Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Arm chair journalism, parasite reporters and editorial scams

Arm chair journalism, parasite reporters and editorial scams

Arm chair journalists, parasite reporters and editorial scams: Editors go to a great deal of effort to deceive and hustle profits

By Brenda Norrell

As if censorship wasn't enough, there's a pervasive trend in the news, called "arm chair journalism." That's news that comes from reporters sitting in their chairs and making a phone or call or two, then writing news stories as if they were present.

It happens because editors and publishers don't want to pay the expenses of reporters to go out on news stories. (In some cases, the reporters are lazy.) So, what you have, and what you are reading much of the time, is an article based on a phone call or two.

Sometimes the arm chair journalist is actually plagiarizing, basing their article on another reporter's work. Those are carefully rewritten, to disguise the truth. Some reporters have done this type of parasitic reporting for decades. Ask around, has anyone actually ever seen this reporter out on a news story.

Other times, the so-called news article is actually a press release that has been rewritten. These articles of spin, "all dressed up with no place to go," are self-serving statements when issued by the wealthy or politicians. These spin doctors who write press releases receive about $40,000 to $80,000 annually at the local, tribal or state level, and more at the corporate level. The goal is to twist the truth and deceive the reader, while campaigning and profiteering.

Of course, grassroots people don't have that kind of money, the kind that governments, corporations and politicians have.

This creates another dilemma in the news. Editors always tell reporters to get the "other side of the story," when Indian grassroots people are being quoted. However, when the statements of politicians or corporations are published, editors seldom press for quotes from the "other side of the story," those of the grassroots people.

Editors usually assume politicians and corporations tell the truth. Editors seem to think grassroots people are more likely to lie. However, based on my 25 years of news reporting, I would say it is the other way around. I have found that politicians and corporations are the ones who twist the facts and lie.

In the media, watch for the public relations spin, news articles that are actually press releases, including those from tribal politicians. These are often tagged "staff reports."Another way that corporate newspapers reduce their expenses is to use AP articles, rather than staff-written articles. When it comes to Indian issues, The Associated Press usually promotes the interests of big corporations and state and federal governments, over the concerns of Indigenous Peoples.

AP articles usually focus on crimes committed by Indian people and corporate and federal interests. AP seldom champions the human rights of Indigenous Peoples. The choice of words is also derogatory, as with the AP favorite phrase "sprawling Navajo Nation."

The next time you're reading your favorite news publication, glance through and see how many articles are written by AP. Then, examine each article and look for the amount of space given to the voices of grassroots people.

If you feel like you've just been had while reading your favorite newspaper, contact the editor or writer and ask if the writer was actually at the event or place they are writing about.

If there's no name on the article or editorial, ask them who wrote it. Ghost writers are common when it comes to editorials. Ask the writer's name and professional background.These questions will keep them honest.

There's only one way to know the truth and it requires being present.

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008: www.earthcycles.net/
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