Media: What is it good for?


Are government-funded “news” broadcasts legal? Are they propaganda? California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Bush administration have both come under quite a bit of fire regarding their use of pre-packaged “public releases,” which are basically government-produced video segments made to look like independent reporting. The General Accounting Office (GAO) called the segments “propaganda,” but that whip-cracking hardly seemed to faze the Bush administration, which has made it clear it will continue with its “news” production.

It would be easy to rant on about the evils of government propaganda, but an even more disturbing issue is at work here. The Bush administration has refused to stop producing these news videos, it seems, because they don’t see anything wrong with them, and don’t think that independent media serves any unique purpose. After all, White House Chief of Staff Andy Card said back in January that he didn’t think the press had a “check and balance function.” Likewise, the president himself once told a reporter, “You’re assuming that you represent the public. I don’t accept that.”

Unfortunately, the White House has more or less made these assertions true. The fact that the administration was able to buy off journalists like Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus nicely illustrates that many journalists really don’t represent the public. And with news networks failing to make amply clear that these “news” segments they broadcasted were funded by the government, the media’s function as a check-and-balance goes out the window too.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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