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Media Bias & Fair Speech…

This is one of the more popular topics in the blogsphere these days. Tends to peak with every election and then dies down. Now, as a PR pro, anytime I talk about media bias or point out acts of sloppy journalism – which are generally far exceeded by acts of sloppy PR – I’m pretty quickly dismissed, heckled, or ridiculed. In this respect, Bloggers are quickly becoming my people (OK – not really, but you get the point).

Pressthink got me on this train of thought, focusing on Chris Satullo’s, editorial page editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, story on bloggers… Cries of ‘media bias’ hide sloppy thinking (Philadelphia Inquirer, Sep. 26, 2004).

Rather’s mistake was sad, but no watershed. This aging anchor is no more the embodiment of journalism than Paris Hilton is a typical farm girl. Mainstream media is a term so loose as to disqualify any assertions that follow it. Let’s, by all means, discuss how journalism falls short. Let’s explore how it can flourish in media new and old. But let’s see the screaming about media bias for what it is: at best sloppy thinking, at worst Orwellian poison.

But spare me the chatter about bias. Of course the media is biased. Get over it. Journalists, bloggers, and even PR pros should revel in it.

Media conglomerates are not a synonym for journalism. They employ some journalists, and many who only pretend to be. They enable the craft, but also inhibit and cheapen it.

The great journalists rise above the fray. They report. The product might be biased, doesn’t mean all journalists are. And this is where PressThink’s manifesto is right on. We need to rise above media and fully comprehend the importance of Press.

Satullo is right ~

Journalism, done right, buoys democracy; hence its place in the First Amendment.

This point is going to play out in the blogsphere. I wonder how many executives are not blogging because they lack the rights to speak freely and pursue absolute transparency? In fact, any enthusiasm they might have for speaking openly is being restricted by new legislation.

Andrew Gordon in PR Week hit on this in a story regarding Siebel –

SAN MATEO, CA: Siebel Systems is defending itself on First Amendment grounds against a charge of violating Regulation Fair Disclosure – claiming it violates companies’ rights to free speech.

The enterprise-software maker raised the defense in its mid-September motion to dismiss a charge brought in June by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Regulation FD works an unprecedented and remarkably sweeping infringement of corporate speech,” the Chronicle quotes the motion as stating.

Other PR Pros seem to think this would set a dangerous precedent by allowing companies to hide behind the First Amendment. I think the reverse is true. There is less chance of anyone hiding today than at any other point in the history of business. Hide where? Transparency is the new watchword and the requirement of any legislator should be to foster it by encouraging free speech, not limiting it… So to steal and reframe from Satullo:-

Business, done right, buoys democracy; hence free speech for executives should have an equal place in the First Amendment. Or, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.

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