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Given such displays of ignorance regarding labor issues, I am always amazed to hear the conservatives in this nation accuse the media of a liberal bias. The aforementioned reporter probably is “liberal” on women’s issues; she’s probably pro-choice, supports pay equity, etc. But if she is like most reporters I meet, she has never bothered to formulate a coherent political philosophy. In terms of workplace issues, her concerns are probably confined to personal worries about her job, and maybe some nagging problems she shares with others in her newsroom. But I doubt she has ever seriously attempted to understand those concerns in the context of the wider workplace world or in the context of a political philosophy that would question the position of employees in relation to employers. In Through Jaundiced Eyes, Puette briefly touches on the contradiction between a supposedly liberal news media and its treatment of trade unions. Leaning on the observations of political sociologist C. Wright Mills, Puette suggests there may be “a deep-seated class antipathy at the bottom of this long-standing intellectual disdain for unions that has colored the media portrayal of labor.” I believe Puette is touching on something important. Class prejudice \(the white-collar reporter versus the stereocrucial role in the way the news media approach labor coverage. After all, journalists \(although class which sets political agendas, determines what the public knows and doesn’t know, and, finally, decides what needs to be done. In other words, journalists tend to see themcess of using political power, and they see tradeunionists as part of an outsider class which is trying to “get inside” the power-broking process. A general principle of human behavior is that outsiders are treated with suspicion. A little deductive reasoning leads to the conclusion that news media “insiders” are suspicious of trade union “outsiders.” The reasonable suspicions of any experienced reporter -that news sources will both lie and try to use the reporter only exacerbate this division. Problem is, almost all the preceding analysis is mine, not Puette’s. In his introduction, Puette makes a cursory pass at the obvious contradiction between a liberal media and the way it treats labor issues, then never returns to the subject. Indeed, this failing points to the one major defect in Through Jaundiced Eyes. The author does such a thorough job of listing the many ways labor is maligned by the media that one is apt to overlook his failure to explore the underlying reasons for such chronic misrepresentation. Puette focuses on “how” labor is smeared by the media; the reader is left hungry for an equally thorough analysis of “why.” Puette comes closest to an answer to that question in his introduction, when, after conceding that anti-union sentiment is sometimes deliberate, he writes, “… more often, the negative portrayal appears to be representative of an institutional bias built into the various media’s systems and structures for gathering, producing, and disseminating news or entertainment.” In other words, Puette appears to argue, it’s 20 JANUARY 15, 1993 are to blame, it’s the system. That kind of explanation is, in the end, no explanation, at least in terms of useful information. It’s simply a variation on the tired defense of “no one is responsible because everyone is responsible.” Moreover, after casting blame on “the system,” Puette doesn’t even attempt to explain why the system of gathering, producing, and disseminating news is structured the way it is. So, let me finish with my own explanation of why the “news media system” works the way it does and what needs to be done to improve it: . First, the popular notion that the news media are organized around the mission of delivering news to the public is a complete falsehood. Actually, the news media are a group of companies with the mission of making money for stockholders. Their mission is commercial in nature and is structured around economics, not information. Second, the widely-held notion that readers and viewers are the clients of the news media is also a falsehood. The real clients are advertisers. Advertisers provide the electronic media all their income, and provide print media almost all their income \(for example, the subscription you pay for your newspaper probably Third, the real product the news media sell sumers who might buy the advertisers’ products. “News” just happens to be wrapping to entice readers/viewers, whose aggregate numbers as readers or viewers are used to justify certain advertising rates. \(This is why the media are more sensitive to ratings than to As a result, the news-media companies produce a product that advertisers are comfortable endorsing and to which enough consumers will pay attention, to justify collecting a certain amount of money from the advertisers. Fourth, given any conflict of interest between the consumers and the advertisers, the company will choose the advertisers. \(This is why you almost never see newspapers writing stories about the various hustles and scams automobile dealers run on folks trying to buy new cars; automobile dealers are probably the sinFifth, in their heart of hearts, reporters and editors understand that their interest in covering the news is subsidiary to the financial interests of their corporate employer. They pretend the case; nevertheless, they know it to be true. Sixth, reporters and editors also know that if they wish to remain gainfully employed, they must abide by many unstated, as well as stated, limits on reporting. Journalists, like the rest of us, have home mortgages, medical bills, school tuition, etc., to pay. Naturally, they are concerned about keeping their jobs. That’s why you rarely see a journalist insist on producing a news story that oversteps limits, i.e. threatens corporate income. The occasional exception to this limiting factor is widely praised by the media establishment and results in journalistic awards from admiring colleagues. The awards are then used for self-promotion by the news-media company which dared take a risk. In short, the profit-driven corporate structure of the news industry results in a corporate mentality that works its way through every level of the corporation, including the. newsroom. Part of that free-market, corporate mentality is a distrust of any group, movement or ideology which challenges corporate hegemony. Advocacy of socialism is an easy example. \(When’s the last time your local newspaper extreme examples include trade unionism, environmentalism and consumer advocacy, all of which potentially threaten to limit the powers, i.e. profits, of corporate capitalism. Of these threats, trade unionism is viewed by corporate owners and managers as the worst. Any ding-dong opposed to litter can claim to be an environmentalist, and everyone is a consumer, including the corporate executive buying a Mercedes Benz. But trade unionism is a direct challenge to corporate authority. Hell, what if the reporters in the newsroom went crazy and formed a union? As a result, corporate owners and managers disparage unions , at every opportunity, a fact not lost on reporters eager to keep their jobs and perhaps even receive wage increases and promotions. Besides, the reporters feel a kind of class antipathy towards trade unionists anyway \(Remember the aforeFinally, let me state my prescription for this state of affairs. My prescription does not require reporters to stop feeling like insiders in the political power-broking process; they are insiders, and they ought to readily and publicly admit it. Nor do I prescribe a solution by which reporters become zealous advocates of the downtrodden, the powerless, and movements such as trade unionism, which try to change the dynamics of political and economic power. My prescription is simple: Working journalists should challenge the “news media system” and insist on reporting the news more fairly. Reporters should put more pressure on their editors, and the editors should put more pressure on their publishers. In other words, journalists should apply the professional principles they pretend to have. Simple as that. Will that result in some folks getting fired? Yes. That’s not the end of the world. They’ll survive. Who ever said justice comes at no expense? And why should reporters be exempt from taking the same courageous, principled stands they so often criticize others for not taking? Moreover, if reporters want to increase their chances of keeping their jobs while acting on sound principle, then I suggest they take advantage of contractual due process protections by forming unions in the newsroom. While this would not be absolutely necessary for them, it would be helpful. So, am I asking too much? I think not. To ask less is to allow the individuals who make up the news media to continue behaving irresponsibly while blaming “the system.” In the meantime, I suggest they stop denying what everyone knows: That ratings drive news coverage, that news stories are slanted, that reporters avoid and editors kill stories that would anger advertisers, and so on. After all, we’re grownups. We can handle the truth. Why can’t they?