By: Steven Thompson, editor
Freedom From The Press

What is, speaking truth-to-power and why should we care?

Truth to power is a term often used by honest journalists.

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Yes, for many different reasons, several professional journalists take certain dishonest liberties when they report on stories of the day. It doesn’t really matter whether the story is local, regional, or national.

When a story is written by a journalist working for the Associated Press, Reuters or Bloomberg, local publishers will rarely check for 100% accuracy in the story. Therefore, a local news story, accurate or not, can become regional or national news depending on its shock, appeal, or interest value.

The public, like it or not, has in the past been very willing to believe whatever story as reported. Major news agency’s have become so arrogant that few are willing to even speak on this topic. The electronic media is therefore in a unique position to expose the mainstream press anytime we read or hear a story that contains false or misleading information.

Are journalism professors to blame for the reporting of dishonest news? The simple answer is no. In fact, some journalism professors go into great detail to prepare their students for the eventual reality. By now, you’re probably asking why any honest person would want to become a professional news journalist? Yes, some assignments are glamorous and sexy. Reporters get to meet interesting and powerful people. On the other hand, stories can be boring and downright awful. There’s nothing glamorous or sexy about covering a fatal plane or school bus crash.

I know I’ve taken the liberty to go off topic but, the consumers of news must understand that most stories written by journalists are for the most part accurate. There’s no compelling reason to slant or twist facts in any stories written about todays weather, traffic accidents or the outcome of sporting events.

So, when is Truth-to-Power of utmost importance? I’ll begin with this statement- Does the news story directly or indirectly affect my pocketbook? If the answer is yes, I’ll need 100% accuracy in order to make a proper decision. If the news story is only 50% accurate, chances are good that I’ll make the wrong choice if all I have to base my decision on is what I’m reading, hearing or seeing.

The decisions we make are at times of major importance. These decisions range from whom we elect to represent us in government to what companies we decide to bank with or invest in. The American people have few credible news sources to turn to for 100% accurate reporting on major financial issues. There are no governmental agencies that monitor and enforce rules and regulations that govern the accuracy of important news information. As a society, we’re expected to simply believe that the information is complete and accurate.

But, what if we’re being manipulated into believing known fantasies as fact? What processes due we have as a society to protect ourselves from those who are out to steal us blind?

Should the public be concerned if certain media outlets have violated the public trust by knowingly reporting flawed or phony information? If yes, should these media outlets be allowed to continue? Freedom of the Press protects media outlets from direct government oversight. But, intentional inaccuracies from dishonest reporting can cause major harm to our economic well being, or worse yet, the overall health of our nations prosperity or, our individual freedom and liberty, we need a plan to hold media companies 100% accountable and liable for any and all losses due to their unsavory deeds.

So, how do we identify those in the news media who have willfully violated our trust? And, if they’re allowed to continue, how do we educate ourselves to avoid reading or listening to untrustworthy news agencies? Please, don’t underestimate the importance of these problems. We, as a society need to address these issues and the sooner the better.

Here’s one goal that we should be able to accomplish in very short order. As a taxpayer, some of your money is already being spent to fund public broadcasting (PBS/NPR). Ask yourself, could PBS and NPR do a better job in reporting important news that we cannot get from any privately held news agency? My home PBS station is based in Spokane, Washington. KSPS channel 7 carries some respectable national news programs such as the Bill Moyer’s Journal. They also carry the Nightly News Hour but, is the News Hour providing 100% accurate news free of any and all bias or manipulation as seen with the major news networks? I’d argue that the Nightly News Hour is just as guilty of violating the public trust as ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox. As for local or statewide news, KSPS fails to provide me with anything of major substance.

If we’re going to continue to publicly fund PBS, shouldn’t they be required to provide their viewers with 100% trustworthy news and information? With PBS, we have a place to start. The big question is, do we have the desire or will? As a consumer of PBS, I’d certainly be in favor of increased funding for PBS if they were serious about providing credible news content at the local, state and national level.

As for the mainstream press, I’ve previously gone on record to state that we need a viable system that allows the people to rate mainstream news agencies for accuracy and trustworthiness. I prefer using letter grades like A+ or F-. If our society has the ability to rate content provided by the movie and music industries surely we can come up with a formula to rate the delivery of news. That’s right, we give the mainstream press a little dose of Missouri. Don’t tell me that you’re the news leader, show me. And, if you refuse to comply, every time your newscast comes on the air or off a commercial break we see a legible icon that rates your newscast as a total failure.

Once again, What’s truth-to-power? The ability for any reporter to ask any person any question. If the President, Secretary of State, Treasury Secretary, Federal Reserve Chairman, US Senator, Congressman, Governor, Mayor, Commissioner, etc. refuses to take or answer our legitimate questions, such refusal is reported upon for all citizens to read, hear or see. Furthermore, if the subject slides off the question and goes to the next reporter, he or she should be asked the very same question by the very next reporter. If the subject continues to slide off the question the media outlets have the right to no longer cover the subjects press conferences which will send a clear signal to the voters upon the subjects impeachment, recall or re-election.

A common excuse for not reporting truth-to-power is fear. In today’s media environment, if any one reporter is known for asking tough questions the subject simply won’t take questions from that specific reporter. Another modern problem is access to specific subjects. If a particular news media company is known for asking tough questions, the subject will simply not invite a reporter from that company for the interview or, the subject will only grant access to a particular reporter who’s known to play ball by asking questions that have been filtered or written by the subject being interviewed. And finally, with some media companies, reporters learn that perks, raises and better assignments are only given to those who play ball. Therefore, well trained journalists who want to report truth-to-power are forced to deliver a product that in itself falls short of the standards of not only the consumers but the author as well.

In these United States, We The People are the ultimate boss. Government officials are hired to represent us. News agencies are in business to keep us properly informed. If both fail, We The People become The Biggest Loser. Citizens, Consumers and Advertisers hold all the power. Collectively, we need to wise up and develop a plan to fix this problem. If certain advertisers refuse to comply? Identify and Boycott Them!