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Jun-12-2011 16:37TweetFollow @OregonNews
Intrinsic value of Salem-News.comWriter Name Withheld Salem-News.com
Regarding the ‘whole truth’; as one philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) opined: "It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious."
(SALEM, Ore.) - It sounds from Tim King’s call for committed, volunteer assistant editors that Salem-News.com could be on the verge of an exciting growth spurt. As a daily reader of salem-news.com, I applaud the seven-year long tenacity of its ownership.
The expressed goal by ownership to manage Salem-News.com content growth, so as to present more information and news with efficiency for readership, and to grow distributive channels, is realistic with the help of bringing assistant editors on board; and exciting for me as a loyal reader. Salem-News.com searchable content-archives are growing, and its nearly 20,000 articles are of intrinsic value to the general public. Salem-News.com content has proved already to be:
1) of general and substantial public interest because of direct association with historically significant people, places, issues, and events;
2) the Salem-News.com archives provides documentation of the continuing legal operations and agendas of government agencies and institutions in Oregon;
3) Salem-News.com opinion pieces and independent field reporting have documented the formulation of policy at the highest executive levels in Oregon, the United States, and even internationally, where many policies have significance and broad effect throughout or beyond one agency, institution, or government.
Challenge of Local and statewide reporting
As Salem-News.com is based in Salem Oregon, U.S.A., (within a few hours drive from where I happen to reside) I have thought about the challenges Salem-News.com has likely faced in just gaining access to accurate information, especially on a local & statewide scale, from the perspective of a news reporting function. An ongoing challenge for evolving Internet based media-news organizations (such as Salem-News.com) vis a vis mainstream media (long-standing printed dailies, periodicals, television & radio) regarding local and state focused news delivery will likely remain to be the traditional attitudes of local and statewide governmental & public institutions toward media access; especially access to interview of public officials, archives of government and agency information, ‘high-profile’ case courtrooms, and even speaking with the “charges” of government residing in Oregon’s county jails and prisons.
On an Oregon-specific note regarding media access, what may be described as a regionally unique arrangement between reporters and government bodies originated in 1973, when Oregon’s open meeting law was codified -- news media representatives were allowed into executive sessions of government councils and public agencies, so long as they didn’t report on what happened there. Conversely, in most states in the U.S., executive sessions of any governing body are closed to everyone. Boards and councils around the United States use the executive sessions meetings to discuss real estate transactions, employee discipline, and ongoing litigation along with a variety of similar things (as allowed under state open meetings laws) are discussed outside of the wider public audience.
The longstanding arrangement in Oregon between government/public agencies and media access has created new tensions in the fracturing dissemination of digital age news publishers –when a blogger asked if he could attend an executive session of a city council meeting in one Oregon town, he was told no. The blogger was not considered a bonafide news media organization. By example of the response to this evolving tension is the City of Lake Oswego, which went so far as to draft a new policy on who qualifies as a “representative of the news media.” The criteria, which perhaps some may construe it more as a policy of intent to exclude all but a few long-standing media organizations from executive sessions of the City Council, operates to exclude many newer Internet start-up media outlets. Another example is Columbia County, Oregon. In 2007, clarified its determination of what a news organization raised the bar to access of executive sessions exclusively high: http://www.co.columbia.or.us/boc/pdfs/exec_session_policies.pdf
Even the State of Oregon defines what and who is “media”, having policies in place to regulate media access to its prisons and prisoners. http://www.oregon.gov/DOC/PUBAFF/docs/media_access_rule.pdf.
“Media” access differences also play out in the realm of access to daily police incident response reports in different locales, counties and states as relates to who is perceived as “mainstream media” and alternative media. Yet another channel to access to news reporting is the responsiveness to public disclosure requests, requests which at times scale all the way from a local level to the federal level. Government responsiveness and the depth of disclosure varies by whom and which (media organization) is making the request.
It was written more than a couple centuries back: "A Fourth Estate, of Able Editors, springs up; increases and multiplies, irrepressible, incalculable." The Internet has certainly proved prophetic. As political bloggers, online social networks, and alternative news-collectives publish to the world through a method of mass-digital distribution, topically interested readers utilizing search engine mechanisms can find alternative sources of information and opinion outside mainstream media. The Internet information opportunity is an asteroid threatening to break up power of entrenched media and other institutions too long in the driver’s seat of directing mass opinion, or boxing in education through pre-selected lecture and text.
This is the Information Age. On the heels of the Enlightenment Age, British author Oscar Wilde commented: “In old days men had the rack. Now they have the press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralizing. Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism.”
Information is a curious thing; however, how often can one really believe relying upon a few sources of media bring forward Truth, more importantly the ‘whole truth’? As one philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) opined: “It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious." More so, “It cannot be true that contradictory notions can apply to the same fact.
Thus reconcilement of these contrary concepts must be sought in a more searching analysis of the meaning of the terms in which they are phrased.” Further, Whiteheads suggests that, “It is a curious delusion that the rock upon which our beliefs can be founded is an historical investigation. You can only interpret the past in terms of the present.” The Internet more surely brings the past and present together in one swipe of information opportunities than any media platform before available to mankind.
Other than some meta-physical ‘out of body’ experience, one’s personal curiosity can only seek beyond ones own ‘patch of immediacy’, as Whitehead put it, through 1) media platforms (published & broadcast information) and 2) information & opinion available via social networks. “The present is all that you have; and unless in this present you can find general principles which interpret the present as including a representation of the whole community of existents, you cannot move a step beyond your little patch of immediacy.” (Whitehead)
The Positioning of the Media and the People: Though alternative information-news enterprises like Salem-News.com, and independent writers (like bloggers) may form collective distribution platforms/alliances, thereby reaching a significant and growing scale of web-based readership and agenda-constituencies (seeking information beyond their personal sphere of experiences), such web-based/alternative information organizations will remain consistently challenged on different fronts to establish their legitimacy so as to gain access to information and persons which mainstream media is long-entrusted with access to.
Entrenched government elites of any nation often do not likely wish to expand access ‘insider-styled’ access to New-Media styled organizations, as the latter may have an ‘agenda’ that is not supportive of the status quo, as today many New-Media journalistic efforts are often not originating from the status quo of mainstream media. Control of government sourced information shared with the public in the United States will likely remain the bastion of mainstream media, which at times self-censors itself by out-right agreement with government, or by way of traditions of implied “understandings”.
Layer upon this the factor of powerful political organizations and capitalist elites and information flow to the public (even on agenda/cause related billboards along a highway) is further filtered by mainstream media and the formation of media conglomerates. A level of unstated agreements is entrenched in this unholy alliance of mainstream media + government + capitalists + powerful political organizations.
The relationship with government is exemplified by the fact that many of the “unnamed sources” oft quoted in US mainstream media news coverage reside within government; other at-large sources go to mainstream media because such affords the source the opportunity to hide behind the laws of source privilege, privilege protected by the U.S. Constitution and Amendments, along with the protection of legal precedents established when media organizations and political writers have at times had to defended such privilege (from or private or government invasion) in the courts. The public relies on the unnamed to be credible, because the public has had few other opportunities to find what it seeks, other than through the alliance of mainstream media and its information collaborators.
This being the case, governmental or private party efforts at piercing the veil of ‘source privilege’ and the causing of media censorship has happened, but not often in the United States. In the U.S., successful slander and defamation lawsuits are a rarity, not the rule. Canada however, though embracing English common law like much of the United States legal traditions, has wholly different views and laws relating to Freedom of Speech and the Freedom Press than the United States.
The State of Oregon Paints a ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Journalist into a Corner
In Oregon, where Salem-News.com publishes from, the ‘right of source privilege’ in the courtroom has one well-reported example: A lead journalist of the Oregonian in the 1980’s and 90’s, one Phil Stanford, was hauled before a Marion County, Oregon grand jury (convened as regards the infamous Michael Francke murder) on the pretense of trying to pierce the veil of ‘source privilege’.
Oregon’s stated objective was to interrogate Stanford regarding his ‘sources’ due articles Stanford had been writing on Francke’s murder. Many of Stanford’s series of articles implied that high-up government officials were in collusion with others & conspired to murder Michael Francke in January 1989 to cover-up Corrections corruption (Francke then director of Oregon Corrections).
Stanford’s sources, by Stanford’s journalistic standing at a mainstream publication, found safety behind the veil of the Oregonian’s ‘source privilege’. The state’s desire to discredit Stanford’s conspiracy theories resulted in media attention of his being called to the stand, extrapolating on his right to keep his sources’ identities to himself. Stanford likely resisted divulging much while at grand jury, which in turn left the grand jury a far easier, non-conspiracy theory path to a motive and suspect to pursue. The state preferred theory was that a lone, knife-wielding man, who while jockey-boxing Francke’s car, stabbed Francke became the grand jury’s focus.
Stanford had no choice but to clam up and protect his sources. The grand jury, like water followed the gravitational pull of the state to indict one meth-head man with no friends among his peers. Like a priest hearing a confession, knowing much but cannot tell, Stanford who still lives in Oregon has apparently kept his bargain with his sources, to this day.
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