Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sewer Journalism at its best

By: Choo Sing Chye

When I flipped open the newspaper the other day, I noticed a report that caught my eyes. It was about a report on the ‘special relationship’ between Anwar and Azmin.

I read it with disdain because it was iniquitous and deceitful. It was devoid of any news value.

Was it a plant to mislead readers to prejudge? Conspicuously, they will, if they are not careful about the trappings of the report which were laced with shadowy sexual intonations?

In the report, Nalla claimed that there was a ‘special relationship’ between Anwar and Azmin and then followed by a few other jokers mouthing the relationship in chorus.

Why the hell did the paper see fit to print this report? There were no specifics as to what ‘special relationship’ meant. It was speculative, it could mean something sexual or nothing. But the slant of the report makes it suspicious, I mean very suspicious.

Well all the while, I honestly thought that local journalism and electronic media had struck rock bottom a few months ago when they gave credence to the T4BH (Truth for Teoh Beng Hock) blog.

Hell, was I wrong!

Leave it to the local media, they are so intuitive that they will somehow or rather locate ways to hit new bottoms undeniably lower than the one they had landed previously.

This ‘special relationship’ report would have been the ultimate case-study for my Journalism Professor who used to regard this type of reporting as ‘Sewer Journalism’.

Needless to continue anymore on ‘sewer journalism,’ here is a story of two brave men and their desire for truth brought the most feared and powerful man down to his knees with their investigative journalism.

It was in the early 50's, the age of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the age where the Right­ Wingers gone mad in America. Just about anyone who was accused by his fearsome committee* of being a communist meant instant dismissal and blacklisting.

Television and newspapers carefully toed the line and were seemingly doped with fear of him and the Right Wingers in the government. Nobody dared to utter unkind words about the government unless she or he wanted a long meaningful career made short.

News were propagated in the form of boring "airport interviews and the 'jolly good fellow,’ type of stuff that had no news value which virtually amounted to government propaganda.

Two men stood against all these. They were Ed Marrow and Fred Friendly. Ed Marrow, a journalist with the CBS and his producer Fred Friendly decided to make a critical examination of Senator McCarthy.

They examined nearly a million feet of film on McCarthy's committee hearings and every speech that he had made. They found out from their research that McCarthy used newspapers and television to character assassinate Americans who he thought were communist and his method of accusing unfortunate Americans was akin to witch-hunting. As a result of this, the Americans were led to believe that there were communist agents under their beds.

The stage was set when McCarthy wrongly accused the Army Chief Counsel, Joseph Welsh of having a communist, a 19 year old boy in his law firm.

Marrow and Friendly bought a quarter page advertisement in the newspapers for their crucial television broadcast, ‘See It Now,’ with money from their own pockets because CBS itself refused to have anything to do with their little venture of criticising and attacking the powerful McCarthy. CBS even went to the extent of disallowing them to use the CBS logo.

The climax came when Joseph Welsh in front of 20 million television viewers, stunned McCarthy with these words:
“Little did I dream that you could be so reckless and so cruel as to do injury to this lad. It is I regret that to say equally true that I fear that he shall always bear the scar, needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty, I will do so. Let us not assassinate this lad further... have you no sense of decency? Sir,…Mr. McCarthy. You've done enough. I will not discuss with you further. You, Mr. Chairman may as you will, call the next witness."
The mighty McCarthy stood there humiliated - destroyed by a simple truth. The witch-hunt was over.

It is sad that most of our media, whether paper or electronic, are sycophantic in nature. The absent of moral and social motivation to fight for social justice is deafening.

They know that as long they manipulate news, their privileged positions are safe. They are not willing to part with their BMWs and Istana/s. To them, truth is not an important commodity – it is cheap.

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