activist journalism Finnish media Helsingin Sanomat Keskisuomalainen media bias

US Gen. Speech Blasts Journalists, Media Reports Only Criticism of Iraq War…….

The recent speech by retired Lt.Gen. Ricardo Sanchez has generated some buzz in the US mainstream media and abroad, for his harsh criticism of the Bush administrations handling of the Iraq war. I first got wind of it from an AP article linked from the Drudge Report, that quotes the general, stating:

“The U.S. mission in Iraq is a “nightmare with no end in sight” because of political misjudgments after the fall of Saddam Hussein that continue today”

I then read a post at Power Line blog, that was more illuminating and factual about the speech by Sanchez, than the original AP article itself. It appears that the US media, and the Finnish media as well, CHOSE to highlight only a fraction of the article that was critical of the present US administrations handling of the Iraq war.

According to Powerline, which published some excerpts from the speech:

“If the Bush administration gets attacked, the press will report it. But what if someone attacks the press? If the attack goes unreported, did it ever really happen?”

Here is a portion of Gen.Sanchez’s speech that the media, including the Helsingin Sanomat, Keskisuomalainen and MTV3 News, CHOSE not to print or mention, then go ahead and wonder ….why?

“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen

Some of you may not believe this but i am glad to be here. When sig asked me if i would consider addressing you there was no doubt that i should come into the lion’s den. This was important because i have firmly believed since desert shield that it is necessary for the strength of our democracy that the military and the press corps maintain a strong, mutually respectful and enabling relationship. This continues to be problematic for our country, especially during times of war. One of the greatest military correspondents of our time, joe galloway, made me a believer when he joined the 24th infantry division during desert storm.

Today, i will attempt to do two things – first i will give you my assessment of the military and press relationship and then i will provide you some thoughts on the current state of our war effort. As all of you know i have a wide range of relationships and experiences with our nations military writers and editors. There are some in your ranks who i consider to be the epitome of journalistic professionalism – joe galloway, thom shanker, sig christensen, and john burns immediately come to mind. They exemplify what america should demand of our journalists – tough reporting that relies upon integrity, objectivity and fairness to give accurate and thorough accounts that strengthen our freedom of the press and in turn our democracy. On the other hand, unfortunately, i have issued ultimatums to some of you for unscrupulous reporting that was solely focused on supporting your agenda and preconcieved notions of what our military had done. I also refused to talk to the european stars and stripes for the last two years of my command in germany for their extreme bias and single minded focus on abu gharaib.

Let me review some of the descriptive phrases that have been used by some of you that have made my personal interfaces with the press corps difficult:

“dictatorial and somewhat dense”,

“not a strategic thought”,

Liar,

“does not get it” and

The most inexperienced ltg.

In some cases i have never even met you, yet you feel qualified to make character judgments that are communicated to the world. My experience is not unique and we can find other examples such as the treatment of secretary brown during katrina. This is the worst display of journalism imaginable by those of us that are bound by a strict value system of selfless service, honor and integrity. Almost invariably, my perception is that the sensationalistic value of these assessments is what provided the edge that you seek for self agrandizement or to advance your individual quest for getting on the front page with your stories! As i understand it, your measure of worth is how many front page stories you have written and unfortunately some of you will compromise your integrity and display questionable ethics as you seek to keep america informed. This is much like the intelligence analysts whose effectiveness was measured by the number of intelligence reports he produced. For some, it seems that as long as you get a front page story there is little or no regard for the “collateral damage” you will cause. Personal reputations have no value and you report with total impunity and are rarely held accountable for unethical conduct.

Given the near instantaneous ability to report actions on the ground, the responsibility to accurately and truthfully report takes on an unprecedented importance. The speculative and often uninformed initial reporting that characterizes our media appears to be rapidly becoming the standard of the industry. An arab proverb states – “four things come not back: the spoken word, the spent arrow, the past, the neglected opportunity.” once reported, your assessments become conventional wisdom and nearly impossible to change. Other major challenges are your willingness to be manipulated by “high level officials” who leak stories and by lawyers who use hyperbole to strenghten their arguments. Your unwillingness to accurately and prominently correct your mistakes and your agenda driven biases contribute to this corrosive environment. All of these challenges combined create a media environment that does a tremendous disservice to america.

Over the course of this war tactically insignificant events have become strategic defeats for america because of the tremendous power and impact of the media and by extension you the journalist. In many cases the media has unjustly destroyed the individual reputations and careers of those involved. We realize that because of the near real time reporting environment that you face it is difficult to report accurately. In my business one of our fundamental truths is that “the first report is always wrong.” unfortunately, in your business “the first report” gives americans who rely on the snippets of cnn, if you will, their “truths” and perspectives on an issue. As a corollary to this deadline driven need to publish “initial impressions or observations” versus objective facts there is an additional challenge for us who are the subject of your reporting. When you assume that you are correct and on the moral high ground on a story because we have not respond to questions you provided is the ultimate arrogance and distortion of ethics. One of your highly respected fellow journalists once told me that there are some amongst you who “feed from a pig’s trough.” if that is who i am dealing with then i will never respond otherwise we will both get dirty and the pig will love it. This does not mean that your story is accurate.

This pretty much sums up the medias’ coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and last year’s war between Israel and Lebanon. Sadly, the media mediocrity and bias is nothing new here, just the names of the parties in conflict and the field of battle. *L* KGS

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