"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Comforting the Comfortable, Afflicting the Afflicted 

The Supreme Court's dodging of the "reporters' privilege" issue has produced a muddled response, owing largely to the respective backgrounds of the two reporters in the dock - Matt Cooper is generally taken to be one of the good guys, while Judith "Chalabi's Bitch" Miller is the hacktacular pinnacle of hackish hackdom. Over at DKos, Armando sums it up:
Haha! We're laughing at the hack.

But you know what - she's right....

So while you enjoy your schadenfreude with regard to Miller, also consider the damage done to the freedom of the press.

...and, of course, this is true. The law must apply equally to the good (Cooper, allegedly), the bad (Miller, certainly), and the ugly (Robert Novak, unquestionably). But in the end, it's all a sideshow. The problem with the media isn't Judith Miller, as appalling as she is, or even Robert Novak. The problem with the media is 118 people you never heard of (emphasis supplied):
A research team at Sonoma State University has recently finished conducting a network analysis of the boards of directors of the ten big media organizations in the US. The team determined that only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. This is a small enough group to fit in a moderate size university classroom. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. In fact, eight out of ten big media giants share common memberships on boards of directors with each other. NBC and the Washington Post both have board members who sit on Coca Cola and J. P. Morgan, while the Tribune Company, The New York Times and Gannett all have members who share a seat on Pepsi. It is kind of like one big happy family of interlocks and shared interests.

(Hat tip to Suburban Guerrilla.)

Now, boards of directors have a fiduciary duty to the stockholders. So, suppose you're the guy - let's assume it's a guy, although it may not be - who sits on the board for both Disney (which owns ABC) and Halliburton. Suppose further that an editor at ABC News has an explosive story about Halliburton stealing millions from the Iraqi reconstruction fund. Finally, suppose that an officer of the company - a vice president, say - who has conspicuously promoted said editor comes up for a contract extension. Where do your loyalties lie? Remember, you are liable to suit if you fail in your fiduciary duty to Halliburton's stockholders. And, suppose you're that vice president - if you know that your future may lie in part in the hands of a Halliburton board member, just how conspicuous should your support of our intrepid editor be?

Which is why we should not be surprised by this sort of thing:
For the makers of the newest sleeping pill to hit the U.S. market, the last week of March couldn't have brought better news.

"Insomnia is a condition that is under-recognized, under-diagnosed, and as a result, under-treated," warned the National Sleep Foundation, as it proclaimed March 29 "Insomnia Awareness Day" and March 27 to April 2 "National Sleep Awareness Week."

A poll released by the nonprofit group disclosed that 50 percent of adult Americans have problems getting to sleep at least once a week, and 10 percent - about 22 million people - rarely get a good night's sleep. Those findings were reported by virtually all of the country's major newspapers and television networks, including The Sacramento Bee.

Lost in the somber warnings and survey results, however, was that the poll, the proclamations and the press kits that spread the information were paid for by sleeping pill manufacturers.

So, wring your hands about the reporters' privilege, if you want to - I probably will, even if it means begrudgingly supporting the likes of Judith Miller - but don't expect it to matter much, so long as those 118 men and women call the shots.

 

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