Below is a response from retired U.S. reporter, Garry Anderson (together with my subsequent reply) to a comment I made in an article regarding gun owners on teepee12′s blog, Serendipity (http://wp.me/s2bT5l-13781).
I include it here, with Garry’s kind permission, in an effort to clarify my stance, lest I become guilty of the very things I find deplorable in media bosses – inciting people to irrationality and fear through the brainwashing methods of repetitious hype, half-truths, false and misleading information, fanaticism, and religious/politically-biased generalizations. And let’s not forget the media’s apparent addiction to sensationalism, at the expense of human compassion and decency.
My aim is to encourage people to wake up and question what’s being cooked up and served to them, be it religious, political, or both.
Please note that I’m referring only to traditional forms of media; television, radio, newspapers and magazines and the raping of the public psyche, whether the public desires to be psychologically and emotionally raped, or not.
I don’t include the internet, simply because it’s entirely a matter of actively seeking out what one chooses to view online, and involves taking the time to utilize search engines. Radio, television, newspapers and magazines, however, don’t simply allow one to only see, hear, or read what they originally intended to see, hear, or read; they surround and wrap it in toxicity and venom, in callous disregard for one’s intelligence.
I also apologize in advance for the size, colour and style of font in copying and pasting our communications across. Being technologically challenged in the first place, I near pulled my hair out trying to match it all up, before giving up entirely.
Email from Garry Anderson (I took the liberty of breaking it down into paragraphs for ease of reading):
I was trying to find a way of writing you after reading your comments to my Wife’s (Teepee12) blog about guns. I’m retired after more than 40 years as a TV and radio news reporter at Network and local levels, including 31 years at Boston’s Ch-7. I covered many controversial stories — international, national and local. Wars, politics, race riots, fires, and the inevitable street violence among many other daily news staples. I always strove to be fair and objective.
Sometimes that got me in trouble with the “suits” (My bosses) to the point where they threatened to fire me (several times!!). Didn’t matter because I always felt my job was to tell the truth. Then and now, reporters do NOT control the news. But they do the best they can. Sometimes the price is very high!!
I was very very visible, fought my bosses frequently and managed to “dodge management bullets” until my career “ended”. I know you find this hard to believe but there are people like me who cherish their profession as reporters and do not take their responsibility lightly. Electronic and probably print journalism has changed since I ”retired” over 11 years ago. We’re now in the age of very short form reports on very complicated issues.
I was fortunate to work in a period (early 60′s to 2001) when for a long time the news department only answered to itself. That gradually changed as the advertising and marketing departments increasingly weighed in on control of the News Departments (The classic movie “Network” is very, very accurate).The internet proliferation has also diminished the accuracy, objectivity and quality of reporting. You simply cannot believe everything you read on line.
All that said, there are plenty of fair-minded reporters still working. You have to be wary of the bias — be it from the left or the right. I’ve gone on longer than I intended but I wanted to reach out to you. I’ve absorbed more than my share of criticism over the years. I figured it came with the job. I actually responded to many of my critics during my working years. Some of them became friends. Now, more than 12 years (Time flies!!) into retirement, I am flattered when people still recognize me.
One of the nicest comments I receive is “You were always fair. I may not have agreed with what you were saying but you never lied and you never took sides..” I always took pride in what I did — along with the criticism and the praise — I always knew I had a responsibility to use my “power” very, very carefully. Now, this has become REALLY long-winded but I hope it has opened dialogue between us.
I look forward to hearing from you. I’m going to send you an article someone wrote about me awhile back so you’ll know a little bit more about me. My coffee has grown cold but I wanted to finish before losing my thoughts.
Best Regards and Happy New Year!!
I’m so sorry it’s taken so long to reply – I live at the bottom of the planet, you see, so there’s a bit of a time difference.
Firstly, thank you very much for taking the time to reply with your point of view and perspectives based on your years of professional experience. I really must learn learn to clarify what I say, instead of assuming people know what I’m talking about.
When I refer to “the media”, I’m talking about the decision-makers behind the news, those who decide and control what to bombard and brainwash the public with, how it will be presented, what light (or bias) it will be presented in, and how often.
My teen years were spent with news reporters, columnists, politicians, judges, magistrates, barristers, criminal lawyers, advertising executives, and media bosses (the ‘big fish in a little pond’ variety) floating in and out of the family home on a regular, if not daily, basis. I once worked as a legal secretary and court transcriptionist (*edit: as well as a restaurant reviewer and a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ astrology columnist for a local rag at the time).
My father was actively involved in local politics, while siblings and I were frequently subjected to many a heated political debate wafting down the corridors of the family home, over glasses of ‘Champers’, Pinot Noir, and Port, where decisions that would affect the general public were made in secret, between ‘mates’, whether the public liked it or not. If the walls could talk, indeed.
What I carried away with me into my adult years, wasn’t a healthy respect for media, judicial, and advertising decision-makers, but a sincere loathing for what appeared to me to be their delight in sensationalizing and feasting on misery, colouring it with bias, and thrusting it upon a public they seemed intent on desensitizing to the horrors in the world. I sincerely believe I’m not alone in this sentiment.
I don’t, for one moment, doubt that there are reporters, like yourself, endeavoring to do the best they can; not all reporters are created equal, and not all reporters represent the final decision-makers behind their jobs. I doubt you personally would have taken a morbid and sensationalistic delight in photographing/filming a (*the) man who was unavoidably about to be run over by a train, much less desire to contribute to it being splashed across the front page of your local newspaper, or replayed dozens of times on your local television news, which is entirely my point about – and objection to – the media.
After realizing just how unhealthy an impact the media in general was having on my emotional and psychological health, I made a conscious decision to stop supporting it, in much the same way many soapmakers have stopped supporting the palm oil industry in protest over those who show little regard for Orangutan habitats (in some areas), until, and if, all palm oil is proven sustainable.
My bottom line was, and remains, that I don’t want to be bombarded with scenes of murder and war. I don’t want to be desensitized to cruelty and murder. I don’t want to be ‘persuaded’ into becoming irrational about those who don’t fit in to Western cultural values. I don’t want to be persuaded into the irrational - and erroneous – belief, that one religious extremist group is better or worse than another, by a blinkered and biased media. I don’t want to be ‘entertained’ with the constant, detailed, retelling of the sexual abuse and torture of women and children. I don’t want to become so desensitized, that tragedy becomes ‘just another day’.
Again, I will say, as I’ve said elsewhere, if life is what we make it and what we focus on, then why do so many choose to focus on destruction, misery, greed, and death? Why is there an entire industry dedicated to keeping it alive? Criminals and politicians benefit from constant media exposure, while the public gains little more than something else to be anxious, fearful, cynical, and miserable about.
I didn’t own a television or buy newspapers and magazines to be brainwashed, and I don’t own them now for the same reason.
Thank you again for sharing your views with me, Garry. I appreciate the opportunity of being able to clarify my stance, which I hope I’ve now accomplished.
Hi, Gabrielle at the bottom of the Planet!!
Well, you’ve made my day with your response!! This is what I used to enjoy during my working years when I made contact with folks who criticized me and the media. It is easy to savor the praise. It’s harder to communicate with those who criticize. Some used to write in crayon spewing racial epithets among other ignorant rants.
You’ve cut right to the heart of the problem by targeting the decision makers, the “suits” I alluded to in my missive to you. They are the ones who mandate getting the insensitive video and outrageous interviews. Then, they deny such behavior when questioned by critics, letting the sword fall on those who work in the field.
They do NOT care!! All they want are the ratings and the ad revenue.
It’s not a new problem.
I recall reading a bio about one of my heroes, Edward R. Murrow, a pioneer in radio and TV news reporting. I always thought of him as a man who did it his way with little interference. I was so wrong. Murrow, the legend, had the same complaints about the same “suits” who gave me so much grief. Goes with the territory. I guess it always will.
I am curious about your youth and the folks who criss-crossed your life and your Father’s life. It sounds very interesting!! I’d love to hear more. Gabrielle, thanks for taking the time to share YOUR views. So much gets lost or misunderstood in these social network exchanges. I hope we can continue to exchange thoughts. Maybe it’s the beginning of a very nice friendship.
All the best!!
One final note: Do you recall the scene in the movie ‘Merlin’ – starring Sam O’Neill – where the people stood together and turned their backs on Queen Mab, so that she ceased to exist? That single scene says it far more elegantly and poignantly than I could (but I’ll try anyway): the more people turn their backs on those things that keep their lives imprisoned in fear, uncertainty, hate, and misery, the sooner they cease to be relevant, and the sooner they cease to exist. Simplistic? Maybe. Effective? I believe so, yes. A silent, non-violent, revolution.