Truth In The Media – Alice In Wonderland

We place more trust in what we read in our newspapers and magazines, hear on our radios, and see on our television sets, than we do in what our politicians have to say.

My Sunday mornings are spent watching American political shows. My favourite is the Fox News program with Brit Hume, Ceci Connolly, Mara Liasson, Juan Williams, Bill Kristol, and show Host Chris Wallace.

In my opinion, it is the most balanced amongst the many Sunday news talk-shows, since it pits the full spectrum of analysts against each other. The Right, the Centre and the Left. Everyone’s voice is heard in a civilized debate where each person gets their turn to speak without shouting over the other.

Another reason why I so much like this program is because its participants take positions where they are often at odds with their own industry, in as much as they criticize the media as much as they do the establishment.

This past Sunday (March 28, 2004), they dealt with a once heralded journalist who until last week was above and beyond reproach. His personal and professional integrity was so well respected, that what he said or wrote was comparable to journalistic Gospel.

But after 21 years of reporting on earth-shattering events, much of it from abroad, guess what? Much of it turns out to be a lie. And even if most of it was true, since he was caught lying, none of anything he reported can be trusted.

Jack Kelley, foreign affairs journalist with USA Today recently resigned (fired). He admitted to “poor judgment” in the way he produced an article concerning the war in Yugoslavia. But as it turns out, there was an awful lot more to Jack Kelley’s dishonest reporting than just one questionable article.

Jack Kelley, one-time Pulitzer Prize finalist lied about many stories: for example; he placed himself in situations where he wasn’t, such as the Sbarro’s Pizza restaurant in Jerusalem, that was destroyed by a Palestinian suicide murderer.

He reported that the suicide murderer actually brushed by him, making physical contact only seconds before the Palestinian blew himself (and others) up.

More than that, Kelley also CREATED news that never happened.

In one of his other Mid-East reports, Jack Kelley wrote about extremist Jewish Settlers who hunted down and killed a Palestinian, who they thought was somehow responsible for TERRORIST attacks.

It was a great story. But it wasn’t true. It never happened, other than in Kelley’s mind.

We place more trust in what we read in our newspapers and magazines, hear on our radios, and see on our television sets, than we do in what our politicians have to say. And when a journalist lies, especially a journalist working for a stalwart news media such as USA Today, the results are severe.

If we can not trust our news media? Who then can we trust?

Because of Jack Kelley’s lie concerning the Jewish Settlers who never murdered the Palestinian, a whole world of anti-Israelis, anti-Semites and pro Palestinian suicide murderers found vindication for their hatreds. Jack Kelley gave them justification and approbation to hate Jews.

What is just as worrisome about what Jack Kelley wrote, is what he didn’t write. Remember, it was only about a year ago when CNN’s top news executive admitted that CNN withheld the truth (at his command) about Iraq and Saddam Hussein, so as not to be evicted from Iraq.

For that enormous omission of truth, what happened to the CNN hierarchy? Nothing!

How many other “respected” journalists lie about what they write? How many more create what they write? And how many choose NOT to write about important events or positions they don’t personally support?

Several months ago, Jason Blair of the New York Times was fired, also for making up stories, embellishing and plagiarism. He too was a journalistic wunderkind. But in his case, it became an enormous story carried everywhere.

It is very disturbing that I found out about Jack Kelley only from Fox News’ Sunday Show, and had to literally surf the Internet to find more.

Shouldn’t the Jack Kelley story have been front page above the fold on every major newspaper? Shouldn’t his picture be on the cover of Time Magazine, News World and others? Why wasn’t the Jack Kelley story the lead-off item on every radio and televison network news-cast?

To me, it’s big news when you discover a “respected” journalist has been lying and creating bogus stories that set the trend upon how people perceive the subject of the stories.

Jack Kelley will continue his life most probably writing and selling his stories. But he will never really have to pay for the damage he’s done. And his former newspaper (USA Today) will never really be held accountable for publishing his lies.

But someone’s got to pay. Someone’s got to be held accountable, if for no other reason, than to give what Kelley did a semblance of guilt. If not; the whole democratic system we’ve created will eventually cease to function.

The only guarantee we have for the preservation of democracy is the strength and freedom of the Press, which our Western democratic Constitutions have given tremendous protection.

In return: the Press must at the very least be obligated to give us back honesty.

The media will not make hay out of the Jack Kelley story, since it brings their honesty, accuracy and integrity into question. Something they obviously can not deal with. But they should.

Just like everyone in the news media couldn’t wait to pile on the New York Times and Jason Blair. Everyone should have a go at Kelley and USA Today.

If the news media does nothing with this story (as I suspect they will not); doing nothing will only further add to the fact that the news media is not the broker of honesty and truth which most people think they are.

Before people can begin to seriously question the veracity of the news media, they first have to know the story of Jack Kelley. But unless the news media makes the Jack Kelley issue as public as it deserves to be, very few will know, and even fewer people will question.

And that is a much greater threat to our way of life, than all the anti-western and anti-democratic groups combined.

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One Comment

  1. This editorial was exactly correct. I have never been so depressed with our government. Keep up the good work.

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