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Should Journalists be Certified?

by King James II Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007 at 2:29 PM

Reasonable people here in the U.S. appreciate, and also assume, that our culture’s news industry of executives, editors and journalists be held to high standards of professional conduct. A democratic republic needs, as well as expects, truth in reporting, and adequate, if not comprehensive, coverage on “all” important issues. To refocus the question of media fraud to one of whether journalists ought to be certified, or accredited by some kind of professional board, in order to be recognized as “professional” journalists, is, to say the least, shortsighted.

Should Journalists be Certified?

By King James’ Majestic Ghost

Or, should journalists, who claim to work in such capacity, be intrinsically driven, as well as extrinsically reinforced, to perform as professionals are expected—that is to report to society on issues of import and to do so honestly?

Reasonable people here in the U.S. appreciate, and also assume, that our culture’s news industry of executives, editors and journalists be held to high standards of professional conduct. A democratic republic needs, as well as expects, truth in reporting, and adequate, if not comprehensive, coverage on “all” important issues. Such expectations are truer today, given this industry’s deviance of censoring several highly important stories and scandals as ignored or downplayed, so as to keep the voting public un-informed or misinformed. Nevertheless democracies expect that people who call themselves news professionals act professionally—meaning they work within a code of ethics and do so honorably.

Randi Rhodes, AirAmerica radio talk host of relevance (the exception to the rule), while recently discussing Fox News media corruption, in her commentary on the question of whether there should be legal standards and accountability in respect to media fraud, also posed related questions like, “Who should be considered a journalist?” and “Should journalist be certified?”

Her show focused on one of Rupert Murdock’s TV stations in Florida, which in 1998, at the urging of Monsanto, first tried to suppress and eventually fired two Fox TV journalists for refusing to significantly whitewash their report that was to expose dire realities of Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone for milking cattle. After being fired these journalists went to court and won an award against Fox News; but on appeal the decision was reversed on the grounds that FCC standards were not legal absolutes but merely “suggested” ethics. This controversial ruling clearly implied, as generalization, according to this judge, a news organization could literally get away with deliberate information fraud and firing employees who refuse to participate in media deception.

Therefore Randy Rhodes’ rehashing of this dated but highly critical story is one of many examples of corporate media caving into powerful interest groups. And the discussion was even more important given the fact of Murdock’s greedy grab of the Wall Street Journal.

There is little doubt that many people want to see reform in the news media business. There are serious alarm bells going off especially in these times in which the MSM (mainstream media) has morphed into George Orwellian’s Ministry of Truth run by the likes of Karl Rove.

However



Ponder first off that a majority of journalists and editors who work for corporate media have already graduated from collegiate schools of journalism, meaning they have been “orientated” to practices of the trade. Still the MSM as corporate structure and special interest enclave reached an even lower nadir of intellectual and moral corruption. So what positive difference would it make for requiring some kind of accreditation or certification process—especially since there is a propaganda war going on by MSM against alternative media on the Internet and smaller print publications?

Mainstream has said much to discredit alternative media and world of blogging that it does not agree. In fact mainstream media has already presumed to think themselves our society’s spokespersons.

Further it should be noted that this same news industry already has a code of ethics to hide behind. The problem is it serves mostly as window dressing. Their code may have been created with good intentions by some high-minded individuals within; but, in reality, it merely gives more tinsel to any pretense of morality and virtue, as too many conceited hacks merely role play honest watchdogs. If wolves ever did hide behind sheeps’ skins—this seemingly smug business enterprise is exemplary of such machinations.

Nevertheless it is more than ironic that these same propaganda establishments continue to presumed the right to report subjectively, if not in deliberate deceit (or reprinted as such by syndicated wires), on any and all subjects, while acting as judge, jury and prosecutor. One can’t but get the impression that local editorials are ever-ready to lambaste any news of origin as thee hyperbolic critics of the entire world (id. est., omniscient and omnipresent), while too often sitting fat and parochially stupid in their back seated armchairs. Hardly are they then hampered by any elaboration of comprehensive standards of fair play, or essential values as justice, that a functioning society requires. Thus they too have made war against the American mind—save the rich and influential.

Nevertheless their “one” page afterthought of simplistic generalizations about ethics serves more as a wish list—like the FCC pronouncement, and provides cover for pretense of “acting” like they are conscientious professionals.

But in truth big media’s wish list of reminders is nothing compared to the elaborate standards required of professional trial judges—who specialize in various sub-categories of expertise—unlike editorial boards that seem to think they are all-knowing Gods who find little compunction opining on any subject. And still even judges, who are in the business of thinking critically against case and legislation, too have been found to be at times incompetent, politically deluded, corrupt, or biased.

Most professions with association representation require standards to adhere to be considered professional, such as a code of ethics. The ritual of printing up a code helps professionalize an industry’s authority. However, in the case of the MSM, it merely reinforces their well-worn myth that they are working on behalf of the masses of voters by acting as the “last” bastion of watchdogs against the powerful—yet some sacred cows are never scrutinized.

Naturally, those corporations who buy their ink by the barrel would love to restrict their practice by exerting more influence as to who may enter their jealous trade and estate. And what better way to accomplish this than to establish professional standards of certification. One then merely comes to influence those who are selected to judge others on whether they are to be considered good enough to abide standards of competence (read “pretense” competence like the 9-11 Commission’s cover-up).

If all kinds of systems of government are potentially corruptible, so too are all hierarchies and institutions of journalistic enterprise potentially corruptible—whether standards are established or not—or whether such standards are held to be legally accountable. Thus to make this verbal craft more bureaucratic or centralized is simply to increase its opportunity to deny dissident voices significant input—which is already done to a considerable degree.

Besides, if a significant chunk of a government itself is corrupt, or incompetent, including its judiciary, who is going to enforce a code of ethics or standards on corporations’ journalists anyway? Has not FCC been politicized?

Corporations have one main value—profit. How could they be immune from slant? And when news businesses are owned by holding companies that are not concerned about the news industry acting fairly in particular what is to stop the suppression of real news in favor of political bias? And if this same industry is concentrated in the hands of a few monopolistic boards of directors what is to stop an inclination of fraud or politics run amuck? Of course there should be legal accountability in respect to fraud.

But journalism and opinion is by nature is political. And what other profession of any clout is going to keep these self-appointed watchdogs honest?

Nevertheless the endeavor to report pertinent facts, and persuasive arguments, to reading public within a corrupt republic needs “outsiders” that are not as subject to special interest pressures of big money, big business, economic bias, religious delusions framed as normal, or criminal intention, etc.

Outsiders are even more needed now as society slides further toward fascism. Does it not seem that extensive “intelligence” operations within and without the media industry “purvey” for the Ministry of Truth so as to deliberately distort truth. (Was “Operation Mockingbird” mere conspiracy theory? And how extensively has it evolved to this day?)

We the people should ask questions like, “Who is it that typically goes into corporate journalism in the first place?” “What kinds of people, and what various motivations, make up their group profile?”

Are they not often enough elitists or fanatics who somehow grow up thinking they are somehow better and smarter than the rest of society, and hence think they should push their mindsets, values, politics and philosophies (as often as not as unquestioned dogma) onto other people?

Do media persons not aspire to schmooze the rich, famous, and influential rather than doing more normal kinds of jobs that evidence constructive result? Why then should we be led to think that just because some lackeys have been hired by corporations for this important social function, and paid to produce for mass consumption, that these people are more professional or more ethical? And yet are not these the very people who, by default, act and operate as if they are certified for this society’s news profession?

But would “independent” professionals so easily get invited to beats like the White House’s press secretary briefing these days, or events like Washington DC’s Grid Iron dinner of good times schmoozing and humor with the heavy weights of news story making? One wonders?

Do “real” journalists get hired, or long remain, employed by the dominating presses when these businesses are run by personalities who are more sensitive to special political or financial interests? Are company employees not cowed by insider politics and corporate lack of concern about ethics?

Do real journalists compromise their industry integrity by being “allowed” to be embedded in military operations so as to be spoon-fed sound bites that are fabricated by propaganda specialists, while also implicitly agreeing to not search too diligently into darker niches of truth? Has war journalism been reduced to mere mercenary stenographers for contractors?

Or do “real” journalists, at least in tendency or ideal, operate as renegades answerable to their own sense of conscience and morality? If so how could so-called professionals be so willingly sell their soul to the state, or the company, or some delusional religious enterprise, or other ethnocentric nationalism, or other half-baked ideologies, or an illusion of fame?

How could “real” journalists, by nature, not be outsiders—especially in a world in which political and socio-economic factions naturally disagree and hold contempt for others, whereas de facto insiders seem as prostitutes?

Would not a “certification” hierarchy and process, imposed on a so-called “profession” of journalists, not add another layer of censorship for the Power-That-Be to manufacture even more consent?

Our culture’s problem lies in the fact that the American citizenry is, on average, docile, naive, ignorant and gullible. And furthermore some within the power structures prefer it this way. They are happy with material consumerism and brainwashed individuals.

As a culture we need a greater mass of critical readers and thinkers who are reading around from a multitude of diverse sources—rather than simply relying on what is presumed to be legitimate reporting from the establishment—simply because their never ending drone drowns our culture with its availability.

So while we can agree that it is important to hold media accountable for information fraud, even if it seems common and passé, we should also agree that the “individual,” as information consumer, needs to decide for the self, as to who or what is a “credible” source of information and argument—just like the individual decides for whom to vote.

Our society does not need some patronizing board of directors, like the FCC, or corporate schmucks telling us who we can read or listen and who we can not by creating an accreditation process to lower this important field of public awareness.

Any rationale reader can learn the ins and outs of journalism—that is anyone capable of reading books from a library or book store or website on such practice. Sure schools of journalism want their students to enroll but they can not produce continue to produce a product that is susceptible to corporate or special interest corruption and expect to run the show.

Besides journalism is not about mastering thousands of pages of technical concepts like medical doctors are expected. Nor is it a need to know library loads of laws and court procedures as lawyers are expected.

If journalists were to be tested what facts would they be expected to memorize—especially when ideas about history are often distorted? Since when has the history of American journalism made much of dent in how this industry operates?

Note too that one does “not” need a diploma or certification to start a business in this country. Anyone can start a business—even a news business. In fact any questionable character, or intelligence front, can start a news operation. Why then should one be required to have a degree or be certified to be thought a worthy journalist?

Further we can note that preachers of various faiths and denominations are not required to get a certification by some govermental decree. People go into the ministry because of a calling they feel they have. They preach or lecture according to their conscious—that too relates to social and moral issues. Are we to also to imply that all religious preachers should be certified? How far different would such a proposal be from Iran’s late Khomeini’s cultural repression? How would this differ from England’s Catholic Church once saying that preachers needed to be ordained while Protestants said it was a direct calling from God?

Note equally that that you do you need a college degree in public administration to run for Congress or to become the President. So why should one be required to get “ordained” with a specific degree from an accredited journalism program, subject to various whims or biases, that almost sounds Communist?

Certainly people should remain wary regarding what one reads or hears on the Internet since anyone can say anything with little oversight (kind of like politicians). Therefore the Internet does create a certain amount of informational chaos but this chaos also allows truth tellers (and those that feel they are deliberately making a valid point of view) a voice as well.

What we Americans need to realize is that there is more deliberate deceit in the MSM than what many people suspect—both in the reporting of factual news as well as in editorials and opinion pages. We must never underestimate the ways and means of deception in this country that has usurped democratic practice in so many other countries.

And it should be especially noted that opinion pieces and radio talk show hosts can have even more influence on the public than which selected stories are covered or suppressed—or whether facts are being misrepresented. Opinion making is much in the commentary regarding the news—and these subjective editorialists who opine are equally capable of distortion and deception compounding the effects of factual reporting.

Nevertheless there is a substantial difference when employees receive a corporate paycheck to “deliberately” mislead or slant the news as well as opinion for public consumption than some bloggers or commentators who merely report misunderstandings or who opine junk opinion with their distortive mindsets. There is a definite capacity for intentional fraud both in the reporting of fact, the suppression of important stories, and in the commentary surrounding issues.

And we should also note that any person, with any motive, or any intelligence front or cabal (or idiot or fanatic cabal) can be employed, such as by privatized contracted companies, to pretend to operate as legitimate information purveyors, when in fact they act with the sole mission to mis-inform or dis-inform (not unlike some who work the mainstream media).

For example, how do we know that so-called terrorist websites, as reported by MSM, that are reported to have made threats from Al Qaeda, or Bin Laden, or extremist Muslims are not faked? Certainly the technology exists to fake news. How do we know if some of the videos claimed to have been by terrorist organizations were not fabricated ploys to mislead our people—so as to continue to argue for more costly war and to usurp more civil liberties to a continuously evolving police state apparat?

How do we know if some of the MSM reported terrorist kidnappings, and bombings, and beheadings, etc., were not done by contracted groups to deceive the public into a protracted war of Christian nations against Muslim nations in a multi-generational conflict culminated by the exceedingly suspicions happenings of 9-11? Any Special Forces group can detonate a car bomb by remote control.

Why should we trust the special interest classes, and investors in the military industrial complex, who “create” and “censor” the news?

Therefore responsibility for “who” and “what” is considered newsworthy is to the consumer. It is he or she that selects and digests information and opinion and then eventually decides who and what to believe. Would laissez faire capitalists, as naive or smug as some seem, buy the argument that all business people should be certified? Not likely.

But let’s not be naive. Self-determination to choose (given one has “real” choice with truth such as alternative media) is a cynical reality within an information world dominated by right-wing pundits and yellow stooges that find it relatively easy to manipulate a naive public’s prejudices.

Self determination is also a cynical reality when whiners like Limbaugh and O’Riley cry their false wolf cry about liberals demanding the fairness doctrine be re-established—when liberals simply want more air time in a country that has been misled by a corrupt and fascist right.

But let us also recognize that the left also has its whiners, haughtily righteous, and blind followers willing to follow the piped piper over the cliff of delusion as well as engage self-deception, or over look facts and mislead.

Still rebels by nature follow their conscience, and this country was founded on rebellion. In fact our founders used, at times, pseudonyms when they wrote opinion pieces and journalist controversy around the time of the founding of this nation.

Writers who speak truth to power (especially corrupt power) often need cover from the machinations of the evolving police state in cahoots with powerful special interests.

And what industry wields more power, and is equally subject to more outside pressures, than the news industry that reports news on both political and economic events?

Therefore “if” there is any reform to be made in the news industry it should be of those executives, investors, editors, and journalists who specifically work for, or are owned by, “corporate” media (not the small time alternative people in it for the passion of truth and justice).

For example, perhaps society should require “corporatists” media employees and their equity owners, to register on a public database disclosures as to their yearly income, net worth, investments, work resumes, portraits, place of birth, nationality, affiliations including religious, etc. It seems that people who work big media, as de facto certified professionals, within profit centers ought be the ones “suspect” of double-dealing.

Should it be the publics right to know not only what Rupert Murdock is worth but of what constitutes his investment portfolio? After all he provides a “public” service that has enormous influence and consequence in this society. Why should he be immune from public disclosure when corporations are by nature capable of psychopathy?

How do we know or not if editors, owners, or employees of corporate news are not financially invested in stocks related to say the military industrial complex, or the evolving surveillance complex, or businesses in Israel, etc.? Why should we automatically trust their point of view—simply because they work for a big news operation?

Should we not have a right to know if reporters, etc., of the New York Times and Washington Post have a history of working the revolving doors to and fro government, lobby organizations, or public relations firms like Neocon artists? Perhaps it should be disclosed if some of these propaganda manipulators are getting secondary paychecks from political action groups or covert schemes that if the public knew would be viewed as scandal?

Therefore, while it is a very important to be concerned about the “credibility” of information from wherever it comes, it is not in society’s best interest to regulate who can be considered a journalist. Nor is it wise to assume that so-called amateurs on the Internet are the ones who need regulating—as many in the MSM more or less imply. At least the amateurs do it without an expectation of wealth or a greed for power.

But the bottom line is that open communication and the right to association is essential in a democratically elected republic that is not thoroughly corrupt and does not report enough on stolen elections.



By King James of Scotland, Indy Media alternative writer with zero financial compensation—making him “real” suspicious huh?



A case study: Reporting on Freedom of Speech and Inquiry in Educational Systems Regarding the Middle East:

To put this line of reasoning in context, we consider that lately there has been serious tampering with intellectual freedom at schools and libraries. It is in this “light” that we need to ask ourselves how well mainstream media has addressed censorship subjects as relevant issue? How well has media dealt head on with the intellectual censorship on campuses?

Or how much has MSM delved into the “chill” of having one’s library records reviewed by secret surveillance—thus having library patrons cope with the terror of having one’s intellectual privacy tampered and invaded?

How much real discussion have we had on this topic?

Or equally the chill as to what Internet sites, or which subjects one searches, or subscribes, that might well be recorded and potentially watched? How much self-censorship has been inspired for fear of being watched by Big and Little Brother so as to stay within the narrowing bounds of political correctness?

Or consider for example, that Juan Cole was recently denied an appointment to teach about the Middle East at Yale despite his outstanding abilities and knowledge, because of a right-wing campaign accusing him of anti-Semitism—that is because he was critical of Israel policy and Israeli influence in the United States government. How much fair play did mainstream media give this story?

Whereas Norman Finkelstein was denied tenure because he had the courage to challenge plagiarist and deceiver Alan Dershowitz and to speak out against the “new” anti-Semitism that uses the label or magical spell of “anti-Semitism” to ward off any and all criticism of Israel’s politics and behavior. Why have Judeo-centric and Christ-centric biases in MSM ignored this story, especially given that many of our Senators, Congresspersons, and White House personnel, seem to constantly kowtow to Israel’s demands, wishes, and distorted appeals, while Israelis give little consideration to the U.S. in return?

Or consider a bill that was introduced in Congress in 2004 that targeted teachers who question uncritical U.S. support for Israel. This bill was another intimidation tactic. H.R. 3077, the International Studies in Higher Education Act was sponsored by Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Jewish Congress and American Jewish Committee amounted to McCarthyism. Where were the reports from mainstream media regarding this “importing” of Middle Eastern authoritarianism?

Funny how the right-wing media in this country is so ready to criticize Islamic theocracies but fails to note Israel’s theocratic or Hobbesian autocratic impulses?

Furthermore corporate media did a heck of a job ignoring the professional and scholarly work of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt who wrote "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." This important work by establishment scholars did not get anywhere near the attention or honest evaluation it deserved—again thanks to the censorship of right-wing Zionists who seem to think it is their right to impose double standards on our citizenry because they happen to support religious nationalism abroad that does not recognize the liberty and equality of all people living in Palestine or Israel.

Also in March of 2002 a network of Jewish organizations formed the Israel On Campus Coalition (ICC), again to reinforce Zionist McCarthyism here in America that made its appearance on the Internet as "Campus Watch" witch-hunt. The movement was organized by right-wing columnist, and sometime professor, Daniel Pipes, student members of Hillel, the popular on-campus Jewish fraternity, to apparently indoctrinate "thought police" to report back to Pipe's in Washington any professors who made disparaging remarks about either Israel, or appeared to intimidate Jewish students in discussions relating to Palestinian-Israeli conflict. No mention was made of American Jews might be intimidating anyone else—yet have not Zionists engaged in forms of emotional blackmail and guilt tripping by criticizing critics of Israel as anti-Semites or self hating Jews?

Obviously world Jewry needs to be concerned about real anti-Semitism and prejudice which does exist. But when you have right-wing authoritarians like the Neocons and some AIPAC antics that deliberately violate the interests and freedoms of our people and culture, for example by going along with some blind Olmert delusion about fulfilling ancient prophesy, or ethno-centric attitudes that hides behind the notion that “...our God is more important their is your God ...” (that translates to mean our mission and lives are more important than yours or other people), then our society has a 1st Amendment problem.

American patriots who believe in our national value of equality and justice for all people are not going to settle for giving Israelis, or their apologists here, a see-no-evil pass that allows for cruel apartheid there, just because their anti-Semitic smear campaign has been so effective.

Israelis can and should be judged on the same ethical standards used to judge any other people.

The point is simple. If the main stream and many of our government officials are already intimidated so as to not give honest news about the ongoing of the Middle East, and our foreign policy in general, why would anyone presume better or more honest journalism simply by making another layer of bureaucracy on which to weed out dissidents? This society would likely have more censorship—not less.





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