Ever wondered what a “professional journalist” needs to do to get promoted or succeed in a mainstream media organisation? (Image courtesy of homepage.mac.com forwarded by Surind. The Asian version is shown below courtesy of bigozine2.com forwarded by Michael.)
Here’s an excerpt of a brillant must-read article about how the corporate media weeds out and sidelines journalists who think independently and differently (i.e. those who don’t subscribe to their corporate values). It’s written by the Nazareth-based freelance journalist Jonathan Cook.
If they are to survive long, writers must quickly learn what the news desk expects of them. Newcomers are given a small amount of leeway to adopt angles that are “not suitable”. But they are also expected to learn quickly why such articles are unsuitable and not to propose similar reports again.
The advantage of this system is that high-profile sackings are a great rarity. Editors hardly ever need to bare their teeth against an established journalist because few make it to senior positions unless they have already learnt how to toe the line.
The media’s lengthy filtering system means that it is many years before the great majority of journalists get the chance to write with any degree of freedom for a national newspaper, and they must first have proved their “good judgment” many times over to a variety of senior editors. Most have been let go long before they would ever be in a position to influence the paper’s coverage.
Journalists, of course, see this lengthy process of recruitment as necessary to filter for “quality” rather than to remove those who fail to conform or whose reporting threatens powerful elites. The media are supposedly applying professional standards to find those deserving enough to reach the highest ranks of journalism.
But, of course, these goals – finding the best, and weeding out the non-team players – are not contradictory. The system does promote outstanding “professional” journalists, but it ensures that they also subscribe to orthodox views of what journalism is there to do. The effect is that the media identify the best propagandists to promote their corporate values.
Cook is writing about his experience in the UK press, but I am sure a somewhat similar process of ensuring that journalists absorb the “corporate values” of their respective media organisations occurs here in Malaysia as well. If Malaysian journalists don’t consciously try to second-guess the slant their editors and the owners of the corporate media organisations would prefer and adopt their values, then these journalists are not likely to “make it”. If they do, then they are likely to be rewarded with fat salaries, perks and bonuses (six months bonus, for instance – ring a bell?).
For example, when was the last time you saw a report in a major newspaper in Malaysia naming and shaming a major corporation for environmental pollution or for undermining workers’ rights? When was the last time you read a report featuring migrant workers speaking about their experience of working for a multinational corporation?
So in the end, the journalism we see in the mainstream media on the whole tends to reflect the “corporate values” (and political affiliations) of their owners, chief editors (and let’s not forget the advertisers) rather than the interests of the ordinary people. Check out Cook’s full article here.
Perhaps local journalists can share with us some of their experiences of the “filtering” process in Malaysia in the comments below.