Hamilton — Stonewalled: How the nightly news is managed
The tall tales spun by celebrity news anchor Brian Williams are small potatoes compared to what Emmy Award-winning reporter Sharyl Attkisson reveals in her book: Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington (2014).
Sharyl Attkisson details powerful pressure by the Obama administration on the news managers at the major networks to ignore Benghazi, the “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandals and to downplay the IRS and Veterans Administration scandals. But wait. There’s more.
Big industry and big pharma don’t want shoddy products or dangerous drugs exposed. They sometimes threaten the major networks with the cancellation of millions of dollars in advertising revenues. The Green-Industrial Complex exerts pressure on the major networks to air bogus science stories on climate change. Big oil pushes back in the other direction. The Military-Industrial Complex pushes stories to get the public to support more spending on defense. Result: Important stories are killed, some stories are under-reported and others are simply self-serving propaganda.
The Attkisson exposé reinforces why this journalist almost never watches the nightly news programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS. And yet, that is where so many Americans get their only news. But there is hope. Increasingly, Americans reject the filtered, homogenized, milquetoast network news and are turning to the internet to get “unfiltered” news.
This viewer flight away from the major news networks to the internet motivates the major news networks to be relatively silent while the Obama White House and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) attempt to place the internet under FCC control. Historically, government control leads to government censorship. Their lack of opposition is something the major news networks might want to reconsider.
Arguably, the most outrageous news filters are paid for by the American taxpayer. Virtually every government agency from the White House on down has its own public relations people who flood the news networks with pro-government talking points. When enterprising reporters stumble onto outrageous graft or mismanagement, government PR flacks sometimes threaten the networks with loss of future access to official news sources or documents. For a time, Sharyl Attkisson’s computer was turning itself on at night while whoever bugged it read her files and her e-mails. Wonder who?
Some gun-shy news managers wait until other news outlets have broken a story before they will produce a warmed-over version. By being “copy cats,” they can mollify outraged advertisers by saying, “the others made us do it.” In her long and distinguished career as an investigative reporter, Sharyl Attkisson says she has encountered two kinds of news managers. The gutsy ones who told her to: Follow the story wherever it leads. Or, the less courageous ones who must know in advance where the story is going and how it ends and only then will they decide if the public needs to know.
But the managers of the nightly TV news must fill up 22 minutes of a 30-minute program with something. Ergo: lots of precious air time is spent on the weather or stories about firemen rescuing kittens from trees. Maybe that’s why NBC allowed Brian Williams to spin his made-up tales of personal derring-do for so long.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.
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