Note: McClatchy and several other large news sources are exceptions which have reported well on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
There are five reasons that the mainstream media is worthless.
1. Self-Censorship by Journalists
Initially, there is tremendous self-censorship by journalists.
For example, several months after 9/11, famed news anchor Dan Rather told the BBC that American reporters were practicing "a form of self-censorship":
There was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tires around peoples' necks if they dissented. And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck. Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions.... And again, I am humbled to say, I do not except myself from this criticism.Keith Olbermann agreed that there is self-censorship in the American media, and that:
What we are talking about here - whether one wants to recognise it or not, or call it by its proper name or not - is a form of self-censorship.
You can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in trouble .... You cannot say: By the way, there's something wrong with our .... system.
As former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006:
2. Censorship by Higher-Ups
Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do. . . .
There's the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There's the fear of being labeled partisan if one's bullshit-calling isn't meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.
If mainstream-media political journalists don't start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy -- if not to the comedians then to the bloggers.
I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter - whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship -- or whatever it is -- out of the way.
journalists do want to speak out about an issue, they also are subject
to tremendous pressure by their editors or producers to kill the story.
The Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who uncovered the Iraq prison torture scandal and the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, Seymour Hersh, said:
"All of the institutions we thought would protect us -- particularly the press, but also the military, the bureaucracy, the Congress -- they have failed. The courts . . . the jury's not in yet on the courts. So all the things that we expect would normally carry us through didn't. The biggest failure, I would argue, is the press, because that's the most glaring....
Q: What can be done to fix the (media) situation?
[Long pause] You'd have to fire or execute ninety percent of the editors and executives. You'd actually have to start promoting people from the newsrooms to be editors who you didn't think you could control. And they're not going to do that."
And a series of interviews with award-winning journalists also documents censorship of certain stories by media editors and owners (and see these samples).