news you never knew you needed to know
American news media, like good constitutionally protected watchdogs,
have always acted in packs.
That's not quite the
right word. I prefer flocks.
For all the potshots
fired at the national press in the Age of Monica the Tattooed Lady,
local media are, if anything, worse. What would be your reaction if
you thought your news was censored by car dealers?
It is, every day. Auto
dealers are the biggest advertisers in any market. Not even public broadcasting
is immune from their wrath, which usually involves a threat to cut off
Reno television stations
years ago discontinued meaningful consumer investigative reporting.
They found that more than 90 percent of complaints were about new car
dealers. Rather than irritate major advertisers, they killed the features.
Local consumer reportage
in most markets today remains limited to an occasional warning about
telephone boiler rooms usually operating from Florida - guys who never
advertise on local TV.
Friday night, Feb. 27,
northern Nevada's KNPB TV-5 offers you a rare glimpse at the darkside
of skewed news. At 9:30 p.m., (I got the time wrong last
week), the Reno PBS affiliate becomes one of the few in the nation
with the guts to air "Fear and Favor in the Newsroom." It will be followed
at 10:30 by a half-hour on local censorship. KNPB's Rosemary McCarthy
will lead a discussion between three local media luminaries and an obscure
columnist from a Sparks newspaper whose laborite readers pushed the
station to air the beleaguered documentary.
The panelists will include
Ward Bushee, editor of the Gannett-owned Reno Gazette-Journal; Nancy
Cope, news director of CBS affiliate KTVN TV-2; and Bourne Morris, University
of Nevada-Reno journalism professor and former west coast head of the
legendary Ogilvy-Mather international advertising agency.
"Fear and Favor" has
cleared only about 14 markets thus far. They range from small (Redding,
Calif.), to medium (Hawaii, Maine), to large (San Francisco, San Jose,
St. Louis, the Twin Cities, Chicago, Long Island, NY). That's pretty
pitiful performance. It's also understandable.
"The major news outlets
employ a double standard, one for stories that could offend the powers
that be, and one for all other news," Fear & Favor producers Beth
Sanders and Randy Baker write in an upcoming article entitled "Corporate
Control of a Free Press."
"It is this double standard
which gives the news its Fortune 500 spin," they add.
DO YOU KNOW THE WAY
TO SAN JOSE? "The most unfavorable review we have encountered appeared
in the San Jose Mercury News (a paper whose dirty laundry does make
an appearance in the film). Even that reviewer said that the program
merited a broadcast on public television," write Baker and Sanders.
The San Jose story involves
car dealers influencing the news. Ironically, it was the San Jose PBS
affiliate, KTEH, which provided critical support allowing Baker and
Sanders to complete their seven-year film project.
Over the past five months,
I have summarized many of the program's segments. Two hold special import
for Nevada. One shows how PBS News Hour editing reversed the meaning
of a story on low level nuclear waste dumping. Another shows how then-NBC
News President Michael Gartner censored bloody footage of the 1991 Gulf
The news media were totally
schmoozed into compliance by Pres. Bush's jingoistic rabble rousing.
Turned out he told more lies than Walter Cronkite reporting Gen. William
Westmoreland's daily body counts during Vietnam. Only blood and guts
might have brought vital inquiry to the Oil War, but we never saw them.
JUMPING JACK FLASH:
We were never told how our smart bombs missed more than 90 percent of
the time - or how many civilians were killed by that high-tech dumbness.
Just last week, CNN aired a military puff piece on the new accuracy
of the discredited Raytheon Patriot Missile system.
IT'S A GAS, GAS, GAS:
How many times have you heard that Saddam gassed his own people? Well,
something or someone certainly killed large numbers of the disfavored
northern Kurds, but gas didn't do it. Only the San Francisco Chronicle
reported the truth during the Gulf War, but the mythology persists as
a convenient tool to fan the flames to this very day.
This column exclusively broke the news during the Gulf War that Saddam
Hussein had unfettered access to our Global Positioning Satellite System.
It was apparently left
unscrambled because our military geniuses didn't order enough descramblers.
As a result, according to nationally syndicated columnist Jack Anderson,
field commanders were writing mom to send them GPS receivers from Radio
Shack so they could find out where they were on the trackless desert.
I further exclusively
reported in 1991 that Saddam could have easily used our satellites
to aim his missiles and direct his troops. That revelation was re-confirmed
in a Pentagon post-war analysis of U.S. military shortcomings. A summary
was published in the Washington Post in July of 1991.
MEDIUM COOL: Try
as I might, I couldn't convince any major news medium to pick up the
story of the major satellite failure of what came to be known as the
Satellite War. I guess media managers reflected the fantasy their consumers
wanted to buy, that we could run a basically moral war in which only
bad guys were killed. I was selling to the seduced, their minds downloaded
into a bloodless cartoon, playing a marketing-driven electronic game.
The truth never had a
PREDICTING NEW OOZE
FROM OLD WOUNDS: At the first opportunity, you can count on my old
friends in BigOil to jack up declining U.S. retail gasoline prices and
blame Saddam. This column stood among only three small papers in the
country which reported the facts
behind gasoline price fixing by the major oil companies in 1996.
Not even the vaunted Project Censored at Sonoma State was interested
in reporting a scam costing consumers billions to this very day. Prepare
for instant replay.
If you're interested
in an entertaining evening which will validate all your worst fears
and prejudices, do a little fear and loathing in the newsroom with Studs
Terkel, local heavyweights and me this Friday evening beginning at 9:30.
KNPB TV-5 can be received
from Lake Tahoe and northeastern California, down into central Nevada
and up into Elko County approaching the Utah border. Check your local
cable system or over-the air translator for the proper dial position.
You may also contact KNPB
TV-5 in Reno at (702) 784-4555 to find the station's dial position
Tune in, turn on and
tell a friend.
Start calling and mailing
the PBS affiliate in your town to follow Reno's lead. It's important.
Desert Smurf II seems just around the corner.
Be well. Raise hell.
AND FAVOR REDUX: Barbwire
by Barbano / Expanded from the 1-6-2015 Sparks Tribune