The Unprofessionalism of Professional Journalists
May 16, 2006
In the past, the major media were the gatekeepers of public information. They wielded the power of veto over anyone who aspired to reach large numbers of the public.
With the advent of the Internet however, their defacto monopoly over the public forum has evaporated into thin air.
They know it, and they don't like it one bit. That's why "professional journalists" such as Ted Koppel have been so resentful of "amateurs with PCs."
Here's what Koppel said in 1997:
Reporting is not really about, 'Let's see who can get the first information to the public as quickly as possible. It's about: 'Let's see who can get the information to the public - as soon as we have had a chance to make sure the information is accurate, to weigh it against what we know, to put it in some sort of context.' Only when you're satisfied as a professional journalist that you've got the story and the facts have been verified, only then can you go with it. If we are moving into an era in which reporters are pressured to get it online before we have a chance to check and edit the material - if speed is the main criteria of putting something online - then I think that's dangerous. Ultimately, a journalist has a responsibility to separate truth from rumor. There's always going to be room for the outlet that says, `We're not worried about geting it first, we're about getting it right.'
What Koppel said was right in principle. What Koppel said was right in the abstract.
The problem is that Koppel isn't addressing the real issue. The problem isn't that "professional journalists" don't get it first. The problem is that "professional journalists" don't get it right, even when they get it last. The problem is that Koppel's "professional journalists" get it wrong, first, last, and always.
For the past decade, for example, Koppel's so-called "professional journalists" have been getting the Taiwan independence issue dead wrong.
The Taiwan independence movement is not an idealistic and progressive political movement, but a bigoted and reactionary political movement. Only recently has this ugly truth become too obvious for the major media to hide. Only recently, therefore, have Koppel's "professional journalists" been getting the Taiwan independence issue right.
Meanwhile, someone such as myself, who was not a "professional journalist," was getting the Taiwan independence issue right, for over a decade.
Anyone who doubts this claim need only read my online articles going back to the mid 90s. I hate to say "I told you so," but the fact is I did.
How did I do it? Was it some special genius on my part?
Hardly. All I did was look at the facts and listen to my conscience.
Why didn't Koppel's "professional journalists" get the Taiwan independence issue right?
They didn't get the Taiwan independence issue right because they turned a blind eye to the facts and a deaf ear to their consciences.
As political scientist Michael Parenti notes:
The U.S. major media and much of the minor media are not free and independent, as they claim. They are not the watchdog of democracy but the lapdog of the national security state. They help reverse the roles of victims and victimizers, warmongers and peacekeepers, reactionaries and reformers. The first atrocity, the first war crime committed in any war of aggression by the aggressors is against the truth.
Today, a decade later, the true face of the Taiwan independence movement has been exposed, not due to the major media, but in spite of the major media.
As I see it, here is where honest amateurs have an indispensable role to play. Honest amateurs can expose the "professional journalists" for what they are, purveyors of the Big Lie. Koppel's talk about "professional journalists" who conscientiously engage in "fact-checking" is self-serving eyewash.