Monday, October 15, 2007
The unassailable integrity of the mainstream media
LTG (RET) RICARDO SANCHEZ ADDRESSES THE IRAQ PRESS CORPS:
Tough reporting relies upon integrity, objectivity and fairness to give accurate and thorough accounts that strengthen our freedom of the press and in turn our democracy. Unfortunately, I have issued ultimatums to some of you for unscrupulous reporting that was solely focused on supporting your agenda and preconceived notions of what our military had done.
I have refused to talk to the European Stars and Stripes for the last two years of my command in Germany for their extreme bias and single-minded focus on Abu Ghraib.
Let me review some of the descriptive phrases that have been used by some of you that have made my personal interfaces with the press corps difficult: "dictatorial and somewhat dense", "not a strategic thought", "liar", "does not get it" and "inexperienced."
In some cases I have never even met you, yet you feel qualified to make character judgments that are communicated to the world. My experience is not unique and we can find other examples such as the treatment of Secretary Brown during Katrina.
This is the worst display of journalism imaginable by those of us that are bound by a strict value system of selfless service, honor and integrity. Some of you will compromise your integrity and display questionable ethics as you seek to keep America informed.
Personal reputations have no value and you report with total impunity and are rarely held accountable for unethical conduct.
The responsibility to accurately and truthfully report takes on an unprecedented importance. The speculative and often uninformed initial reporting that characterizes our media appears to be rapidly becoming the standard of the industry.
Your unwillingness to accurately and prominently correct your mistakes and your agenda driven biases contribute to this corrosive environment. All of these challenges combined create a media environment that does a tremendous disservice to America.
Over the course of this war tactically insignificant events have become strategic defeats for America because of the tremendous power and impact of the media and by extension you the journalist.
When you assume that you are correct and on the moral high ground on a story because we have not responded to questions you provided is the ultimate arrogance and distortion of ethics.
The code of ethics for the society of professional journalists states: ...The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.... Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility.
The death knell of your ethics has been enabled by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with political agendas. What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service-members who are at war.
My assessment is that your profession, to some extent, has strayed from these ethical standards and allowed external agendas to manipulate what the American public sees on TV, what they read in our newspapers and what they see on the web. For some of you, just like some of our politicians, the truth is of little to no value if it does not fit your own preconceived notions, biases and agendas.
It is astounding to me when I hear the vehement disagreement with the military's forays into information operations that seek to disseminate the truth and inform the Iraqi people in order to counter our enemy's blatant propaganda. As I assess various media entities, some are unquestionably engaged in political propaganda that is uncontrolled.
Finally, I will leave this subject with a question that we must ask ourselves--who is responsible for maintaining the ethical standards of the profession in order to ensure that our democracy does not continue to be threatened by this dangerous shift away from your sacred duty of public enlightenment?
Our nation has a crisis in leadership. While politicians espouse their rhetoric designed to preserve their political power... our soldiers die!
The Administration, Congress... must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure... there has been a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders.
Since 2003, the politics of war have been characterized by partisanship.
Clearly, mistakes have been made by the American military in its application of power, but even its greatest failure in this war can be linked to America's lack of commitment... without the sacrifices of our magnificent young men and women in uniform, Iraq would be chaotic well beyond anything experienced to date.
America has no choice but to continue our efforts in Iraq. At no time in America's history has there been more of a need for bipartisan cooperation.
Our National Security Council has been a catastrophic failure... it seems that Congress recognizes that the military cannot achieve victory alone in this war. Yet they continue to demand victory from our military. ...In my profession, these types of leaders would immediately be relieved or courtmartialed.
I remain optimistic... our military must embrace you for the sake of our democracy, but you owe them ethical journalism. Thank you for this opportunity. May God bless you and may God bless America.
NEW YORK TIMES:
Hat tips: Hugh Hewitt, Powerline, and USA Today