Monday, December 05, 2005

How "pay for play" news erodes the public conversation

A California journalist on the impact of the U.S.-purchased news stories in the Iraqi press. This is Peter Y. Sussman writing:
When government steps in to do covert journalism, it opens to question the work of all legitimate journalists, and the public is deprived of its lifeline to reliable and essential information on the operation of government.

A free press and a stubbornly independent press are essential to a healthy democracy, both in this country and in Iraq, and the Bush administration's clumsy attempts to peddle propaganda covertly as 'journalism' are a threat to both journalism and democracy in both countries. As journalists, we take pride in our independence from government direction.

At times, however, especially during wars, much of the public tires of dissent and yearns for the country to speak with a single voice. It is especially important at such times that we re-emphasize the importance of our independence so that truth and government oversight are not lost irretrievably because of transitory tidal changes in public opinion. It is our public trust as journalists to preserve diversity of public discourse.

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