In 1960, the ratio of public relations specialists to professional journalists in the United States was roughly 1:1. By 2012, the ratio had increased to 4:1, . .
As a result, the sad, simple truth is that a disturbing percentage of daily newspaper stories today are based upon press releases.
Similarly, local TV stations in the United States are increasingly running stealth commercials masquerading as “news,”. .
In Charles Lewis’s book, 935 Lies, he painstakingly uncovers the failures of today’s journalism. Starting with his prologue, he outlines how blatant, known lies were used to build up public consent to war. He quotes George Orwell, “Political speech and writing are largely the defence [sic] of the indefensible. . . Political language . . .is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” We also find out the meaning of the title, and he documents every single one of the 935 lies in the appendix.
It’s nothing new, just another episode in the framing of an agenda, the manipulation of the media, and the thwarting of public debate. The media, playing monkey, and evading their responsibility, have taken a complacent position. More concerned about ratings and revenue, they drop the ball, again, and again. And with the precipitous shrinking of newspaper readership and the shift to digital, they continue to produce less, scrutinize less, investigate less, and rely more on passing on predigested, prepackaged spin. A democracy cannot flourish under these conditions.
On the positive side, the subsequent chapters delineate how clear-minded journalists stubbornly bucked the trend, dug for the truth, and overcame roadblock after stonewall after smokescreen. These examples highlight the dire need we have for a free press. A press not beholden to commercial interests, nor intimidated by corrupt people in high places, nor dominated by a paltry handful of conglomerates. We need the news media working as watchdogs and counterbalances to the spin-doctors. We need the media to insure the public is informed with accurate facts, and protected from misleading half-truths.
935 Lies is a history lesson, but as Sting’s lyrical aphorism goes, “history will teach us nothing.” Well, nothing when we don’t learn something from it, and remember it. Obviously, since humans keep making the same mistakes, we’re not learning too good.
935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity, Charles Lewis, PublicAffairs, 2014
Watch the documentary [Money for Nothing] for more eyeopening exposure to the unreality we’re being fed.