By Joe “B.O.” Blow [Roy Bauer]
Dissent 55, November 6, 2000
“Watch the skies! Watch everywhere. Keep on looking. Watch the skies!”
—The Thing (1951)
“The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process, the freedom to persuade and suggest.”
From the 18th to the 21st of October, the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), of which our district is a proud member, held its annual conference, this time, amusingly, at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN, the home, of course, of country and western schlock. The theme for ACCT’s “Convention 2000,” chosen by the late Minnie Pearl, was more schlock: “Leadership in a Democracy.”
The Opryland program comprised the usual community college bunk: the “digital divide,” “performance-based accountability,” “skill clustering,” “stakeholder involvement,” the “new millennium,” and so on. Why must people talk and think that way?
On the other hand, who cares?
But wait! You’ll never guess who or what was on tap for 2:15 on Friday (Oct. 20)! According to the official brochure, community college trustees from all around the nation saw this:
Dealing with the Media—Controversy Real or Contrived
This program will address the media’s penchant for controversial news in covering education and explore ways to cope with unrelenting negative and inaccurate media coverage that too often outweighs positive educational stories. Contributors will discuss problems with the media bias throughout news organizations, and offer suggestions for coping with the media bias and media’s propensity for sensationalism and controversy.
Nancy A. Padberg, Coordinator/Presenter—Good Lord! That’s OUR gang of idiots, plus a new recruit!
Trustee, South Orange County Community College [sic], CA
Dorothy Fortune, Presenter
Trustee, South Orange County Community College, CA
Cedric Sampson, Presenter
Chancellor, South Orange County Community College, CA
Charles Wiley, Presenter
Presentation/Speaking Director of Accuracy in Media, South Orange County Community College, CA [sic]
Pamela Zanelli, Presenter
Director of Public Affairs, South Orange County Community College, CA
I learned about Nancy and the Gang’s Nashville adventure just as it was happening. Naturally, I wanted to know what she and the other presenters—especially Accuracy in Media’s Charles Wiley—had to say.
Suffice it to say that I soon acquired a tape of the “program” and then transcribed the presenters’ remarks for your reading enjoyment. The results of my labors are presented below.
But first: just who are Mr. Charles Wiley and Accuracy in Media?
A brief perusal of AIM’s website (aim.org) reveals that the organization is ultra-right-winger Reed Irvine’s trusty media “watchdog.” Mr. Wiley is listed among thirteen members of AIM’s “speaker’s [sic] bureau” and is described as a “news reporter.” His AIM bio asserts, intriguingly, that he has had “a very successful 13 year show business career” and that he “teaches a life-style seminar at four colleges.”
Regrettably, my efforts to discover what manner of entertainment Wiley provides—and what “life-style” he teaches—have proved unsuccessful. Given, however, his remarkable Nashville appearance, I’m guessin’ he’s a carnival geek. His schtick? Perhaps he studies the Bible with his toes, via Braille, while luridly shoving chicken heads into his mouth. That would explain his successful gig as a college educator, cuz, down at, say, Oral Roberts U, they lap that Bible-n-chicken stuff right up. Yeee-ha!
According to its website, AIM is “a non-profit, grassroots citizens [sic] watchdog of the news media that critiques botched and bungled news stories and sets the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage.” AIM claims to seek fairness and “balance” in reporting.
Evidently, it proposes to achieve fairness and balance by providing its own reporting sans unfairness and imbalance. Naturally, therefore, it provides such articles as “Hillary is Above the Law,” “Gore’s Secret Agreement with Russia,” “How the Media Help Gore,” “Gore is Truly a Liar,” “Gays Make 10 Mistakes in Dealing with Straights,” and “Making the Case for School Vouchers.”
—No bias there. No sir!
But if you really wanna know what an organization is about—and, especially, what its members are thinkin’—you’ve gotta check out the organization’s web “store.” Here’s a sample of the merchandise on the shelves of AIM’s on-line emporium:
* “Dixie Forever—It’s a Southern Thing. Y’All Wouldn’t Understand” (T-shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag)Bumperstickers:
* “Earth First? Ok, We’ll Mine & Log the Other Planets Later! Stop Global Whining” (T-shirt)
* “Fight Crime: Shoot Back” (T-Shirt)
* “Stop the Liberal Media Lynch Mob. Tell the Truth About the Reagan Legacy” (T-Shirt)
* “Will Work for Ammo” (T-Shirt)
* Failure of the Public Trust—Proof of FBI and OIC Cover-Up in the Independent Counsel’s Probe into the Death of Deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. Foster (Book)
* Nixon—A Life (Book)
* Phoenix and the Birds of Prey—The CIA’s Secret Campaign to Destroy the Viet Cong (Book)
* The Common Sense of an Uncommon Man—The Wit, Wisdom, and Eternal Optimism of Ronald Reagan (Book)
* Betrayal—How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security (Book)
* Hell to Pay—The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton (Book)
* The Gospel of Wealth (by Andrew Carnegie) (Book)
* Trashing the Planet—How Science Can Help Us Deal With Acid Rain, Depletion of the Ozone, and Nuclear Waste (Book)
* “We Vote Pro-Gun”
* “Keep Honking…I’m Reloading”
* “I Don’t Believe the LA Times”
* “Rush is Right”
* “I Love my Country but I fear my Government”
* “Pave the Planet”
* “It’s the Deception, Stupid!” (Button)—And, my personal favorites:
* The New Clinton Chronicles—An Investigation into the Alleged Criminal Activities of Bill Clinton and his Circle of Power (Video)
* The 60 Minutes Deception—An Expose of Media Corruption (Video)
* Our Military Under Siege—Mission Accomplishment vs. Homosexual Demands (Video)
* Immigration By the Numbers (Video)
* The Children of Table 34—The True Story Behind Alfred Kinsey’s Infamous Sex Research (Video)
* The Ultimate Target of The Gay Agenda—Same Sex Marriages (Video)
* a 4”X5” Confederate FlagA “rabid” press: [transcripts]
* an “Evolution is Science Fiction” bumpersticker
As you know, Ms. Padberg, when she’s not attending John Birch Society meetings, hangs out at one of those Rush Limbaugh listener clubs, or so she says. Given AIM’s preoccupation with Rush, I suspect that Nancy met Chucky there. They got to talkin’ and, well, soon, Nancy was enthralled, cuz the Chuckster has been practically everywhere, and he was fightin’ them godless Commies, too. Plus, he was once stuck in a dungeon without dinner! Ooooooooh!
Without further ado, here’s what Nancy and her friends had to say on October 20:
Padberg: …It’s my experience that this is a universal problem…and I’ve run into this in other meetings where you meet other trustees around the country…We’re not going to go into great detail about our own personal experience, but we learned a lot from that and we wanted to share it with you….
…After an administrative reorganization and some budget problems, we experienced a great deal of negative press. This was pretty much led by disgruntled staff who were suffering from these cuts.
The press…delight in negative coverage. It’s like, “if it doesn’t bleed, it won’t read,” and a public institution is fodder for them, because you’re supported by tax moneys. So this is an ongoing problem.
We experienced it in spades. We feel that we have it fairly well under control, but you should always be vigilant, because it can rear its ugly head again.
Let me talk to you briefly now about the speakers that we do have for you today. Our featured speaker is Charles Wiley, who is a world-renowned speaker on media and journalism. He is a member of Accuracy in Media…He just got back from Kosovo, speaking at Belarus University, and so we feel very fortunate to have him….
…I will moderate this session. [Padberg next introduces the speakers.]
So, without further ado, I’m going to turn this over now to Dr. Sampson, who will describe for you more of our own experiences in dealing with a rabid press.
Chancellor Pinocchio speaks:
Sampson: …Let me begin by saying that no district is without controversy, but it’s my observation that the larger and more complex the system, the more likely a, uh, college or a district will have groups with a vested interest in opposing and denigrating authority and thereby weakening authority of the district. And this could be a union, it could be a senate, it could be an individual department, or it could just be a collection of individuals, uh, who are willing to spend the time and effort, uh, to create a thematic attack on, uh, the board.
Now, all such groups know that the press is a great ally, and they can often play to them much better than trustees or administrators….
When I became Chancellor of the SOCCCD in 1998, the district had been in the news so frequently, uh, that it had become labeled a “troubled district,” and the institutional memory of newspapers, uh, comes from, uh, their files. I think that, even if you get a new reporter on a beat, they go to the file, they consult the files, and, uh, what was written before becomes the, uh, history of the district.
In our particular district, uh, the board had reorganized the district administration, had appointed a president that was unpopular with one particular faction of the faculty of the college [1998: 74%; 2000: 90%], and had reduced released time for faculty in this reorganization so that approximately 10 [inaudible] faculty at this one college were put back in the classroom, uh, to teach rather than conduct administrative activities. And 1.6 million dollars was saved by that move of moving release faculty back into the classroom, and, of course, that 1.6 million came out of the privileges and free time of the faculty who were put back in the classroom and was the genesis of a war on the board. [Note: according a carefully prepared senate audit, no such savings occurred. Indeed, the reorg was costly to IVC.]
Concurrently, the state of—the County of—Orange had, uh, declared bankruptcy, and in the bankruptcy, the district lost about 3 million dollars [note: other districts were also badly hurt by the bankruptcy], uh, and the district spent down, in order to cushion the drop in, uh, incoming revenues, spent down the reserve that they had built up so that there would not be, uh, drastic cuts all in one year. And as a result of coming down, um, reducing the reserve—it had been in deficit spending—and was therefore put on the state chancellor’s watch list. It was another occasion for stories about the “troubled district.” [Note: other OC districts were not placed on the watch list.]
Uh, there had been several, uh, lawsuits related to open meeting violations. Uh, the board had acted on the advice of an attorney, uh, that certain actions were OK, but when tested in court, several decisions went against the district. [There were two suits, and petitioners prevailed against the district in both. According to Judge Seymour of Bauer II, the board had engaged in a pattern of “persistent and defiant misconduct” relative to the Brown Act. He remanded the case to the DA for possible criminal prosecution and ordered the board to tape record its closed sessions for two years, which, by the way, it has refused to do, contrary to the judge’s explicit instructions.] Uh, several decisions are still on appeal and won’t be decided for a long time.
There was a recall election of a trustee, and, as I think is the case whenever there is trouble, uh, there is a tendency of agencies and other groups to pile on. One of the agencies which piled on our district was the Accreditation Commission, uh, which began sending letters, demanding explanations, for all the acts of the autonomous elected board of trustees. The Accreditation visit was imminent and resulted later in a warning status for our district. [The Accred. Commission complained of instability wrought by the board’s precipitous reorganization and the board’s failure to adhere to acceptable hiring standards, among other things.]
Uh, we also had a 1st Amendment case. [No, there were several 1st Amendment suits—by faculty and students—all lost by the district.] A faculty member was openly fantasizing in his publications about killing the president and other people. [Not according to two federal judges.] Uh [he laughs, nervously], the chancellor attempted to modify his behavior by suggesting, uh, counseling, and that was considered Orwellian by some [namely, by U.S. Judge Manella], and it ended up in court. And that won’t be determined for another couple years. [No, it was fully decided one year ago. It was decided in the faculty member’s favor; nevertheless, Sampson got the Board Majority to pursue an appeal, which is manifestly hopeless.] My position is, you can criticize all you want, but when it crosses the line to threatening somebody’s life, that’s a no-no. [The second federal judge in the case—Gary Feess—eventually (10/25/99) judged that “No reasonable person could have concluded that the written words of Bauer constituted a serious expression of an intent to harm or assault.” He also wrote that “Bauer was speaking out on matters (of) public interest, and his speech was a substantial (perhaps the only) motivating factor in the proposed discipline.”]
The point I’m making is that there were a collection of, uh, stories about the district, all of which were fed by an organized group, and that affected the accreditation process, the press process, uh, everything was, uh, directed by an organized opposition. [Just what or who is this “organized group”?]
I began to analyze the facts of each of the cases and attempt to find out what we could do in order to turn this around. One of the things of course is to meet with the press. I met with reporters and found that several reporters had actually taken sides against the district, had developed in their mind a history, which they believed to be the case for our district. And they let me know that the expectations were I’d either set the board straight and turn ‘em around and make ‘em stop doing these things that were, uh, against their particular friends, or that I would not convince the board and I would be fired.
Well, I decided [that] the only thing that can be done in that situation is to rely on patience and time and press forward. Uh, we were open to the press; the board held firm to its direction and began to turn everything around. We, uh, went from being on fiscal warning to a position just this last budget cycle where we have a plan in place to pay off all of our…debt…[owing, of course, to a fortuitous and unforeseeable increase in property tax revenues, not to board acumen]…We went from warning status to full accreditation [as WASC/ACCJC repeatedly explain, there is no such thing as "full" accreditation because there is no such thing is "partial" accreditation], and, not only that, but were able to demonstrate to the DOE that sufficient bias had been demonstrated against us that the Accrediting Commission was put on warning for the bias of their activities against us. [This is an exaggeration. Please note that the “bias” was a conflict of interest in favor of the district, not against it.]
Lawsuits, as I said are—we’ve won a large number of them. [False. The district has won none of the lawsuits against it. Sampson is quite simply lying.] One of the things we’ve noticed is that the stories about our successes and the positive stories have not, uh, balanced the negative stories. Bad news drives out good news. And I’m convinced that there’s a quota of news about a district, and if you get a bad story, it just squeezes out a good one. There’re many good stories about our district, but, unfortunately, uh, we’ve had to face the bad ones.
With that, we’ll, uh, continue…
Padberg: …And our next speaker is going to be Dorothy Fortune, who, as I said, is a retired college professor, having taught in Costa Rica and in California, and she will talk about her experiences as past president…One thing that Dr. Sampson didn’t’ mention: we recently, in a state audit, were found to be one of 4 out of 10 college districts in compliance with the amount of money being spent in classroom time. [See the latest Community College Week for the real facts.] So we feel that this very much vindicates the cuts that had to be done in the past.
Dot contra Joe:
Fortune: Hi…I want to tell you in general terms what I have perceived in the last four years, when I have been on the board, about the press. One of the most significant factors I believe is that a board member or members whose particular policies are not followed—in other words, ends up being in the minority on the board…—the way that they can have a voice is to get a good story, or many good stories, in the press. And so, although it is always understood that what the board decides upon by majority vote…is board policy…, you can get that one trustee, or group representing dissident opinion—that can say, well, no, this is the real board policy, and the, uh—let’s see, going on—to make this happen, uh, the kind of reporter who will listen to that one trustee or dissident or individual representing a group of people that are in disagreement with the board—this reporter has a, usually, a personal friendship, has been developed with these individuals—perhaps they call him or her frequently; um, they have influenced this person with what they consider facts that would never, I think, stand up to the light of day as actual facts, but that’s in there, in the play—they have prejudiced the reporter’s factual, duh, discussion or observation of the situation. So then the reporter will present the version of this group A to the community, um—
Another part that’s, um, we can’t leave out, is they will not check the data or the “facts” of this dissident individual. They will say, well this individual says it; therefore, it must be true. OK, the board of trustees majority, and the chancellor and the president say something else, but, ah, who knows what the truth is? I see this as a reporter who is unethical and unquestionably unprofessional, but, but there they are.
The significance of this kind of reporting is that these articles—uh, these very biased articles—serve to change or defer policies which the district wants to move ahead on. It can influence, uh, future elections—we have elections every two years. Um, it also can bring great pressure outside the district, as Chancellor Sampson mentioned, with even Accrediting, with funds, grants…, with Academic senate statewide, with even national political organizations. [Oddly, she pauses at great length; perhaps she’s gathering her thought. This yields nothing]
Uh, uh, another aspect of this is we see that only negative stories are put forward, never the positive ones. And as this goes on we also see that there’s a constant quoting of the same source: Joe Blow is always quoted. And the reporter never will indicate the bias of this particular person—uh, that this person has a sexual harassment case pending against him or her. [Who’s this supposed to be?] Uh, that this person’s wife was passed over for some job. [?] That they have a lawsuit against the district. [OK, that’s me.] —These things which a good reporter would always indicate are in the play here, are omitted.
The headlines are slanted. In the newspaper, only the letters which support the reporter’s bias are printed, and the same for op eds.
Just as an example that Nancy mentioned: California has a law that 50% of the—it’s pretty complex—but 50% of our budget should go for teachers’ salaries, a minimum of 50%, and a random audit was done recently of 10 of our…71 districts. We were honored to be one of the 10 [that were audited]; and we were one of the four of the ten that passed this audit, uh, because we have been, I say, cutting the fat; we had more deans or administrators than the nearby UCI, for example, and most painful, what has caused perhaps the most resistance from certain faculty, was we reduced the amount of release time or reassigned time of faculty from the classroom into administrative or committee kind of work. [This is nonsense. See accompanying story.]
Um, just to conclude, I want to give you, uh, give you some advice about, from our experiences. I would say that your board presidents, or chancellors, your college presidents, your PIOs, um, should cultivate reporters. That is, you should meet with them on a regular basis…the way your opponents will do if they’re really out to get them in their pockets. Be honest, be frank, uh, gain the confidence in the integrity of your board…Issue factual press releases as often as possible, because reporters are usually overworked and underpaid, frankly; if you give ‘em a couple steps up on the issues, they will use ‘em, given a good, well-written press release.
Hold press conferences, with the reporters, with your staff in the college; uh, answer all the questions they have….
If coverage is extremely biased, I suggest you try to meet with your staff of your colleges with the editors of major newspapers, even with the publishers, present the facts of a particular situations that are quite controversial—uh, show the biased stories that you believe have been reported up to this point, compare what the reporter wrote verses what actually happened; have your college foundation leaders also meet with community people; ask to publish op eds from your staff at the colleges; and also meet with your local elected officials, city council officials, county supervisors, local legislators—because, if you are, as we are, uh, state agencies, we’re getting state money, and they have to be informed about what’s going on, so, uh, good luck on all this. Thank you.
Padberg: OK, and our next speaker is the lady in the trenches; she is the first line of attack with the press; thank goodness we have her, cuz, without her, we would just be deluged all of us individually. So that is Pam Zanelli. She has a BA in journalism; as I explained earlier, she has vast experience before coming to us, and, uh, it’s served her well. Pam Zanelli.
Well-organized, well-connected dissidents:
“With the development of modern mass communication, there is increasing difficulty in distinguishing propaganda material from non-propaganda material...The conscious selection by editors of ‘stacked news,’ as well as their unwitting publication of copy prepared in the interest of special groups, complicates…the discrimination between propaganda and other material….”
Malcolm Willey (1935)
Zanelli: Thank you very much, Nancy. Yes, literally [no], I would say that our district was under siege for a very long time, because of the variety of issues that were discussed here today. So, all I can say is it is a good thing I had experience in the political field, because I was used to controversy, so it really wasn’t such a revelation to me, but it was pretty unprecedented—the level of negative publicity and the duration of it, and it would come, like, in waves, uh, based on whatever the issues were. And I would say that the opponents of the district—the board, the chancellor, um, and the college presidents—were largely dissident faculty, and they were well-organized, and they were well-connected to the media, and I didn’t realize how connected until I would—one particular reporter for a large daily newspaper in OC would come to cover our board meetings and I would see this individual hugging the dissident faculty before she came into the board meetings, so I had my work cut out for me, but anyway…(she laughs).
Anytime that a district has had a well-orchestrated campaign launched against it and has achieved…a certain amount of notoriety, um, it’s best to…try to keep your faculties about you and realize that you have to tell your story, because there are two sides to the story….
When I was trained in journalism, and when I worked for a radio station, and I worked for a newspaper, I remember we had editors and publishers come in; and our instructors would teach us the difference between a news story and a feature story. With a news story, it was straight news…You told the facts ma’am, just the facts. Feature stories are a little different. Editorial is quite different also. So, that is how I was trained….
Now, the lines are very blurred, so you have to realize what kind of media you are dealing with today. Maybe you grew up with different experiences, and you didn’t see the bias perhaps. But I think that there is a bias; I think it’s part and parcel of the media today, and we just have to recognize it. So the # 1 thing I think that it is very important for districts, for colleges to remember is that this is public service; people are trying to do the right thing, and you have to tell your side of the story.
In order to do that, you have to analyze the issues that are in play, and develop short- and long-term strategies. A lot of this is planning, strategic thinking, consulting with the leaders and the constituencies within the community college district. It’s best not to be defensive…It is best to come up with a plan, a short-term plan, a long-range plan, and to decide, How am I going to attack this problem?….And I think you need to synthesize that and come up with a plan of attack and start getting the information out.
After that, it’s probably a good idea…to establish goals and timelines to determine how to best tell the story…These are rather complex issues…When you’re developing these themes and you’re incorporating them into telling your story as part of your strategic…planning is to build clarity and credibility. Clarity and credibility are extremely important. I know we would have discussions about release time. How do you explain release time? What does that mean to the public?…Tell the facts, but tell them as plainly and as simply as you can.
* * * * *
“As a term used in assessing arguments…, special pleading is argument which distorts the facts by being one-sided: it recites all the pros and disregards all the cons….”
* * * * *One of the tools we use to get our story out is to hold press conferences, which is something that hadn’t been done in the district before. So what we would do is research our facts; we would decide what kind of information we were going to release…and, again, what trustee Fortune said is true: always tell the truth. That has always been the policy, is to tell the truth…And we’d hold press conferences and we’d invite in the TV stations; we’d invite the daily newspapers and we’d invite the weeklies, and we didn’t discriminate…and that worked very effectively…We would be able to put closure on certain issues and get some very good stories in the newspaper, even though, as Dr. Sampson has said, on balance, it didn’t seem like we got as much as the dissidents did….
Try to move beyond the issue, and restore the image of the institution…We just sent out a district-wide mailer, explaining the achievements of the district, that we’re in the top 10% in transfer rates in the state of California and numerous other things—and tell the public what we’re trying to do: what’s new and what’s relevant…We don’t give up, we keep trying. Thank you.
No “Banana Republic”
Padberg: …It gives me great pleasure to introduce our next speaker—have a seat, Charles, because this is gonna take a minute. (She laughs.) Charles gave me his bio, and then he said, “You don’t have to say all that,” but I really do; he’s a very impressive man, and I just want to share with you—he could well have taken the full hour….
Charles Wiley is, of course, with Accuracy in Media…His in-depth search for facts have led to his arrest 8 times by the secret police throughout the globe, including the KGB and imprisonment at a Cuban dungeon while he was a correspondent for New York City radio station WOR…We’re just delighted to have Charles join us today. He’s gonna give you the answers of how to fix all this.
Wiley: …I wanted to go forward from where we have been today. We’ve had speakers talking about a local problem, and I want to expand beyond that. The United States of America, as we go into a new century, has a lot of problems, and if we don’t solve those problems in the fairly near future, we’re gonna drop out of the top ranks and become a banana republic….
There are a number of very serious areas of problem, the biggest of which would be the news media—the exact problems which were mentioned here. A second problem would be your area, which is “handling our youth”….
I just spoke in White Russia, near Brest…and what really struck me over there was that I spoke to the young people who were taking English. I spoke to them in a foreign language. They filled that old room…and I spoke to them…directly. They were more focused than our kids are; they weren’t looking out the windows; they weren’t looking up the ceiling; they weren’t passing notes or elbowing each other and smirking. They listened. And when we got to the question and answer period, they asked questions, and they asked good questions, and they asked follow-up questions, and they knew what they were talking about. And that’s…where they spend about a buck and a half a student a year. That’s what they’re doing in other countries, and so your job is unbelievably important, if the United States of America is to stay up there.
But let’s get to the real big problem, which is even bigger than that of the youth, and that is the media. Why? Because the news media is the most powerful force in our society, more powerful than the presidency or Congress of corporations are any of the various establishments, because the news media decides what you think about…they decide what problems we are going to try to solve…But not only do they decide the agenda and the priorities, but they decide the framework within which we hold the public discussion, and we’ve heard descriptions of how this works here today….
We have two approaches to journalism: we have objective journalism…which [has] been forgotten about by many journalists today, and we have advocacy journalism, which is in effect propaganda, pure and simple. And today very many of our reporters…probably most, are not trying to bring you the facts. They do not see their job as…bringing knowledge to viewers, readers, or listeners; they are trying to influence you; they are trying to pull your strings; they are trying to get you on their side, whether it is political campaigns or for causes….
[Reporters] are fair to everybody, but, as George Orwell said, they are fairer to some than to others…Advocate journalists don’t “take a side.” What they do is they manipulate the factual information that they bring in such a way that they change the image of reality, and if you change the image of reality long enough, after a while, you have changed the reality itself….
I have been studying propaganda since I was a kid. I used to get up at 4 in the morning to listen to the short wave stations coming out of Europe at the beginning of WW II…I used to pick up the DNB…that was Hitler’s propaganda station in English, and I might add [that it was] a very effective propaganda station. And then I went out to fight in the Pacific and I used to listen to Tokyo Rose, and that was an effective propaganda operation. And after the war I had a research grant in which I studied Communist propaganda…I’ve been in every Communist country, except for North Korea….
The old “Big Lie” propaganda is out; it doesn’t work anymore; there is too much communication in the world. Let me give you just one quick example of that…But up until a very short time ago, there were 1 billion people who didn’t know that man had landed on the moon. The Chinese Communist government did not want their people to know that those round-eyed capitalists got to the moon before they did, and they simply didn’t report it. They could get by with that today for 24 hours….
And so the old “Big Lie” is out; that is why advocacy journalism is so, so important today. Words draw pictures, and I can give you a very simple example of how it’s done. While we still had 4 candidates running for president [?], the lead story one night on NBC was the fact that one of the candidates…had come under fire and was being criticized for something…Bush had spoken at a university down in the south, and he got a lot of criticism…So it could have been any of them, but here is how the show opened up. Tom Brokaw said that such-and-such a candidate has come under tremendous criticism for his… “pilgrimage” to such-and-such a place to give a speech. [Wiley becomes angry:] His pilgrimage? Look up the word “pilgrimage”…Or look in Roget’s Thesaurus…A pilgrimage? Did I make a pilgrimage here today when I accepted an invitation to speak? But just think about what that does, when you realize that very few people are sitting down listening to that news. They’re getting dinner ready, they’re getting dressed to go out, they’re doing whatever, and it’s on. And when they hear the name of this place, which many people disapprove of highly, and at the same time they hear the word “pilgrimage”—the two are put together very quickly, and you have just insured that a tremendous number of people would never even consider voting for that candidate. And you just do that day after day after day….
The problem goes beyond that though today. When I first began, I was concerned about good journalists who began propagandizing; they were capable of doing a good job. Today, because of a failing system, and it’s not just the education system, it’s the society that is failing to get young people ready to go into the job market in many, many fields…And that’s especially so in journalism, where we now have journalists that don’t know about the stories they’re covering…they know a lot of trivia…They don’t know the difference between when they’re getting snowed and when they’re not….
…You now have an anchor in Washington, who my friend…heard…reading a story, and she began talking about “World War Eleven.” [Padberg roars.] Is it any wonder that we’re being barraged by disinformation and misinformation by those who are trying to prove something, when what we desperately need in this country is objective information so that we can reach out to our people.
Good, old-fashioned anti-intellectualism:
And the good news is this. The good news is that we live in a free society where we have a free market economy. If the people…demand better news coverage, they will get it. But they have to demand it; they have to make it clear that a reporter’s job is not to “save the world.” A reporter’s job is to bring information to the average people out there so that we as a people can save the world, if you will. We have to…tap into the greatest asset that any nation has ever had, and that asset is the collective wisdom of a free people who are well informed. You give me 10 people from this audience…let me just pick 10 people at random, and then let us convince them they have a role to play. Give them enough information, and turn the problem over to them. I will bet the farm that 9 times out of 10 they will come up with a better answer than any special committee, commission, blue-ribbon panel, or anything else that has been appointed by a mayor, a governor, or anybody else…Because they will not be living in an ivory tower; they will not have an axe to grind; they will want to get the problem solved and get the show on the road. But to do that, we have to have a media that does its job.
…Accuracy in Media have been leading the fight to get this thing turned around for years…We’re non-profit good-guy organizations. If any of you want to get ahold of a speaker, come and talk to me….
I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts. Thank you very much. [Luke warm applause.]
Padberg: …If there are any questions that you’d like to address, we’ll take some time to do that.
[A gentleman in the audience asks a naïve question about the need to educate student journalists so that they don’t “slant” the news.]
Fortune: …I’m also a historian[?], not just a English professor, and I just am fascinated this century the way things have changed…I think newspapers are gonna go the way of the dinosaur. I don’t know if this business about the reporter is the cause or the effect of this transition, but currently, I don’t think reporters are out there reporting the news; their editors are not telling them to do it; they’re not training them properly…they do not specialize in a certain beat; I just don’t see any way that, uh…in our area we have the Los Angeles Times, one of the biggest ones in the states, and it’s so pitiful, they get people right out of college, they overwork ‘em, they change ‘em every month to a different beat. I think it’s gonna go down. It really is. And the newspaper is responsible for its own demise, frankly.
Whiley: …Apparently the [college] faculty just lets people get away with just anything they wanna do, in most cases. They don’t know the difference between a straight news story and a column or an editorial; they just don’t know the difference, and nobody calls them up short when they write their version of what happened.
I actually heard a reporter say [laughs] to a kid—I guess he was in the College Republicans and she was a reporter with the paper, and he gave her a press release, and she said, “Well, don’t give it to me; I’m a Democrat.” [Nancy laughs.] So help me…She hasn’t got a clue as to what being a reporter is supposed to be….
…Most of the journalism teachers today do not—they don’t tell the students to go out and slant stories, but they don’t sit on them when they do slant stories. And so…it ends up being just a straight editorial instead of being an article on the front page which is supposed to be totally neutral….
Sampson: …Reporters have your number, and I think you need to keep the numbers of the reporters, and when they write a story that you don’t like, or you have a factual problem with what they’ve written, you just call them up and you say, “Here’s the problem I have with your story.” And I’ve found, uh, you know, that they will never write a retraction or anything like that, but over time, you gain respect, that you’re watching, that you’re checking on them…
[A man from North Carolina with a journalism background speaks:] …I would beg to differ with you in your general statement, Mr. Wiley; it may be your experience, and that may be what’s happened in your part of the country—from what I see, I believe we have better trained journalists today than we ever had twenty or thirty years ago. I think to suggest that we have something akin to propaganda from the part of either daily media or even the other media today is I think misleading…It’s true that stories get slanted…It’s true that the whole story never comes out, usually…but it’s equally true that institutions such as boards of trustees, county commissioners, governers of states crank out a lot of misinformation, and to some extent, from the point of view of reporters, who are trying to get the story and to be fair and truthful…they get misinformation oftentimes from their sources…And I would say also…there is so much information out there, the easiest thing to do is just throw out the facts; they have to be put into some sort of context, and in order to do that, somebody has to do some interpretation to put [them] into context; that is not to editorialize…
Padberg interrupts: —Thank you. Thank you for your comments and your balance…. [It is obvious that she seeks to prevent the man from speaking. She quickly calls upon another person in the audience.]
[A man lists the SOCCCD’s many apparent problems and then suggests that Boards often cause their own problems with the media. Sampson tries to respond.]
Breaking the law is “irrelevant”:
Sampson: …Boards do things every day that are controversial…When you have a group of people—now, what we’re talking about in our district, it’s not the union; the union was in agreement with the board of trustees to reduce release time. It was written into the contract…You have another group of people whose interests were hurt who had a single-minded effort to undermine the board. Every board of trustees—I could come into your meetings, I’m sure…, and find ways that you’ve violated the Brown Act…The Open Meetings Act is so difficult to follow, requires so much care and effort, that you may be violating it—and I would be willing to bet I could look at your agenda and find out ways that you could be sued. But unless there is a group who are willing to pay the money to a lawyer and a judge—a lawyer and a court—to press the case, it’s an irrelevant thing…
The answer is: everything depends on what the board does. It can work for popularity; it can not care for popularity and take care of business; it can be a lot of different things….
[Zanelli made some stupid remarks, and that was about it.] —JB