Real Journalism Versus “Professional Journalism”

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George Washington’s Blog
Monday, March 30, 20099

If Jon Stewart walked out of his studio with his camera crew, went to where establishment figures were speaking, and threw tough questions at them, you’d get something like We Are Change.

Geithner
Luke Rudkowski is arrested, handcuffed, and led away by New York’s finest.

The We Are Change reporters have asked the tough questions – a la Stewart (well, minus the comedy) – to former presidents, secretaries of defense, leading Neocons and Iraq war architects, and many other establishment figures.

So their interviews are syndicated nationally and they’ve all received Pulitzer prizes, right?

Not exactly . . .

We Are Change founder Luke Rudkowski was arrested for trying to ask New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg about his refusal to pay for the health care of 9/11 first responders.

The charges? “Impersonating a member of the press” and trespassing.

Professional Journalism

Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, created the concept of “professional journalism”. What is professional journalism, you may ask?

Renowned veteran journalist John Pilger summarizes it as follows:

Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations, wrote about an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. He was referring to journalism, the media. That was almost 80 years ago, not long after corporate journalism was invented. It is a history few journalist talk about or know about, and it began with the arrival of corporate advertising. As the new corporations began taking over the press, something called “professional journalism” was invented. To attract big advertisers, the new corporate press had to appear respectable, pillars of the establishment-objective, impartial, balanced. The first schools of journalism were set up, and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around the professional journalist. The right to freedom of expression was associated with the new media and with the great corporations, and the whole thing was, as Robert McChesney put it so well, “entirely bogus”.For what the public did not know was that in order to be professional, journalists had to ensure that news and opinion were dominated by official sources, and that has not changed. Go through the New York Times on any day, and check the sources of the main political stories-domestic and foreign-you’ll find they’re dominated by government and other established interests. That is the essence of professional journalism. I am not suggesting that independent journalism was or is excluded, but it is more likely to be an honorable exception. Think of the role Judith Miller played in the New York Times in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Yes, her work became a scandal, but only after it played a powerful role in promoting an invasion based on lies. Yet, Miller’s parroting of official sources and vested interests was not all that different from the work of many famous Times reporters, such as the celebrated W.H. Lawrence, who helped cover up the true effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August, 1945. “No Radioactivity in Hiroshima Ruin,” was the headline on his report, and it was false.

[efoods]Consider how the power of this invisible government has grown. In 1983 the principle global media was owned by 50 corporations, most of them American. In 2002 this had fallen to just 9 corporations. Today it is probably about 5. Rupert Murdoch has predicted that there will be just three global media giants, and his company will be one of them. This concentration of power is not exclusive of course to the United States. The BBC has announced it is expanding its broadcasts to the United States, because it believes Americans want principled, objective, neutral journalism for which the BBC is famous. They have launched BBC America. You may have seen the advertising.

The BBC began in 1922, just before the corporate press began in America. Its founder was Lord John Reith, who believed that impartiality and objectivity were the essence of professionalism. In the same year the British establishment was under siege. The unions had called a general strike and the Tories were terrified that a revolution was on the way. The new BBC came to their rescue. In high secrecy, Lord Reith wrote anti-union speeches for the Tory Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and broadcast them to the nation, while refusing to allow the labor leaders to put their side until the strike was over.

So, a pattern was set. Impartiality was a principle certainly: a principle to be suspended whenever the establishment was under threat. And that principle has been upheld ever since.

And as Newseek’s Evan Thomas admits in a new article:

By definition, establishments believe in propping up the existing order. Members of the ruling class have a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are. Safeguarding the status quo, protecting traditional institutions, can be healthy and useful, stabilizing and reassuring….

“If you are of the establishment persuasion (and I am). . . .”

Virtually all mainstream reporters are “establishment” journalists like Thomas. This is just another way of saying “professional” journalists in the sense Bernays used that term.

(This does not mean that everyone who makes their living through journalism is a sell-out. Some people do make some or all of their income as journalists and alternative news site operators, but aren’t afraid to question those in power.)

The Significance of Rudkowski’s Arrest

The media organization which sponsors Rudkowski is Infowars.com, a website which has many times the readership of small town “establishment” or “professional” newspapers. Indeed, given the popularity of Infowars and its sister sites, Prisonplanet.com and Jonesreport.com, the Infowars news network probably has more readers than all but the largest traditional newspapers.

So the issue cannot be one of size or audience.

The real question is whether real journalists will have access to those in power, and so be able to exercise the stereotypical role of the “Fourth Estate” in asking hard-hitting questions to our leaders in government.

Rudkowski’s arrest – like Amy Goodman’s arrest at the RNC convention for documenting violence against protestors – is an attempt to crack down on real attempts to question the powers-that-be and to document their actions.

If “professional” journalists with a “vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are” are the only ones allowed to speak with those holding the reigns of governmental power, then freedom of the press is dead in America. And if freedom of the press is dead, so is democracy.

This article was posted: Monday, March 30, 2009 at 6:08 am







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