Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Feet to the Fire: The Media After 9/11, Top Journalists Speak Out

Journalist and News Producer Kristina Borjesson, who exposed the status quo bias of mainstream media in her hard hitting "Into the Buzzsaw," returns with a book of take no prisoner interviews with a wide variety of journalists.

You can learn a little about Borjesson's rebel take on journalism in our BuzzFlash interview with her concerning her previous book. In our introduction to that interview we wrote: "Kristina Borjesson is an investigative reporter -- almost an oxymoron, these days. She's also a news producer with a long line of credits from CNN, CBS, PBS and Pacifica Radio. She garnered an Emmy and a Murrow Award, among others. She gained particular fame and notoriety for her reports on the mysterious "disintegration" of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island on July 17, 1996. Recently she has edited a revised, expanded volume of essays, Into the BuzzSaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press.

"'Into the buzzsaw' is journalistic lingo for where "sensitive" stories go (i.e., stories that the powers-that-be choose to shred). They are censored, altered, or marginalized as 'conspiracy theory' rather than being allowed to present the unvarnished facts and unsettling investigative findings. Only the most intrepid journalists take on the powers that be, because their challenging stories, their very vulnerable careers (think Dan Rather and the Bush National Guard story), and their high salaries will suffer the wrath of government and conglomerate ownership (General Electric, owner of NBC; Viacom, owner of CBS; Disney, owner of ABC; Time Warner, owner of CNN; or Rupert Murdoch, owner of FOX NEWS). The same forces affect news writers for papers like the Washington Post and The New York Times, who have yet to do one serious long-term investigative piece on the chronic lying of the Bush Administration between them. Basically, nearly the entire American mainstream media has gone into the buzzsaw."

Borjesson wrote this e-mail to BuzzFlash about her new book "Feet to the Fire":

"My new book, 'Feet to the Fire: The Media After 9/11, Top Journalists Speak Out,' containing a series of 21 interviews with leading reporters in areas most germane to pre-war and war reporting, has five sections. The key one is 'National Security and Intelligence,' in which you'll find interviews with John Walcott, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel of Knight Ridder (recognized by practically everyone else in the book as having done the best pre-war reporting); Bart Gellman and Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, Jim Bamford and David Martin of CBS. Several of these reporters point to Dick Cheney as the key orchestrator of the pre-war sell job.

"The other sections are:

"'Executive Impressions' with AP President/CEO Tom Curley, ABC Executive Producer Tom Yellin, Harpers publisher John MacArthur and Ted Koppel.

"'Arena of Power (those who cover the White House and its occupants as well as analyze the effects of their policies)' with Helen Thomas, Ron Suskind and Paul Krugman

"'History and Context (of Iraq war)' with Anthony Shadid and Blogger Juan Cole

"'War Correspondents' with Peter Arnett, Christopher Hedges, Jon Alpert, Deborah Amos, and Knight Ridder's Hannah Allam and Tom Lasseter.

"Far more than a book on media criticism, 'Feet to the Fire' provides a real insider's view of the arena where the nation's power elite meets its media elite."

A review in an American Library Association publication, observes, "American media has garnered severe criticism, particularly abroad, for failing to more vigorously question the Bush administration's insistence on going to war against Iraq. In this collection of interviews with 21 journalists, Borjesson offers a penetrating look at how top reporters regard the efforts by themselves and their colleagues to cover the war and the efforts of the administration to conceal or obfuscate their policy on Iraq. Ted Koppel, anchor of Nightline, known for asking tough questions, asserts that he has never been censored, while White House correspondent Helen Thomas laments the pressure on reporters not to appear unpatriotic by questioning the motives for the war and how she has become persona non grata with the administration. Among others interviewed are author Ron Suskind, Washington Post reporter Anthony Shadid, historian-blogger Juan Cole, former New York Times correspondent Christopher Hedges, NPR's Deborah Amos, and Knight Ridder correspondent Hannah Allam. Editor of the highly acclaimed 'Into the Buzzsaw' (2002), Borjesson once again shines a penetrating light on the failures and virtues of American journalists at this crucial time."

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