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#4131: Performance of journalists: Chamberlain answers Jetphire (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>

Jetphire@aol.com wrote:

>Another thing to keep in mind when reading press stories from Haiti is
they have been edited by people who are not in Haiti for the sake of
the story. There are many wonderful stories written about Haiti that never 
make it to the mainstream press or the wire services-even positive stories.

Newspapers are about making money and selling stories, and with Haiti 
the topics of violence, poverty, and political controversy seem to be the 
most lucrative subjects. 


This is a cliche, that the only interest is in hard-selling the news, and 
is, again, part of the imaginary organised plot to systematically lie to 
the public.

News is, by definition, the unusual, the exception, the surprise.  
A newspaper or news organisation will simply provide this.  You don't 
need to hard-sell such material to normally curious human beings out 
for intellectual or emotional stimulation.  We'll all go for it anyway. 
"imposed" business is so demeaning, as if we're all victims.  We're not.

To read "good news," we generally have to look to things like bibles, 
books, magazines and propaganda (cheerful peasants in the fields, 
utopias described in political manifestos or government-controlled 

So take your pick.  But don't ask news organs to provide material that 
isn't news.  They can and do contain "good" news about Haiti, but it will 
be "good" news that is also the unusual, exceptional or unexpected.  
And will always in turn defer to news that is _more_ unusual etc., 
usually "bad" news.  

I would ask critics how they would produce a big newspaper, say, that 
was full of the "good" news they talk about and that many people would 
be inclined to read or buy.  Without turning the paper into a propaganda 
sheet or a Bible or a university thesis, and without producing one with 
no news about conflicts and all the other such "bad" news we are all 
concerned about.

We should remember that the perennial critics of journalists and 
editors (95% of whom have no interest whatsoever in lying to the public
and do not do so) are at the same time blithely absorbing what they 
read, see or hear in the media in an overwhelmingly uncritical manner.  
It is when they simply _do not like_ a piece of news -- that Aristide, say,

might be corrupt, or that Haiti is very poor -- that their theory of the
rottenness of the media is put forward.  A foolish theory.  

I can't easily forget the outrage among these "critics" just after the coup
when the New York Times ran an interesting story (among many others)
trying to portray the sick minds of the MREs and the astonishing degree
of hatred they had for Aristide.  Very interesting.  I would've thought 
anyone would've wanted to know about that.  But no, these "critics" said 
it was a criminal outrage to print such a story, that we had, in effect, no
right to know those things.

I would hate to have people like this in charge of the media.  These are 
the totalitarians.  The people would have us all in jail for simply
disagreeing with them.

        Greg Chamberlain