Students seek truth in media

Fierce storms did not stop a crowd of students from the University of North Texas in Denton from attending a panel discussion on 'Media Democracy Day,' Oct. 18. On a table by the doorway were the People’s Weekly World and materials from two organizations that seek honesty in media: The Columbia Journalism Review and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). A news report from the Fort Worth daily newspaper told about a major Vermont seminar of which Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) roundly condemned corporate news reporting.

Student activist Martin Wallace hosted the student meeting on behalf of the Progressive Film Society and the North Texas Independent Media Center. He took his opening remarks from 'Be Opinionated, Fair, And Accurate: The Success Of Independent Media,' by Danielle Chynoweth of the Independent Media Center.

The presentation emphasized the importance of discerning the actual truth from today’s news reports: 'We are a people who, as a people, through our elected representatives, is about to declare war on another people. Our self-appointed leader tells us that their self-appointed leader has the capacity to build weapons that could destroy us. We are told that that leader is connected with a group that we are told is responsible for the killing of thousands of us a year ago. The dominant story tellers, which are almost entirely owned by less than 10 massive corporations with budgets larger than most countries, speak about United States military forces as ‘we.' This is the story that floods us every day – seeming like a diversity of voices, on different channels, in different words – but the same story. People in Iraq are also speaking, but where are their words? They also have a story to tell, but we don’t hear their story.'

He went on to describe the goal of corporate-dominated media: to sell advertising. He described their chief methodology with one slogan, 'If it bleeds it leads.' The audience then watched a 1996 documentary titled, 'Fear and Favor in the Newsroom.' The film documented the points made in its introduction with instance after instance in which honest news reporters, including those affiliated with the Public Broadcasting System, were pressured to conform to corporate needs.

Wallace had assembled a panel that included editors of a student newspaper, an independent community newspaper, the main commercial paper in Denton, and a local union editor and PWW contributer. A freelance writer with experience in Kosovo rounded out the panel.

Most of the students’ questions were directed at Barry Boesch, executive editor of the Denton Record Chronicle, which is owned by Belo, the corporation that dominates all information gathering and dissemination in North Texas. Several of the students had participated in public events that had been overlooked by the commercial news agencies and the Denton paper.

Even though his reporter had interviewed several students at one event, Boesch said, 'We decided it was not newsworthy.' He said that he could not take freelance articles for reasons having to do with labor law, even though Belo’s anti-union stances are an historical legend in Texas and most of their local unions were driven out years before. The editor did, however, assert that he would print future guest editorials from the students.

The meeting extended far beyond its planned termination time, and Boesch was the first to leave. Martin Wallace and other students continue to seek ways to improve honesty in American news reporting. More information is available at www.indymedia.org.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org