Monday, November 28, 2011
Cover-ups in the media...
Top Journalists Expose Major Cover-ups in Mass Media
The riveting excerpts below from the revealing accounts of 20 award-winning journalists in the highly acclaimed book Into the Buzzsaw are essential reading for all who support democracy. These courageous writers were prevented by corporate ownership of the mass media from reporting major news stories. Some were even fired. They have won numerous awards, including several Emmys and a Pulitzer. Help build a brighter future by spreading this news. For a two-page summary of this mass media information, click here.
Jane Akre spent 20 years as a network and local TV reporter for news and mass media operations throughout the country. She and her husband, investigative reporter Steve Wilson, were awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for their struggle with the story told in this chapter.
By February 1997 our story was ready to air. It attempted to answer some troubling questions: Why had Monsanto sued two small dairies to prevent them from labeling their milk as coming from cows not injected with [growth hormone rBGH]? Why had two Canadian health regulators claimed that their jobs were threatened – and then said Monsanto offered them a bribe to give fast-track approval to the drug? Why did Florida supermarkets break their much-publicized promise that milk in the dairy case would not come from hormone-treated cows? And why was the US the only major industrialized nation to approve this controversial genetically engineered hormone? (p. 211)
Station managers were so proud of our work that they saturated virtually every Tampa Bay radio station with thousands of dollars' worth of ads urging viewers to watch what we'd uncovered about "The Mystery in Your Milk." But then, our Fox managers' pride turned to panic. [Monsanto lawyer] John Walsh wrote that some points of the story "clearly contain the elements of defamatory statements which, if repeated in a broadcast, could lead to serious damage to Monsanto and dire consequences for Fox News." (pp. 211-213)
It was not long after our [unsuccessful] struggle to air an honest report had begun that Fox fired both the news director and the general manager. The new general manager, Dave Boylan, explained that if we didn't agree to changes that Monsanto and Fox lawyers were insisting upon, we'd be fired for insubordination within 48 hours. We pleaded with Dave to look at the facts we'd uncovered, many of which conclusively disproved Monsanto's claims. We reminded him of the importance of the facts about a basic food most of our viewers consume and feed to their children daily. His reply: "We paid $3 billion dollars for these TV stations. We'll tell you what the news is. The news is what we say it is!" Steve [the author's husband and coworker] was firm but respectful when he made it clear we would neither lie nor distort any part of the story. (pp. 213-215)
[The Dairy Coalition's director] took great pride in bragging that the Coalition "snowed the station with paperwork and pressure to have the story killed." Fox threatened our job every time we resisted the dozens of changes that would sanitize the story and fill it with lies and distortions. [Fox lawyer] Forest finally leveled with us. "You guys don't get it. It doesn't matter whether the facts are true. This story isn't worth a couple of hundred thousand dollars to go up against Monsanto." (pp. 217, 218)
Fox's general manager presented us with an agreement that would give us a full year of salaries and benefits worth $200,000 in no-show "consulting jobs," but with strings attached: no mention of how Fox covered up the story and no opportunity to ever expose the facts Fox refused to air. We turned down this second hush money offer. We were both finally fired, allegedly for "no cause." (p. 219)
The controversy over rBGH has traveled recently to Canada and the European Union, both of which decided to reject the drug for use in those countries. (p. 236)
For a revealing 10-minute video clip of this astounding case, click here. For updates on their lawsuit, see the Ms. Akre and Mr. Wilson's website at http://www.foxbghsuit.com.
Dan Rather [was] the anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News and correspondent for 60 Minutes II. In his more than 30 years at CBS, he received almost every honor in broadcast journalism, including several Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and citations from scholarly, professional, and charitable organizations. This is an excerpt from an interview originally aired on BBC Newsnight on May 16, 2002.
Access was extremely limited to the press during the time of September 11th, and ever since then [has been] limited in a way that is unprecedented in American journalism. There was a full understanding of why access was so limited during that time. [However] in the weeks and months that followed September 11th, the federal government began to take an unprecedented attitude about the access of American journalists to the war. What's particularly troubling is that what's being done is in direct variance with the Pentagon's stated policy [of] maximum access and maximum information consistent with national security. What's going on is a belief that you can manipulate communicable trust between the leadership and the led. The way you do that is you don't let the press in anywhere (p. 36-38).
Access to the [Iraq] war is extremely limited. The fiercer the combat, the more the access is limited, [including] access to information. I would say that overwhelmingly the limiting of access to information has much more to do with the determination to be seen as conducting the war errorlessly than it does with any sense of national security (p. 40).
None of us in journalism have asked questions strongly enough about limiting access and information for reasons other than national security. It's unpatriotic not to ask questions. Anybody in American journalism who tells you that he or she has not felt this pressure [not to ask tough questions] is either kidding themselves or trying to deceive you (p. 39-40)
What we're talking about here is a form of self-censorship. Self-censorship is a real and present danger to journalists at every level and on a lot of different kinds of stories. Before the war, before September 11th, fear ruled every newsroom in the country in some important ways – fear if we don't dumb it down, if we don't tart it up, if we don't go to the trivial at the expense of the important, we're not going to be publishing a newspaper or magazine. We're not going to be on the air. The ratings will eat us up. (p. 41-42).
There was a time in South Africa when people would put flaming tires around people's necks if they dissented. In some ways the fear [now in the U.S.] is that you'll have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around your neck. It's that fear that keeps journalists from asking the tough questions. And I am humbled to say, I do not except myself from this criticism (p. 42).
For a BBC press release of this May 16, 2002 interview, click here.
Monika Jensen-Stevenson is a former Emmy-winning producer for 60 Minutes. The Vietnam Veterans Coalition awarded her the Vietnam Veterans National Medal.
Marine Private Robert R. Garwood – fourteen years a prisoner of the communist Vietnamese – was found guilty of collaboration with the enemy in the longest court-martial in United States history. I first heard of Garwood in 1979. Wire reports referred to him as a defector whom the US government was charging with being a traitor. At the end of the court-martial, there seemed no question that Garwood was a monstrous traitor. (pp. 255, 256)
In 1985, Garwood was speaking publicly about something that had never made the news during his court-martial. The Wall Street Journal reported he said that he knew firsthand of other American prisoners in Vietnam long after the war was over. He was supported by Vietnam combat veterans whose war records were impeccable. These veterans told a story vastly different from what was made public during the court-martial and one that was intimately tied to another 60 Minutes story I was working on – "Dead or Alive?" The title referred to Vietnam POW/MIAs [Prisoners Of War/Missing In Action]. (p. 256)
My sources included outstanding experts like former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency General Eugene Tighe and returned POWs like Captain Red McDaniel, who held the Navy's top award for bravery, had commanded the aircraft carrier Lexington, and was director of liaison on Capitol Hill for the Navy and Marine Corps. With such advocates providing back up, it was hard not to consider the possibility that prisoners (some 3,500) had in fact been kept by the Vietnamese communists as hostages to make sure the US would pay the more than $3 billion in war reparations that Nixon had promised before his fall from grace. Particularly compelling was the fact that of the 300 prisoners known to be held in Laos, not one was released for homecoming in 1973. (p. 256)
Initially held back to ensure the US would fulfill its secret promise to pay reparation monies, by 1979 American POWs had become worthless pawns. The US had not paid the promised monies and had no intention of paying in the future. (p. 263)
Ms. Jensen-Stevenson's book on this topic, Kiss the Boys Goodbye, is available at amazon.com.
Kristina Borjesson has been an independent producer and writer for almost 20 years. Among her many accomplishments besides editing this volume, she worked at CBS network where she won an Emmy and a Murrow Award for her investigative reporting on "CBS Reports: Legacy of Shame" with Dan Rather and Randall Pinkston.
You don't choose to have the kind of experience I had while trying to report on the demise of TWA Flight 800. You fall into it. At CBS, I'd recently picked up an Emmy for investigative reporting when I was assigned to investigate the crash. I had no idea that my life would be turned upside down and inside out – that I'd be assigned to walk into what I now call "the buzzsaw." (p. 284)
The buzzsaw is what can rip through you when you try to investigate or expose anything this country's large institutions – be they corporate or government – want kept under wraps. The system fights back with official lies, disinformation, and stonewalling. Your phone starts acting funny. Strange people call you at strange hours to give you strange information. The FBI calls you. Your car is broken into and the thief takes your computer and your reporter's notebook and leaves everything else behind. You feel like you're being followed everywhere you go. (p. 284)
Pierre Salinger announced to the world on November 8, 1996, that he'd received documents from French intelligence proving that a US Navy missile had accidentally downed [TWA Flight 800]. That same day, FBI's Jim Kallstrom called a press conference to deny Salinger's allegations. [At the press conference,] Kallstrom rattled off a prepared speech, and then it was time for questions. A man raised his hand and asked why the Navy was involved in the recovery and investigation while a possible suspect. Kallstrom's response was immediate; "Remove him!" he yelled. Two men leapt over to the questioner and grabbed him by the arms. There was a momentary chill in the air after the guy had been dragged out of the room. Kallstrom acted as if nothing had happened. (pp. 290, 291)
A few weeks after the FBI's visit to CBS, I received my walking papers. Law enforcement consultant Paul Ragonese eventually got his walking papers, too. Ragonese was replaced by none other than the FBI's TWA 800 task force chief, James Kallstrom. (p. 307)
Ms. Borjesson compiled Into the Buzzsaw, the book from which this summary as made.