Are the free presses of the United States really “free?”
Freedom of the Press has always been a key to the American way of life (1.)
"The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater, Frank Zappa (2.)”
In the United States we feel that we have many freedoms; freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and so on. Rarely ever do we question if these rights are free, I mean truly free. By free I mean free of corruption and influence. Although these questions can be asked of all of our freedoms I would particularly like to focus on our press. Is the press in the United States free of influence and corruption?
Now before we go too far into this subject I want to make clear that I realize there are exceptions to every rule; some media outlets do a better job than others and even some media outlets are good at times and misleading at others. There are many reason why we are facing the issues we are with our press. Everything from profits, apathy, to a lack of competition can be a source of blame in the issue of not having a free press in the United States.
Media here in the United States is not free from bias and one of the major reasons for this is because of our economy. The United States is not utopia; it is not free from the harsh realities that plague the entire race of mankind. Profits and greed have always been a point of contention in anything and everything and the press is no different. Higher ratings means more advertisements, which means more money is placed for sacrifice at the altar of truth and our press has been praying at this altar for quite some time now. Profits are not bad but money has a way of corrupting those who are receiving it. Take for example the story of Edward R. Murrow in the movie “Good Night and Good Luck (3;) Mr. Murrow was trying to educate the public to possible dangers and his ratings slipped because civic responsibility and accountability are not exactly considered fun or sexy by the average American viewer. It is much more fun in the opinions of some to say the hell with it, to check out and let other people worry about problems that are important and affect our way of life but are deemed a bummer by public opinion.
We joke but is this now the only place where the press is still free (4?)
The money in the press is an issue but the apathy of the common American is what enables this profit driven behavior. If the average American seeks only entertainment and not enlightenment then the most entertaining story will be covered and the stories that affect our wellbeing may become ignored if we allow them to. Take for example the trial of Casey Anthony. American’s were glued to the TV, internet, and radio waiting to hear the next turn in the case. Although this is a sad case was there something else the American people should have been watching; I would argue yes. Negotiations on the debt ceiling, the slaughter of Syrians trying to bring a democracy to their country, the Greek debt crisis, two wars overseas and the biggest crack downs in China since the Tiananmen Square occurred during the Casey Antony trial with little attention paid to them by the average American. Incidents such as these affect our lives more than the trial of Casey Anthony whether we realize it or not. I am not saying that a small child being killed in such a brutal way does not deserve some coverage in the press, but some cable news networks seemed to make it their one and only story.
I also feel that the lack of competition amongst the press makes our situation even worse. Many didn’t realize up until the News of the World scandal that many of our media organizations are owned by a select few media conglomerates. Again this is a byproduct of a capitalist system; if a company cannot crush competition it will merely buy it and accomplish the same end goal. Competition to get the next big story is what spurred the press to do their job in the past but if everyone has the same script then where is the incentive to dig for the next big story?
So is press in the United States free? It is to a degree but until the whole of the American people stand up and demand responsible news and boycott those who merely spout hate filled rhetoric things will remain the status quo. A renaissance is need desperately in the press, a rebirth of responsible journalism. We have the tools to do the job better than we ever did in the past but apathy enables greed and responsibility and mind numbing entertainment do not always coincide with each other. In closing I would like to quote a journalist who saw the writing on the wall in the 1950’s, Edward R. Murrow:
“We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late (5.)
1. USWeapon. "Freedom of the Press Under Duress?" Standupforamerica.com. Blogger.com. Web. 25 July 2011. <http://standupforamerica.wordpress.com/2010/05/31/freedom-of-the-press-under-duress/>.
2. "Quote by Frank Zappa: "The Illusion of Freedom Will Continue as Long as I..."" Share Book Recommendations With Your Friends, Join Book Clubs, Answer Trivia. Web. 25 July 2011. <http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/show/12280>.
3. Government, Its Own. "Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005) - IMDb." The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Web. 25 July 2011. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0433383/>.
4. "Freedom of the (Press) Internet Shirts from Zazzle.com." Zazzle | Custom T-Shirts, Personalized Gifts, Posters, Art, and More. Web. 25 July 2011. <http://www.zazzle.com/freedom_of_the_press_internet_tshirt-235115868350381210>.
5. "Edward R. Murrow." Wikiquote. Web. 25 July 2011. <http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Edward_R._Murrow>.