Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Decline of U. S. Journalism

And How It Hurts Democracy
Updated:  Friday, November 13th, 2015
Note:
        I wrote and posted this essay entitled "Decline of U. S. Journalism on Wednesday, November 11th. The next day -- on Thursday, November 12th -- The New York Times had a major editorial entitled "Why Has Trust in the News Media Declined?" Because I believe a strong and brave democracy needs a strong and brave media, I invite you to read the The New York Times editorial as well as this Cubaninsider "editorial" that I updated today. The operative word is "Decline," which is very bad for the U. S. and democracy.
         This is Leslee Udwin, a great broadcast journalist. She was born in 1957 in Israel and she is England's greatest film-maker, and the winner of numerous "Best British Film" awards. Broadcast journalism in the United States does not have a Leslee Udwin because in the U. S. the two over-riding priorities are money and political correctness, neither of which afflicts Leslee Udwin's contributions to journalism.
         Leslee Udwin's latest documentary is entitled "India's Daughter." It is not only brilliant and topical, it is important. In recent days the routine rapes of women and children in India have made worldwide headlines. With courage and brilliance, Leslee Udwin's "India's Daughter" examines the portion of the patriarchal society in India, a democracy, that condones and tries to legalize this abominable practice.
          India has banned Leslee Udwin's "India's Daughter." Yet, as Ms. Udwin is informing the world, India condones 900 or so porn sites "as freedoms of expression in a democracy." Leslee Udwin believes that, for example, the two infants recently raped in India also deserved some democratic freedom.
        Leslee Udwin uses speaking engagements to promote "India's Daughter" in the hopes that India will relent and allow its people to view it. She is a superb speaker and her outrage over the rape of women, children, and infants should be observed and supported by all the decent people worldwide.
         Rana Ayyub is India's greatest investigative journalist. Bravely, brilliantly, and consistently, she has reported in India on female rights...especially the right of women, girls, and infants not to be raped.
      In my opinion, the grandest broadcast journalist in America is Kate O'brien. I believe if the great visionary Ted Turner was still in charge of his brainchild CNN, he would have Kate O'brien in charge of that network to set the example for all broadcast networks to emulate. For thirty years, starting right after she got out of college, Ms. O'brien was the prime dynamo in the radio and television news division at ABC. Safely ensconced as the top decision-maker at ABC News, she tired of the increasing demands of money-crazed executives to reduce covering news and concentrate on the less-expensive tactic of saturating newscasts with talking-head pundits, many of whom welcome the free airtime to promote themselves, their latest books, their blogs, etc. Kate O'brien left ABC-TV because she wanted to cover the news and not be a reservoir for talking-head pundits. She believed Aljazeera America provided that opportunity as long as its bosses in Doha, Qatar, let her be the boss. They agreed; she agreed. She hired 800 reporters and anchors -- including many of the very best on the planet, including John Shuster, John Siegenthaler, Ali Velchi, Sheila McVicar, Libby Casey, Stephanie Sy, Joie Chen, Soledad O'Brien, Andrew Simmons, Karl Penhall, Lisa Fletcher, Adrian Brown, Harry Fawsett, Jennifer Glasse, Ms. Charlie Angela, Rosalind Jordan, Nicole Mitchell, Mary Snow, Catherine Soi, Jonathan Betz, Del Walters, Patty Culhane, Mauhamad Jamjoon, etc. In addition to raiding U. S. and British networks, Ms. O'brien hired many of the best English-speaking journalists in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the volatile Middle East. For example, many Americans and Latin Americans believe the three best broadcast journalists covering Latin America are Lucia Newman, Teresa Bo, and Virginia Lopez -- all of whom now work for Kate O'brien. On YouTube you can view a 15-minute interview of Kate O'brien at Kent State University in which she expresses her disdain for talking heads and her love of actually sending talented reporters out to cover the news. She also is a strong advocate of pertinent documentaries and in the last week of October, 2015, her Aljazeera America network debuted two stunning documentaries -- one entitled "The Cost of News" about the murders or silencing of great journalists in countries such as Mexico and Russia; and one entitled "The Hostage Business" that documents such things as Western nations paying sums such as "$525,000" to terrorist kidnappers so they will free nationals and then the governments cover up the payments. TechKnow features her award-winning documentaries on the environment. In the first week of November she had top reporters covering pertinent stories such as damnable conditions on Indian reservations in the U. S. and why such a high percentage of black babies die in Cleveland. She has world-class reporters covering war and terrorist zones from Nigeria to Syria and beyond. Kate O'brien is the prime reason you should sample Aljazeera America because she prefers covering news important to Americans and disdains repetitive talking-head pundits other networks utilize as a cost-saving ploy. Kate O'brien, journalism's superstar!!
      This is Naomi Kikoler. She is a great lady. One of Kate O'brien's best reporters, Tom Ackerman, this week explained on Aljazeera America why she's a great person. She devotes her life to preventing genocide and reminding the world of the Holocaust, Rwanda, Serbia, etc. She is now making sure the world knows about the plight of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, especially the slaughter of Yazidi children.
     Naomi Kikoler works for The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. Her work is far more important and topical than biased opinions of talking heads on cable networks. At least, Kate O'brien believes that is so and I believe she is correct. Thanks, Ms. O'Brien. Now I know about Naomi Kikoler.
      To be perfectly fair, occasionally the Talking Head-obsessed U. S. networks send excellent investigative reporters to report on issues important to Americans. Hallie Jackson works for NBC News. This week Ms. Jackson was afforded airtime on NBC's prime 6:30 P. M. newscasts. She explained to us why the cost of prescription drugs in the U. S. are far, far higher than in any other Western nation. We already knew the reason was that, in the U. S., lobbyists and pharmaceutical companies can easily buy-off enough members of the U. S. Congress so they can maintain their absurd prices on prescription drugs. But it was still refreshing that Hallie Jackson and a mainstream newscast in the U. S. actually reminded us of that fact.  Hallie Jackson is a recent hire of NBC, which also has recently hired one of Kate O'brien's best journalists -- Morgan Radford. It's a reminder that Kate O'Brien's propensity for news gathering, opposed to Talking Heads, is beginning to influence the mainstream U. S. networks...and let's surely hope so.
         I think 27-year-old Morgan Radford is America's best young broadcast journalist, putting her in a virtual tie with Cuba's brilliant 27-year-old Cristina Escobar. Ms. Radford, a North Carolinian, graduated from Harvard and Columbia universities, interned at CNN, worked at ABC-News, and then was hired by Al Jazeera's Kate O'brien. But now NBC-News has hired talented Morgan Radford away from Al Jazeera.
         Elaine Diaz is a prime example of independent broadcast journalism taking flight in Cuba as the revolutionary government, thanks to a thawing of relations with the United States, opens up a bit...even to critical journalists. Elaine taught journalism for seven years at the University of Havana. Then she spent a year via a Peabody scholarship at Harvard University. Now she is back in Cuba with her own network and outstanding blog. She has hired reporters and is able to pay them starting salaries of $100 a month.
         Cristina Escobar, of course, is Cuba's superstar news anchor. As fluent in English as she is in Spanish, she is not afraid to criticize the Cuban government if she feels everyday Cubans are being mistreated in any manner. Americans may also recall the headlines Cristina garnered when she covered the last Vidal-Jacobson diplomatic session in Washington. She made it a poignant point on U. S. soil -- at a White House news conference and in subsequent interviews and speeches -- to denounce the U. S. media. While in Washington, she repeatedly said: "Lies told by the American media hurt everyday Cubans the most." As Cuba's top newscaster she says she is "more able to tell the truth regarding everyday Cubans than the politically correct U. S. broadcasters are." At age 27, Cristina is also the star of regional network newscasts and you can observe her talent on YouTube. Her influence on the island is huge and growing.
       Meanwhile, this ubiquitous image of Ana Navarro is a journalistic joke in the U. S. and a dire insult to Americans. Note that CNN identifies Ana Navarro as "a Political Commentator." That implies she is about to fill the airways with valuable, unbiased political information Americans need. Ana Navarro was born in Nicaragua but is a Miamian through and through. She has grown rich as a publicist/propagandist for Miami conservatives or right-wingers, working to promote people like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio -- her two favorites to be the next two presidents. She mostly saturates CNN but other U. S. networks use her because, as Kate O'Brien points out, talking-head pundits are a lot cheaper filling air space between commercials than actually going out and covering the news. To his credit, when he introduces Ana Navarro, CNN's Anderson Cooper often points out, "Ana is a promoter of Jeb Bush and a friend of Marco Rubio." How nice!! After that brilliant disclosure, Mr. Cooper permits Ana Navarro free airtime to propagandize Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in the guise of being an unbiased political journalist.
       
           Alex Castellanos was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1954. The Castro Industry in the U. S. has been a goldmine for Alex and many other Cuban-Americans. He too is a publicist/propagandist for conservative or right-wing Republicans. Usually without delineating his background, Alex is ubiquitous on CNN and other U. S. networks while being promoted as "a political commentator." Ted Turner, Kate O'Brien and others who respect great broadcast journalism surely cringe at U. S. networks who insult both journalism and their viewers with their emphasis on talking-head pundits. Kate O'Brien, when she left ABC-TV News for Aljazeera America, expressed that anti-talking head, anti-pundit opinion in the YouTube interview.
        Ted Turner, the visionary founder of CNN in 1980, is now 76-years-old and retired. Unfortunately, he sold CNN to corporate interests far more interested in money than news, thus the proliferation of talking heads. Ted Turner, like Kate O'Brien, relished sending good reporters out to cover real news. Except for O'Brien, cable news in the U. S. has evolved into a joke much funnier than Jon Stewart's former satirical puns on Comedy Central. When O'Brien left ABC-TV News for Al Jazeera America because she detested talking heads and loved covering news, it reflected the sorry state of the television news industry in the U. S. Also of significance, I believe, was/is the scathing analysis of the U. S. media by Cuba's young and highly respected top newscaster. Ted Turner's splendid vision, like a gradually expanding sinkhole, has dissolved into an abyss of greed in which talking heads have replaced actual news coverage. 
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