Journalists are being far too timid in reporting the news, and the public is poorly informed about the media's role in democracy, veteran journalist Bill Kovach told media ombudsmen on Tuesday. "An awful lot of news organizations are far, far more timid than I would like them to be ... far, far more timid than they have any right to be," said Kovach, a former editor for The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It's official: Philip Morris, the world's largest tobacco company, has now changed its name to "Altria," from the Latin root for "altruism." The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids isn't impressed.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a media mogul who already owns most of the country's television outlets, is trying to stamp out the few voices of dissent left on the airwaves. "On Thursday, the conservative prime minister accused two journalists and a comedian who have been critical of him in the past of the 'criminal use' of state television," reports the New York Times. ... Under his government, Mr. Berlusconi said, state television 'cannot be so seditious.'"
The Internet has been hyped as "a revolutionary new medium, so inherently empowering and democratizing, that old authoritarian regimes would crumble before it," but Andrew Stroehlein points out that the reality is more sobering. "The idea that the Internet itself is a threat to authoritarian regimes was a bit of delusional post-Cold War optimism.
When Spozhmai Maiwandi, who ran the Pashto service of the U.S. government's Voice of America, aired remarks made by Taliban leader Mullah Omar not long after September 11, the Bush administration got upset. Maiwandi lost her job. Frank Smyth writes for TomPaine.com that "unfortunately the VOA case is only one of many examples in which Bush officials have manipulated the press, particularly since 9/11. The administration has demonstrated a callous disregard for journalism, truth and transparency.
Paul Trummel, a 69-year-old former professor of journalism, has been jailed for more than a month with no end in sight, charged with "harassment" for creating what he asserts is a web-based investigative report into improprieties at a Seattle residence for senior citizens.
Today's Republican Party demonizes any criticism of President Bush on the grounds that it will "undermine the war effort," and journalists like Tom Gutting are learning the hard way that they can be fired if they question the president's leadership. Yet one of the GOP's most influential forebears, presidential nominee Thomas Dewey, openly criticized Franklin Roosevelt at the peak of the war against fascism.
In a lengthy report on Zimbabwe's upcoming elections, Australia's SBS TV uses hidden surveillance videos to document an apparent plan by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to murder the country's sitting president, Robert Mugabe. According to the footage, money to pay for the killing was channeled through BSMG London, an affiliate of the Weber-Shandwick PR firm.
During the heady late 1990s, Wall Street investment firms and bankers deliberately hyped Internet startup companies with no prospect of financial success, bilking countless small investors out of their money. This PBS documentary explains how it all worked, from the "roadshows" used to line up initial capital to the strategy of launching a new company, watch its stock price spike, and selling before the inevitable downturn (known within the trade as "flipping").