NPR producer: Freedom of press in jeopardy

By Destine’e Flores


A National Public Radio producer, speaking for Sept. 18’s observance of “Constitution Day,” presented alarming evidence that journalism is in peril,

NPR Associate Producer Sam Sanders, a 2007 graduate of the University of the Incarnate Word, delivered an interactive presentation concerning the freedom of the press in J.E. and L.E. Mabee Library Auditorium.

Sanders, who double-majored in government-political science and music, said the idea of the freedom of press is evolving due to new constraints presented by the advent of the Internet.

What has evolved on the news side are what Sanders called the “(news) makers, takers and breakers.”

There are fewer newsmakers such as the New York Times and Washington Post who make the news, Sanders said. And when they make news – often after spending months of investigative reporting – then the “takers” take the articles they spent months putting together, and breaking them down into one paragraph, he said.

Fewer people are subscribing to papers and magazines, and turning to news sources such as Newser, to get the laymen’s version of the article, Sanders said. In turn another source such as Buzzfeed takes article and water them down further, making it digestible for more of an audience. If the makers fail, there would no takers nor breakers, as they would find no one is left to report the news, he said.
Alarmingly, as the makers fall, “six companies control 90 percent of what you watch, read or listen to every day,” Sanders said.

The problem that brings is news sources are now monopolized, and the consumer is only getting six different sides of the story that come from the same “kind of people,” he said.
Circulation of newspapers has dropped 15 percent in the last 10 years, and for every $16 lost in classified ad revenue, $1 has been made, Sanders said.
In trying to keep up with the changes, new advertising tactics such as native advertisements have been introduced, questioning the integrity of the news the makers are presenting. Recently in Atlantic magazine, a story was published about the success of Scientology, and to the public’s disapproval, it was discovered it was in fact a paid advertisement. Sanders said that practice is becoming common, and has spread to other news outlets, making it hard to distinguish between what is news and what isn’t.
How much the government should get involved was also another controversial subject presented. The FBI was brought into the limelight recently when it was discovered the agency had illegally wiretapped The Associated Press after leaks had been made that exposed a double agent working for the U.S. government.

Does the FBI have the right to do this, Sanders asked. The only people who have a say-so in that really is the U.S. government. He said the Obama Administration’s policy has been to side against the news community when it came down to these issues.
The good news, Sanders said, is that the ethics of such practices is being questioned and if it’s in the interest of the American people that media be monopolized. News is more social, and more accessible, he noted. Sanders encouraged the audience to listen to other people’s opinions even if they disagreed with them in order to keep an open mind and promote diversity. In order to keep good media going, and to help make it more diversified, he emphasized purchasing subscriptions and finding ways for the news media to make money so the industry could thrive.

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