Thursday, October 04, 2012

CNN, conflict of interest, and international coverage

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/04/cnn-business-state-sponsored-news

It just so happens someone ran something by someone recently and someone decided to post a link to it.

Conflict of interest is a great (as in "terrible") way for the integrity of a journalistic enterprise to be compromised.  While I've heard people complain about liberal or conservative bias causing this or that disaster in the "mainstream" or "establishment" media conflict of interest would be far more dangerous.  Even a person with a significant bias may have to concede facts on the ground over against one's own bias.  But a conflict of interest can end up having the function of a bribe in which the story is in some sense bought already.  That's worse than "bias" because while a bias may blinker your vision a real conflict of interest can prompt you to lie and say that things are X when they are really Y and you know you're blowing smoke. 

It's been a few years since I studied in journalism coursework but a teacher once said that you're going to have biases.  Only a fool would think he or she has no biases.  The thing is that if you're a responsible journalist you won't let your biases get in the way of discovering what the facts are, even if the truth points to something you find objectionable or appalling.  If you're NOT willing to do that then you might as well admit that what you want to do is not journalism but marketing, advertising, or public relations.  Then it's not a conflict of interest to put the best spin on anything and everything, it's jsut a matter of whether you can go to sleep at night really believing in whatever you're selling.  That can still be honest, respectable work in a lot of cases.

Well, that's easier to grant in the abstrat than the concrete because there's something that feels weird about selling a bunch of people on stuff.  How do people do that?  By sincerely believing in what they're selling?  Maybe?  Meh, that's not the aim of a post such as this. 

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