June Girard: Whatever happened to the free and unbiased press?

Published: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 10:51 p.m.

Remember when the news was the news and reporting it was a public service?

Back then no individual corporation could monopolize the country's airwaves because the number of stations a national network was allowed to own was six. Now it is over 35.

Currently, giant conglomerates own major news stations. GE owns NBC, MSNBC and CNBC. Disney owns ABC, ESPN. VIACOM owns CBS and CNN. Rupert Murdock News owns ALL the FOX television and cable channels. These four conglomerates control almost 80 percent of the national distribution of news.

David Carr, in The New York Times, wrote, “it has become clear that many journalists covering politics and government agree to quotation approval as a condition of access. It used to be that American businesses either told reporters to go away or told them what they wanted to know.”

Now, reporters are told quotations must be approved.

Carr contacted many business reporters for verification, but in most cases their employers — the news outlets — don't allow them to speak on the record.

The White House needs the media to announce its successes and explain away its failures. Government can wield enormous power when attempting to manipulate the press. Conglomerates always need something from government, and that relationship opens the door to coercion or soft pedaling of the truth — censorship.

Another form of censorship is when the government so broadly defines national security that it could encompass anything from terrorism to the White House laundry list.

Now it is WikiLeaks that publishes leaked documents revealing government and corporate misconduct. Blogs, Facebook and tweets generally report opinions.

Reporting the truth, supported by verified information, no matter the consequences, is actually the job of a free press.

It is no wonder that Americans have turned to independent news sources for what they hope is the unvarnished truth. Corporate and governmental intimidation of journalists and newsrooms across the country is a serious threat to our democracy.

The ascent of large multinational corporations has affected every aspect of American life by inhibiting the ability of the news to function as part of our system of checks and balances.

Too often the top priority for large media companies is not the truth, but the desire to protect their parent conglomerates (that own much more than their media company) and they depend on a relationship with the government.

A democracy survives when its citizens have access to verifiable fact. We have given up the right to be told verbatim a simple question asked and a simple answer given.

The people's right to know and the journalist's right to publish what they find out, that is what is meant by “free press.”

Thomas Jefferson said, “The only security of all, is in a free press”

June Girard lives in Gainesville.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top