"Wars often have had a profound impact on journalism," writes former journalism professor Betty Medsger. For example, the trend toward "news as entertainment" began with the war in the Persian Gulf in early 1991 when "the military, prepared by its 1980's marketing classes in how to sell a war, set new restrictions and higher levels of censorship that guaranteed coverage would be controlled by the military." That trend continues today, as "marketing practices honed by the Pentagon in the brief Gulf War now seem to be the standard M.O.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has issued a special "RCFP White Paper" chronicling the effects the "war on terrorism" has had on media coverage. Available as a free PDF download, the 34-page report outlines actions taken over the last six months by state and federal government agencies that limit the ability of journalists to do their jobs.
"Newspapers may provide a rough draft of history, but archives are where the raw materials are stored," writes Celestine Bohlen. "And so when politicians start messing around with public archives, historians -- and, of course, archivists -- can be counted on to rise up in arms." She details the outrage of historians when former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani in his final days in office decided to move the public records out of City Hall and into a private warehouse. And Giuliani isn't alone.
The U.S. has imposed more restrictions on reporters in Afghanistan than in any previous U.S. war, but Hollywood has carte blanche to make feel-good "reality TV" shows about the adventure. Maureen Dowd notes that that the Pentagon is teaming with Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of "Top Gun," "Black Hawk Down," "Pearl Harbor" and "Coyote Ugly," along with Bertram van Munster of "Cops," to make a TV docudrama about the war on terrorism. "I'm outraged about the Hollywoodization of the military," says Dan Rather.
"Science has now become the leading edge of the [Bush Administration's] crackdown on public access to government information," according to the New York Times. The Administration has withdrawn from public access over 6,600 technical reports concerning biological and chemical weapons production on grounds that they might help terrorists or others develop weapons of mass destruction. The Bush Administration is also calling upon scientific societies to impose limits on their scientific publications.
The records of other Texas governors are stored at the Texas State Library and Archives, but George W. Bush has placed his papers at his father's presidential library at Texas A&M University, thereby "putting them in the hands of a federal institution that is not ordinarily bound by the state's tough Public Information Act," reports the New York Times. "That law, among other things, assures anyone who requests state records a reply within 10 days.
In response to reports of illegal shredding of documents related to the Enron collapse, the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) (yes, it's a real organization) has issued a news release which says that "the overwhelming majority of document destruction that takes place on a daily basis is done so quite appropriately and for the cause of good." NAID, whose member companies are in the business of document destruction, characterizes the behavior of employees at Enron and Arthur Andersen as "unfortunate," but says that
Journalists and advocates of open govermment are dismayed as U.S. state governments weigh proposals to clamp down on the public's access to government documents and meetings, driven by worries that terrorists could use the information. States that have passed or are considering measures to limit public access include Florida, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee and Washington.
The Project on Government Oversight has issued a report on reprisals and retaliation against whistleblowers at the U.S. Department of Energy. "Retaliation at DOE does not necessarily entail attempting to fire federal employees," it states. "In the majority of cases in the security area, DOE supervisors attempt to revoke the whistleblower's clearance on trumped-up charges. Then they remove them from any responsibility for oversight of security. On the other hand, contractors often lose their contracts, or their jobs, for blowing the whistle. ...
Washington Post reporter Michael Grunwald uncovers a decades-long campaign by Monsanto to hide its extremely toxic PCB pollution in Anniston, Alabama. Monsanto held a monopoly on PCB production in the United States until they stopped making them in 1977. For nearly 40 years while producing PCBs at the Anniston plant, Grunwald reports, Monsanto knew that the PCBs they were dumping into an Anniston creek and open-pit landfills were toxic and they concealed that knowledge.