A couple weeks ago, Attorney General Jim Hood spoke to a Stennis Institute media luncheon, expressing his concern, in part, over corporate ownership of media throughout the country.
"Something that worries me moreso than the war and Iraq and money in politics is freedom of the press," Hood said, according to a report by the Associated Press. "Is our press free anymore? The corporate ownership of the press nationally is a concern to me."
He offered a few other worries as well, such as the possibility that newspaper editorial stances were dictated or influenced by out-of-state corporations and a general concern that bloggers on newspaper sites are allowed to post anything they want anonymously, regardless of truth.
"In the old days, you had the wire, so there was some centralization involved," Hood said. "But you had mom-and-pop printing presses out there and they printed what they wanted to, and they had their own thought processes."
Clarion-Ledger Perspectives Editor Sid Salter took umbrage with Hood's assertions, posting about it on his blog.
Salter wrote: "Poor Jim Hood. Back when he was helping Neshoba County District Attorney Mark Duncan prosecute Edgar Ray Killen in the 1964 civil rights murders, he couldn't get enough attention from the networks, the cable news networks, and the national newspapers and Web sites—all owned by the "corporate media" he bemoaned today in an appearance before the Stennis press luncheon."
Salter is, of course, widely considered a good journalist. He's also a pretty solidly conservative columnist, and it's hard not to say he's in tune with corporate media, since the Virginia-based Gannett Corp. cuts his paycheck and, let's hope, pays into his 401(k).
What's interesting is that he feels the need to lash out at Hood for making statements that are not only supportable, but understandable given Hood's position as the most popular Democrat in Mississippi—one who is often at odds with some pretty substantial corporate interests, such as insurance companies.
Hood's opinion, by the way, would seem to be shared by former Sen. Trent Lott, who issued more than one column to statewide media railing against the FCC for loosening the restrictions on corporate ownership of media. And it's not surprising that Hood might feel that way; he already feels the pressure of national corporate PACs and groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that are very heavily involved in Mississippi's political races.
It certainly isn't a stretch to believe that corporate Gannett has some sway over local editorial boards—if only because the publisher tends to sit in on them. The Clarion-Ledger, which has had at least four publishers in the past five years, isn't promoting those publishers from within the paper or the community. They're getting them from corporate Gannett. That's just a fact.
You don't think those guys toe the company line as they move from Shreveport to Jackson … with their eyes on the group presidency or a coveted gig at The Arizona Republic or Indianapolis Star?
Even if there aren't missives sent by telegram from the home office ("Endorse Bush Again. Stop. Give Chance to ‘Finish Job He Started.' Stop."), Hood brings genuine concerns to the table when he talks about corporate influence over what gets reported on the ground in places like Jackson. As The Clarion-Ledger newsroom shrinks (they lost both a legislative reporter and a city reporter this past week to PR jobs) in order to meet the bottom-line requirements of the home office, their ability to fill a "Fourth Estate" role in our democracy is diminished.
Later, in a comment under his own blog post, Salter wrote: "[Hood]'s more worried about the media than he is about the war in Iraq? I'm sure the families of the 60 Mississippians who've lost their lives there and the thousands who have served there are delighted to hear that. To suggest that such comment is idiotic would be an insult to idiots everywhere."
Here Salter is sounding a little too FOX News-ish, as he purposefully conflates being "worried" about corporate media with, apparently, being indifferent about the plight of American soldiers. That may be par for the course on talk radio, but it's disingenuous—at the very least—for a daily newspaper editor.
You know, I am more worried about the state of our media in this country than I am the war in Iraq. Not because I don't care about our soldiers in harm's way—but very specifically because I do care about those soldiers.
I care that our corporate-owned media is more bent on consolidating its advertising base than it is in putting the resources on the ground to help citizens learn the truth about what's going on in our city, state, nation and government.
I'm concerned that the notion of "objectivity" in corporate media is actually used as an excuse to avoid seeking the truth and needed context and, instead, to simply provide two "equal" sides to any given story. (Earl Smith, on the other hand, said he doesn't believe the sun will rise tomorrow. "It just ain't happenin'," he said.)
And, yes, it concerns me that Salter, as a high-ranking editor at The Clarion-Ledger, is unable to mount an argument against Hood's assertion. Instead he resorts to a personal attack on Hood. Salter blogged: "Back during the Killen trial, Hood performed like a trained seal—basking in the glow of the spotlight and digging it when he made CNN and the rest of the 24-hour news cycles."
Where is the defense of corporate media in this? It's not there. Salter doesn't mount a defense. He scoffs and heckles, even going so far as to tap out the line: "Anybody think Jim Hood was a big topic of converation(sic) at Gannett's headquarters today? Anyone?"
Salter should take a little time to address the argument if he's going to bring it up at all, because this is a legitimate issue facing this country. Is our media really free? Does it fulfill its role in democracy? Are we getting all the information we deserve?
According to Salter, it's ridiculous to even ask the question. I disagree.
So, now, we're reporting on what someone said in a blog about a speech from a political official who was concerned about the media's influence? And you criticize the blogger because he doesn't defend his stance? Did you ask him the question? Does Sid Salter plan a news conference to address the issues you present? Guess Hood was right about the media taking over. The media is now the news.
This is a column about remarks by a major editor at the state's largest owned corporate newspaper. He's not just a "blogger." You might do some research on the context here, and read what's in the column before making uninformed statements about it. That way, a discussion is possible.
"Clarion-Ledger Perspectives Editor Sid Salter took umbrage with Hood’s assertions, posting about it on his blog."
Sorry, I was referring to the columnist's comment about his(Salter's) blog and how the columnist for JFP wanted some clarifications. It seemed overly critical,perhaps unobjective to me,due to a possible competitive slant. I must have been misstaken in thinking I had,indeed, done the proper research on the context to post my opinion about the media talking about the media. Please forgive my ignorance.
After reading Clarion-Ledger Perspectives Editor Sid Salter's Columns from his first that appeared in the paper to the latest, I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Salter is a "stalking horse" for the Republican Party. He may try to appear to be balanced and fair, but over quite some time his bias and his preference has become known.
Brightlife, you do realize that columns aren't supposed to be "objective," no? That's the point of it being an opinion column.
Even people who believe it's possible to believe a journalist can be objective usually know that opinion columns are, well, supposed to be subjective. And this one was meant to be solidly critical. Complain about that if you will, but it won't change anything.
Turtlehead, Sid is a thinker and sometimes sound like a really independent thinker. But on some issues he does little homework and then lashes out with little basis. It's as if suddenly he starts taking bizarre things personally -- like people questioning our governor's "blind trust" or Jim Hood questioning Gannett (as if most thinkers in the country don't say the same thing about it).
It's bizarre, really.
This is a major pet peeve of mine: people who don't understand the difference between articles and opinion pieces. Seems like the public calls EVERYTHING in a newspaper an article (even letters to the editor) whether it is or not. AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHH! Not a difficult concept but an important one.