By J.L. Walden
Source: Ghion Journal
On August 27th, Senator Bernie Sanders put forth a plan to reform the media, protect independent journalism, and safeguard the free press. This is very much in line with his critique of media concentration going back to his time as mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the 1980s. He was also one of only 16 House members who opposed the Telecommunications Act 1996, which helped to rapidly increase media consolidation.
The presentation of this plan to save journalism followed a back-and-forth between his campaign and journalists at several mainstream media outlets over his suggestion that the viewpoints and interests of the owner of The Washington Post (and those of the owners of other mainstream media outlets) might affect their coverage of his campaign. The executive editor of The Washington Post called Sanders’ suggestion a conspiracy theory. Sanders responded by clarifying that he wasn’t saying that Bezos directly controlled every editorial decision at the Post, just that writers and editors are influenced by the owner of the newspaper in what they cover, and especially in what they don’t.
An illustration of a key absence in media, for instance, is that while every major newspaper has a business section, none have a labor section. In essence, Sanders made the same critique that Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky made in their 1988 book, Manufacturing Consent. In that seminal work, they propose that the media in the U.S.:
“are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion.”
Writing for Salon, Jeff Cohen, founder of media watch organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, wrote of his working experience:
“I worked in and around mainstream TV news for years, including at corporate centrist outlets CNN and MSNBC. Unlike at Fox News (where I’d also been a paid contributor), there’s almost never a memo or direct order from top management to cover or not cover certain stories or viewpoints…
It happens because of groupthink. It happens because top editors and producers know — without being told — which issues and sources are off limits. No orders need be given, for example, for rank-and-file journalists to understand that the business of the corporate boss or top advertisers is off-limits, short of criminal indictments.”
In response to the criticism that he was pushing…