I was watching the local network news one recent evening because apparently I like to torture myself. And what were they reporting on? Michael Jackson. My hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times, also ran a story that day, May 22, 2013, about Michael Jackson.
Don’t get me wrong. Jackson is and deserves to be a cultural icon. That’s fine. But he died four years ago, so why is it still in the news? Can anyone explain to me why mainstream American news outlets are still “breaking” news with obsessive zeal about a 4-year-old story that has no bearing on anyone’s life?
Maybe it’s journalistic laziness or whoring to the public’s base desire for sensationalism and depraved celebrity gossip. But the news media has a role to play and it’s not entertainment.
This leads me to more salient matters. While my local press corps was babbling about some ancient history-Michael Jackson-related minutia bullshit, another media storm was brewing. Apparently the Associated Press and Fox News recently found themselves on the business end of the Obama Administration’s hostility toward journalists. The AP learned the Justice Department searched troves of their phone records. Meantime, Fox News’ James Rosen had his personal email account scoured by the DOJ and he’s being called an “aider and abettor” and “co-conspirator” in a criminal case regarding classified document leaks.
So now, all of a magical sudden, the news media in this country seem to be waking up. After years of either promoting or ignoring George W. Bush’s, then Obama’s constant infringements on the civil liberties of average Americans, the media suddenly think it’s a scandal now that they’re the butt of it. But while the AP and Fox News aren’t the first, they’ve never caused a stir about the U.S. government’s abuse of journalists until it hit them in the face.
Yemeni investigative reporter Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who exposed a deadly U.S. bombing that killed dozens of women and children in the village of Majala, is sitting in prison after being convicted for terror-related charges in sham proceedings condemned by human rights groups worldwide. Thanks to public pressure, Shaye was about to be pardoned in 2011.
But in February that year, Obama personally called Yemen’s president and “expressed concern” over Shaye’s pending release, according to a White House summary of the phone call. As a result, Shaye continues to sit in prisons for doing his job as a reporter. He isn’t the only one…