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Social Commentary from the C-Suite to Main Street℠

A Blog by Gary Wright II

The press, news media spin, and WikiLeaks secret documents

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

The press, news media spin, and WikiLeaks secret documents

Today WikiLeaks posted more "secret" documents and lots of people are upset about it. We shouldn't be angry with WikiLeaks - we should be angry with the embarrassing things our government is doing behind our backs. Remember when they said none of the torture photos from Abu Ghirab prison should not be released? It isn't the torture photos that were the problem - it was the subject matter captured in those photos that should have been the real issue. WikiLeaks is bringing light to truth and reality and they shouldn't be faulted for that. Does there actions really put lives at risks? I say no, because they aren't publishing information about current operations. It is our government and our leaders following a flawed plan that is killing our sons and daughters and putting all of our lives in danger. We shouldn't be "shooting the messenger," but should be brainstorming about these documents in order to learn from our mistakes and to prevent a repeat of our failures in the future. The leaked documents are embarrassing, but if we are embarrassed by the truth then maybe we should be changing the way we do things.

Can we trust the press and believe the spin that our media puts on everything? Hell no! Let me share with you some history and a personal experience I had with the news media:

My father was a broadcast engineer and so as a child, I spent a lot of time playing around at radio and television stations. Back then, radio stations didn't have a team of news reporters. There was always a closet that held a noisy teletype machine, and all of the news came off of the wire from the Associated Press (AP). The disc jockeys would check the wire on a regular basis, and then tear off any stories that were of interest to the listeners. The DJs simply read the reports aloud on the air. They didn't rewrite the story or put any spin on them.

Television stations have a news department with a team of reporters. In addition to the AP news stories, they would send their staff reporters across the viewing area in order to collect all of the local news. There is a manager at each TV station called a News Director who determines what stories are researched and which reports make it on to the news broadcasts. In Huntsville, Alabama there were three TV stations (Fox 54 wasn't around back then) and each station would watch both competitor newscasts and then adjust their stories based on what the other two were doing.

Radio and TV stations set the price of commercials based on the number of viewers, which creates a strong competition to be the #1 newscast. It doesn't take long for the News Director to forget about real journalism and to focus only on the ratings. Instead of reporting the news that people SHOULD hear, they only run stories that they think people will WANT to hear. Sensationalism means big ratings, so the news becomes tainted and no longer has objective reporting. They put spin on every story it to make it sensational.

When I lived in Atlanta, I witnessed a local news team do something that to most of us would be considered unconscionable. My former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney held a public meeting at her office to meet with veterans and discuss the issues. The room was packed wall-to-wall with veterans, and I sat in my wheelchair front and center. I was disappointed that only one TV station sent a news crew, because it was a meeting that the entire public should have heard about. I thanked the news crew for covering the story, but my gratitude was quickly extinguished when I watched the news later that night. Cynthia is what most people would call a "strong black woman" who bravely stood up for what was right, regardless of the personal cost to herself. When the news story ran that night, they had edited the footage so it looked like there were no disabled veterans present, and that all of the people in attendance were "black people" [their words - not mine]. They made it look like Cynthia was a complete racist who only cared about our black veterans. This was no accident, they went through great effort to edit the video to support a viewpoint that wasn't even close to the truth. I guess they thought a "racist congresswoman" would be way more sensational than just a busy congresswoman trying to help our veterans through a broken system.

If the media won't tell the truth about an event like that, do you think they would tell the truth about a really major issue? When someone lies to you about one thing, it makes it really difficult to believe anything else they say. That is exactly how the media and our government have lost the trust of the people. The lesson in all of this is to never believe everything you see and hear. Always check the facts for yourself, and then form an opinion. Don't be led by the nose by people who are only concerned about their own self interests. Cell phones and the Internet make it very difficult to suppress what is really happening and allows information to be shared without relying on the media. I think this a great thing, but we have to be careful about what we believe to be facts. WikiLeaks is exposing the truth, and we should be probably be thankful for that. Unfortunately, what has been done is done and we can't go back and fix it. We can demand that our government be truthful, but we also must hold them accountable when they lie to us. I don't think WikiLeaks is the bad guy here. We need to learn from our mistakes, and then make sure to never repeat them.

Please know that I am by no means trying to encourage people to divulge government secrets. I have a security clearance, so I know how things work. If a person has a Top Secret clearance they don't get access to everything that is considered Top Secret. Access is always restricted to only those who have "a need to know." There is a kid in jail for allegedly leaking the video of a helicopter blowing up Iraqi civilians, but is he really the source for all of these secret documents? If one man had access to this many "secrets" then we have much larger issues than just WikiLeaks! Instead of focusing on whistle-blowers at Wikileaks, we need to investigate where our protection system broke down. We might also want to reconsider our methods of classifying information. If something is embarrassing, should that automatically make it a secret? I think not.

Best regards,

-- Gary Wright II

I've written several blog entries on this topic. To read more, visit our page devoted to PFC Bradley Manning .

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