‘Unseen influences’ taint media


Sharyl Attkisson, a former CBS News reporter, alleged her computer was hacked by a government agency for reasons that include an attempt to conceal the causes of the 2012 Benghazi attack.

Attkisson recently discussed “the unseen influences on and manipulation of the images and information the public receives in the media.” She quite her job at CBS News because she did not like the way the network avoided stories it feared would illicit pushback from corporations or politicians. She warned that “unseen and undisclosed paid interests are behind the images.” In essence, “PR officials and propagandists may organize and fan out… to manipulate information and give the impression that there is great support for or opposition to an issue or person,” she explained.

What this means for the public is that content must be digested and contemplated thoroughly. People must become more active readers and think critically to decide whether a story is likely to be reliable.

This places undue burden on the public, since people can’t be experts in every field and since their full-time job is not as an investigative journalist.

The press is fundamental to a healthy democracy. For it to function properly, networks must not be agenda-driven, accept bribery, or be fearful of government or corporate retaliation. As one opinion columnist for The Guardian put it, the media need to stop being a “lapdog” and return to being a “watchdog.” Every appropriate measure must be taken to present accurate, unbiased information to the people it serves, the public.