I talked with Connie Llanos today of the Daily News. She is an excellent reporter and could be much better, if she was allowed to do any story she has knowledge of. Given the time, research, and access she has already achieved covering the topic of public education, it is clear to me that she knows a hell of allot more than she is actually allowed to report.
Llanos tried to justify what appears to me to be the clear limits as to what she is allowed to report by saying, “I have to pitch stories to her editor” and “I don’t have 6 months to research a story.” Given the blatant and overt corruption of LAUSD and UTLA and the entree she and other reporters have, I doubt that a reporter as good as she would need 6 months to catch LAUSD and UTLA colluding to the detriment of their students and parents, teachers, and other employees.
As the conversation continued and I gave Llanos specific stories that we have covered here at perdaily and voice my frustration about the blackout of these stories by her and the other mainstream media. All Llanos could do was chastise me by saying, “This is not the way to get me to do a story.” If having the documentation that she and her colleagues in L.A. would need 6 months to collect isn’t enough, one wonders what would be? I wonder if Middle East Reporter Robert Fisk ever thought of refusing to do stories about Osama Bin Laden, Moammar Gaddafi, or Hosni Mubarak because this weren’t nice to him? Since when does nice become the litmus test of all the news that’s fit to print?
KPCC’s Larry Mantle seemed to be going down the same road last week when he had a forum on his radio show to discuss the topic of Whether we were past the era of objective journalism. The clear implication being that maybe people are no longer required to think, now that we have a mass media that pandered to whatever their preconceived beliefs happen to be irrespective of the facts.
Are there such things as immutable facts with which reputable reporters craft their coverage of the news or is yellow journalism now an acceptable standard in arriving at some preconceived outcome designed to subvert the free thought of educated citizens that is foundational to any democracy.
Robert Mc Chesney has written a wonderful book that specifically addresses the crisis in the 4th Estate entitled, “Will The Last Report Please Turn Out The Lights,” where he states his belief that a free press is a sine qua non for any democracy. It is the necessary element to keep government, corporations, and other public servants honest. With the domination of mainstream media and specifically talk shows by conservative financed interests, it is no wonder that the constant attack against teachers and anything that remains of a progressive agenda going back to The New Deal and before, is presently on the chopping block with no mainstream media voice to oppose it.
In the last 10 years what we spend on journalism has declined by 30%. To exacerbate this deplorable situation in a mainstream media that seems now to be exclusively driven by propaganda and profit, Bernie Saunders discussed the fact on the Daily Show that right-wing media like Fox News hardly use any reporters, because they have become the most popular “news” program on the air by just having charismatic people continuing to hammer conservative talking points - remind you of someone?
Robert McChesney has also pointed out that savings and loan scammer Charles Keating, corrupt politician Tom Delay, and ponzie scheme master Bernie Madoff would not be caught today by journalists, given the huge cuts in reporters that we have most recently seen. This should make LAUSD recently retired administrators able to breathe a little easier in their retirement.
With a present ratio of four public relations people to every reporter in the U.S., I don’t think I will hold my breath for Connie Llanos of the Daily News to contact me any time soon about a real piece of old-fashion investigative journalism, even though she told me at the end of our conversation to send her information and documentation – which I did- and she would get back to me.
In the last scene of the movie Three Days of the Condor, Robert Redford is standing in front of the New York Times after having given damning evidence to the newspaper about a government conspiracy. Bad guy and self-righteous patriot Cliff Robertson says, “Do you think they’ll publish it.” At that time with the fame of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers still fresh in people’s minds the answer was yes. Today, I’m not only no so sure. In fact, I often wonder how much of what is really going on never makes it into the news.