Transparency and the media

Political cartoonist Tom Toles has an excellent cartoon in today’s Washington Post about DISCLOSE and Citizens United.

By pointing out the importance of knowledge, Toles suggests something important about one of the fundamental pillars of our country. The media shapes the national debate. From discussions around the dinner table at home to debates in corporate boardrooms, this country is driven by the stories on television, in newspapers, books, magazines, on the radio, etc. Knowledge, as Toles notes, is power. Therefore those who control what knowledge we get and what knowledge remains hidden have immense power.

So even if Congress and the Supreme Court do not protect our right to know what our government does and who is behind its actions, the media has the ability to correct that wrong. In fact, the media must tell the country who are involved and what they are doing. To put it colloquially, the media has to tell us what’s up.

Some readers might see an immediate problem. There is a serious conflict of interest in the media. The media is funded almost exclusively by corporations running advertisements alongside the news. One can see how this precarious situation might pose a very serious dilemma.

Luckily for us, we have one more tool for those times (and they are increasingly more frequent) when the media fails to report or misrepresents an important issue. We have each other. We can fact-check and report stories on blogs,  Twitter, Facebook and in so many different ways. We can petition the government and media outlets for fairer reporting and for more transparency. Public Citizen fights for all people, because, as global citizens, people are the ones who must run the world.

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