I first saw Robert McChesney in the outstanding documentary Orwell Rolls in His Grave, which I highly recommend. He is an exceptionally well-informed and articulate media critic. His research and his writing stand at the forefront of the most critical issue facing Americans – our failed media system.
From Stephen Lendman’s The Political Economy of Media, Review of Robert McChesney’s book (Part I), at Global Research:
“McChesney quotes James Madison saying:
“A popular government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”
“…during the Progressive Era, muckraking journalism proliferated to a degree never again equalled. Reformers like Robert LaFollete called the commercial press destructive to democracy, and historian Henry Adams (grandson and great grandson of two former presidents) was unsparing in his criticism. He said “The press is the hired agent of a moneyed system, set up for no other reason than to tell lies where the interests are concerned.”
The era produced and inspired critics like Upton Sinclair. He produced cutting-edge works like The Jungle taking on meatpacking plant abuses and The Brass Check that was “the first great systematic critique of….capitalist journalism.” Other great figures were George Seldes who produced scathing media critiques, IF Stone, Lincoln Steffens, and a host of notables mostly unknown and unread today.
Professional journalism came of age at this time with schools established to “train a cadre professional editors and reporters.” They were taught to “sublimate their own values,” produce “neutral and unbiased copy,” and (likely) greater revenues for publishers.”
In fact, “neutral” content was a non-starter. As journalism evolved in the country, publishers wanted their values expressed. It’s all about business and profits, and journalists had to internalize these ideas to stay employed. As a result, “three deep-seated biases” are in the “professional code,” and they’re more prominent than ever today:
— professional journalists regard whatever government, business, or other prominent figures say or do as legitimate news;
— conflicting sources are ignored so power figures set the agenda and are uncontested; journalists become stenographers to them, and a free press is “guaranteed only to those who own one;”
— most important, journalism reflects the views and aims of the ruing class; “we the people” are nowhere in sight.”