motivates them. )
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