Yes, I know very well that that is; to be the in-house media functionary. Not quite the so-called ‘real’ news media, but to be an employee/technician/writer/personality for the in-house public affairs media of a large government element – the US Air Force. I wouldn’t be so bitchy as to call the various offices that I worked in – base Public Affairs, the stint with a couple of production detachments focusing on informational elements for various departments of government, and for the largest part of my service life as a low-level minion of the keeping-up-the-morale-of-our-overseas-stationed-troops effort – as an in-house claque … but yeah. I’m almost two decades retired from the game, so maybe I can. Yes, I – and all the other AFRTS, PA pukes and military videographers – we were hired, paid and maintained in order to further the public affair goals of the US military. No shame in admitting that. Good outfits in the main; paid only moderately well, and a smidgen of a retirement after all that – but good on the whole to work for, and any number of former military public affairs personnel have used the experience as a stepping-stone to careers in journalism, television, and politics, to name just a few fields.
The thing is – we all knew who we worked for; the military. And one of those lessons was that we should never reflect discredit on the military in our productions or in our actions in uniform. Fair go, being employees, we could not be seen to wash the institutional dirty laundry in public, and all. Public Affairs’ mission in the event of the dirty laundry coming out, was to spin so as to make it seem somewhat less dirty.
Given that, what is one to make of reports that the FCC was (and likely will again, only under a different name) intent on instituting something called a “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs” … a survey of the news-reporting process? And not just at television and radio news organizations, but at newspapers as well. The stated intent as noted in the linked Wall Street Journal opinion piece, was to “ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about “the process by which stories are selected” and how often stations cover “critical information needs,” along with “perceived station bias” and “perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.” Well, well, well … and on pain of not having their broadcast licenses renewed, radio and television newsrooms would have to justify the judgment of the managing editors to the FCC operatives in answering those and other questions. And if the FCC was not pleased? What then, oh wolves, especially if and when – and it would come to when, I am certain of that – covering a story which would reflect discredit on the federal government? How long would it be until every newsroom had an official minder?
I do not like to think that it would come to that, but there are things that I thought unlikely – such as the IRS being used against Republican and Tea Party activists – which have now come about. That both the major print and broadcast media outlets (with Fox News appearing to be the exception) are not up in arms about having government minders ‘overseeing’ news production is just one more indication of how close they are to becoming in-house media functionaries. Without uniforms, of course. Discuss.
(Cross-posted at www.ncobrief.com)