Democratic Underground

40 years from now, will Fox and other corporate media admit to their distortions?

July 10, 2004
By Dan Gougherty

For the Lexington Herald-Leader, this year’s July Fourth edition was historic. The Kentucky newspaper used the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to issue a front-page clarification and story on its complicity and negligence in its local coverage of what it said was one of the century’s biggest stories, the American civil rights struggle.

The clarification read “It has come to the editor's attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement. We regret the omission.”

The story went on to note that while it gave occasional front-page coverage to major national civil rights events, local stories concerning the movement were frequently buried deep in the paper, often without a reporters byline.

In admitting it negligence the story went on to say “The omissions by the city's two newspapers, the Lexington Herald and the Lexington Leader, weren't simply mistakes or oversights, according to local civil rights leaders and former employees of the newspapers. The papers' management actively sought to play down the movement.”

At the time Lexington, Kentucky was not unlike other cities in that it had two major newspapers. While both of the then-independent newspapers were negligent in local coverage of the civil rights movement, there were literally thousands of other independently owned newspapers, radio and television station that adequately covered the struggle.

This of course begs the question – if the civil rights struggle were happening today would the Herald-Leader take the same editorial stance? While it is hard to say how one publication in a medium sized market would cover it, given the consolidation of media and its overwhelming influence our question should be how are the big media outlets covering the major story of our day, the war in Iraq, for a possible answer. Are they accurately covering this story?

In short, the answer is no.

You don’t have to look too far to see the failings, if not outright distortions, the media has committed in its coverage of the war in Iraq. The most egregious and well documented example is of course Fox News.

While Fox’s coverage of the war has been nothing short of a noise machine for the neo-conservatives, corporate-backed think tanks and the Bush administration in general, they are not alone. The standard bearer of American, if not global journalism, the New York Times has admitted in a front page story that is was less than thorough in its coverage of the events leading to Bush’s war on Iraq.

Painful as it is to mention the Times and Fox in the same sentence, both are nonetheless guilty of complicity. The only difference between the two is the degree of complicity and the fact the Times has admitted their guilt.

In 40 years, how likely is it that Fox, or any other major corporate owned media outlets, will admit to its failure in covering the war in Iraq as the Herald-Leader recently did with civil rights? Given the speed of media consolidation and their increasingly cozy relationship with the government, that answer would have to be no.

While the domination of the major media is almost all encompassing, there are signs of hope. Throughout the world a new breed of media, specifically bloggers, has sprung to life giving voice to those who refuse to conform to the spoon fed news spewing from the major corporations. Along with the blogger movement, there is a small but rapidly growing movement of low-power community-owned radio stations afoot.

While we cannot realistically expect media outlets such as Fox to admit to their guilt now, much less 40 years into the future, history might well judge the growth of internet new sources, bloggers and community owned radio stations as the rebirth of the media and our democracy.

Visit Dan Gougherty's blog at

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