- ATHENS, Greece -- It was
one of those sad "coincidences" that speak volumes about the
tragic state of American journalism.
- On the same day that The New York Times acknowledged
its analysis of claims by the Bush administration and Iraqi National Congress
leader Ahmad Chalabi that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction
"was not as rigorous as it should have been," I was in Greece
to deliver a keynote address to the congress of the International Federation
- The theme of my address was warning other countries that
they must avoid the sort of consolidation of media ownership that has led
to a collapse of serious journalism in the United States. I used as an
example the failure of major media in the United States to challenge the
absurd claims of the Bush administration regarding Iraq.
- Long before The New York Times chose to admit that its
own editors should have displayed "more skepticism" before the
war began, serious journalists in the United States and abroad recognized
that most of America's major media had failed to provide the American people
with an honest, let alone minimally useful, assessment of Bush administration
claims regarding the supposed threat posed by Iraq.
- It is important to remember that, at the same time The
New York Times, The Washington Post and television network news programs
were cheerleading the country toward war, European print and broadcast
outlets were questioning President Bush's outrageous exaggerations and
- In the United States, magazines such as The Nation, The
Progressive and In These Times; national radio programs such as Amy Goodman's
"Democracy Now"; and newspapers such as The Village Voice in
New York and The Capital Times - perhaps the last skeptical daily newspaper
in America - refused to accept administration claims at face value.
- But most U.S. media were atrociously irresponsible when
it came to covering not just the rush to war with Iraq but the misguided
and exceptionally dangerous approach of the current administration to the
world in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
- Let's be clear: Major media in the United States have
never been perfect. But as media ownership has become increasingly consolidated
and profit-driven, it has lost touch with basic journalistic principles.
Commercial and entertainment values have increasingly come to supersede
the democratic and civic values that should guide decisions about how to
cover the major events of the day.
- This has been most evident in the period since 9/11.
- Years of ever-diminishing foreign coverage had left Americans
ill-prepared for the events of that day and their aftermath. People did
not know the basics about countries that the United States was suddenly
preparing to invade.
- Instead of filling the void with serious, skeptical journalism,
most newspapers and television news programs provided jingoistic and nationalistic
coverage in the aftermath of the attacks. They echoed the administration's
simplistic "good versus evil" calculations, which served the
interests of the neoconservatives in the White House who wanted to wage
- Too many journalists, under pressure to appear "patriotic,"
practiced stenography to power - repeating administration pronouncements
without serious questioning or analysis.
- This collapse of journalistic standards undermined needed
debate in the United States, allowing the administration to "sell"
a war plan that Americans are now coming to understand was based on fantasy
and whim rather than facts and necessity.
- Copyright 2003 The Capital Times http://www.madison.com/captimes/opinion/column/nichols/75437.php