MEDIA BLUES

                  Melbourne, January 26, 2008 - The corporate mass media, more interested in profits then information, keeps
slashing jobs and news bureaus to satisfy shareholders and their own executives whose wealth and future is tied to their
product’s quote on the stock market.
                
The result is a drop in readership, a plunge in media credibility and an erosion of the public’s
right to information untainted by official and corporate deception or the soap bubble techniques of public
relations. What the corporate media presents today is what corporations and governments want us to know,
not what we should know.
                    Sometimes an ‘old school journalist’ rebels against this continuous retrenchment. He is then fired,
classified as ‘out of synch with reality.’
                    Such is the case of James E. O’Shea who was dismissed as editor of the Los Angeles Times because
he refused to cut his paper’s budget and called for creativity instead of retrenchment. He argued in a year of the
Beijing Olympics and a presidential election the news coverage required more not less funds to offer excellence to
readers. The paper - in its heydays probably America’s finest - had already lost two of its previous editors over the
same dispute.
                    So what made O’Shea, my former boss, throw in the towel?
                    For 28 years he had been a loyal company soldier of the Chicago Tribune, the flagship of the Tribune
Company’s media empire, a man who had seen others tossed into the frying pan of corporate morality and watched
news stories ‘softened’ or altered to avoid problems with advertisers and ethnic minorities.
                   He saw the Tribune ‘filter’ the Internet for its employees.
                    Tribune Company’s new owner, real estate magnate Sam Zell, this month ordered the filters removed.
He argued if the media giant he had just purchased was to be free it should have access to uncensored information and
then use it according to their judgment. We do not know if Zell fired the ‘company censors’ who had decided to
filter the ‘Net in the first place.
                   Like all new owners, Zell  -who acquired Tribune Company for a reported $8.2 billion - urged his employees
to speak out, to challenge the decisions of their editors and supervisors. He promised they would only ‘earn respectâ
€™ if they spoke out. But when O’Shea did speak out he was fired.
                  (One is reminded of Mao Testung’s One Hundred Flowers campaign when he urged his critics to voice
their dissent without fear. When they did speak up he had them all arrested.)
                  
As a former investigative journalist O’Shea appreciated the need for funds to run the kind of
in-depth investigations that leads to Watergates. Corporate budget cuts have made such inquests a rare
luxury. This drought in exposes has granted the establishment a free ride and reduced the mass media’s
role to polite hand-clapping and diligent lip service to PR slogans and official deceit.            
                    Perhaps, like others whose children have grown up and whose mortgages have been paid off, O’Shea
decided to leave his profession on the high ground saying what should have been said a long time ago, that is: You can
not improve quality in the media with staff and budget cuts or by consistently kowtowing to those who have the potential
power to damage your profits.
                   The case reminds me of a friend of mine who is working as an executive for a major luxury automaker. He
complained that once his company started to slash employment and farm out components to cheaper third world firms
around the globe the end product, the car, suffered not only a marked deterioration in quality but lost its traditional
customers and its reputation.
                  May be the same lament can be applied to those once respected media outlets now gutted by business
tycoons who play them on the stock market and stash them with accountants, managers and share consultants instead of
reporters. (endit)