Independent Media: Why it matters.

In a recent issue of the New York Times, I saw no fewer than three stories that illustrate problems with corporate media. And when I say corporate media, I mean any media source that depends on:

        1. Ad revenue
        2. Stockholder/owner approval of stories
        3. Relationships with government, business, or other interested “sources”

Any news provider that depends on any of those things is susceptible to lying, fudging, and under-reporting.

The first article relates to this is about Bloomberg News knuckling under to the Chinese government, which was getting tired of Bloomberg running critical pieces and had ordered them to stop:

Bloomberg News is Said to Curb Articles
That Might Anger China

* * * * *

. . . [the editor at Bloomberg] defended his decision [to kill a story critical of Chinese leaders], comparing it to the self-censorship by foreign news bureaus trying to preserve their ability to report inside Nazi-era Germany, according to Bloomberg employees familiar with the discussion.

“He said, ‘If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China,’ ” one of the employees said. Less than a week later, a second article, about the children of senior Chinese officials employed by foreign banks, was also declared dead, employees said.

In another piece from the same issue, CBS is seen apologizing for a major gaffe their “60 Minutes” show had made on the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya last year. This wasn’t a case of knuckling under on CBS’ part; it was just sloppy-ass journalism. (Sloppy-ass journalism results from the corporate media’s fixation on sensationalism, which in turn results from the need to sell lots of laundry soap.) The “60 Minutes Apology” piece illustrates the danger of journalists relying on approved government sources to tell the truth about the government. (As if we didn’t know that already.)

CBS to Correct Erroneous Report on Benghazi

[CBS News] executive, Jeff Fager, conceded that CBS appeared to have been duped by the primary source for the report, a security official who told a national television audience a harrowing tale of the attack last year at the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. On Thursday night it was disclosed that the official, Dylan Davies, had provided a completely different account in interviews with the F.B.I., in which he said he never made it to the mission that night.

No doubt the NY Times is glad to crow about CBS’s fuck-up, since it shows that the Times isn’t the only brand-name news outlet that gets duped by government “sources.” (See a great piece about Times reporter Judith Miller and how her parroting of the Bush Administration’s narrative on WMDs helped ignite the Iraq War: HERE)

Although the Times is far less likely to run another WMD-type piece, they continue the tradition of sloppy-assed reporting on other subjects. In the same issue alluded to above, there’s a story about Boeing contract negotiations:

Boeing Warns WA Could Lose 777X if Labor Deal Is Rejected

This piece is all about how Boeing will pick up its toys and go play somewhere else if the union doesn’t cave on wages and bennies for the next contract:

Over the last two decades, it has outsourced much of the parts construction to foreign firms. And with thousands of sales expected for its new 787 Dreamliners, which use lighter-weight materials and new engines to cut fuel costs, Boeing built the second assembly line in North Charleston.

Boeing owns more land in North Charleston, giving it a bargaining chip as it seeks to lower costs in Washington.

But its profits also have rebounded now that the 787s are being delivered to airlines, its stock has soared to highs, and Boeing and its main rival, Airbus, envision selling as many planes as they can build over the next several decades.

The only problem is the last time Boeing tried finding another sandbox, they got sand kicked in their faces.

Supposedly Boeing’s leverage lies in the concept that it can continue to outsource all phases of production to places where labor costs are cheaper, without any negative consequences to itself. That is certainly not true, and NY Times reporter is either being dense or deceptive by failing to tell the whole story of the 787 Dreamliner. Absent from the discussion is any mention of the Dreamliner’s catastrophic battery failure, which was in the national news for months last winter. The battery failure – which caused the FAA to ground the US fleet – while the batteries were fixed, was almost certainly a result of Boeing’s decision to outsource the Dreamliner too aggressively. See this article from the Seattle Times for a more honest treatment of the Dreamliner:

Boeing 787’s problems blamed on outsourcing, lack of oversight

Boeing has never made batteries, and the electrical systems on all its jets have always been sourced from outside suppliers, just like the engines and the landing gear. In that respect, the 787 is not different from Boeing jets like the 777 and the 737, both renowned for their reliability.

However, what is very different on the 787 is the structure of the outsourcing.

On the Dreamliner, Boeing contracted with a top tier of about 50 suppliers, handing them complete control of the design of their piece of the plane.

Those major partners had to make the upfront investment, share the risk and own their design. Each was responsible for managing its own subcontractors.

“For the 787, they changed the structure” of the supply chain, said Christopher Tang, professor of business administration at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and lead author of a much-cited 2009 case study of outsourcing on the 787. “You only know what’s going on with your tier 1 supplier. You have no visibility, no coordination, no real understanding of how all the pieces fit together.

The Seattle Times can hardly be accused of being biased against the Boeing Company. If anything, they gave Boeing the kid gloves treatment . . . but they simply couldn’t ignore this aspect of the outsourcing story. So why did the New York Times ignore it?

Two words: Corporate Journalism.

Here at The Blog Quixotic, we’re small, but at least we’re honest. We don’t run off advertising, so we don’t have to worry about displeasing our corporate masters.

We don’t depend on government sources, so we don’t have to worry about whether we’re being told the truth.

And we sure as HELL don’t depend on the goodwill of the People’s Republic of China.

As it happens, I haven’t had occasion to write any news stories about the new capitalist elite of China (I generally stick closer to corruption here at home, in Seattle) but I have been threatened by lawyers, and I have had government officials lie to me, repeatedly. But I didn’t knuckle under, and I didn’t get taken in.

–David Preston


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