May 8, 2007

Documenting the Failures of the Fourth Estate

On April 25th, renowned journalist Bill Moyers returned to the airwaves on PBS, premiering his new show, Bill Moyers' Journal, with a report entitled "Buying the War: How Did the Mainstream Press Get It So Wrong?" This 90-minute documentary focuses on the reputable news organizations who helped the Bush Administration sell its case for invading Iraq in 2003 by credulously parroting White House talking points. It features interviews with Bob Simon of and Dan Rather of CBS, and Tim Russert of NBC, as well as two Knight-Ridder reporters who saw that the emperor had no clothes, but who were largely ignored.

As Thomas Jefferson (may have) so skillfully observed, "An informed citizenry is the bulwark of a democracy," and at no time has that been more faithfully proven than in the run-up to the Iraq War. Yet even as the public has come to more fully realize this fact, efforts by those who backed the war - and continue to do so - to consolidate their hold on public information have continued, as we were reminded last week when Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation - parent company to Fox News - made an unsuccessful bid for the Wall Street Journal. Clearly, an understanding of the way that news is disseminated, as well as the increasingly too-close relationship between reporters for major news organizations and the politicians they are tasked with monitoring, is becoming crucial to fully understanding the world today.

With that in mind, I urge you to visit Bill Moyers' site and watch Buying the War. The entire program is archived and divided into chapters for easier viewing, and it's an eye-opener for anyone who has been laboring under the mistaken belief - like self-important and self-deluding Newsweek Senior White House Correspondent, Robert Wolfe - that the Fourth Estate has been doing a "fantastic job."

Sure, 90 minutes might seem like a long time to stare at your computer, but you can always do what I did - watch a chapter at a time at lunch! Check it out: Buying the War: How Did the Mainstream Press Get It So Wrong?

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