Robert A. Young: Twin Tiers Perspective: On public safety, national security and the economy
In 2012 aggressive reporting by the media has responsible American citizens and even academics wondering if the "Fourth Estate" is handling things the right way in print, on the air and behind the scenes.
Anyone following the recent "WIKI Leaks" debacle can attest to certain behaviors, situations and circumstances that the media really should not publicly cover, due to vital reasons of public safety and national security.
But, it is a known fact that rogue members of the media have been delving into areas that are off-limits for decades in this country.
I remember one incident back in the 1990s that I reflected on as a former law enforcement public affairs media relations officer.
The deposed leader of Panama, general Manual Antonio Noriega, was pampered on the CIA payroll by then director George Bush Sr. and others in the American government for years, and then Noriega was suddenly arrested during the Bush I presidential administration via newly initiated policies and actions that took an uncharacteristic about face in the opposite direction from the historically cozy American-Panamanian relationship with the U.S. supported dictator.
This arrest actually occurred following the 1990 invasion of the strategically located Panama. The expressed purpose of the U.S. attack was to lock-up the dictator for drug trafficking. The operation was a little different from how the present Obama administration and the Navy seals physically took out Osama Bin Laden last year in Pakistan or how five years prior George Bush II and Dick Cheney ordered the American invasion of Iraq which led to the demise of Saddam Hussein. We won't get into the final unraveling of Libya's Muammar Al-Gaddafi last year
Noriega was eventually convicted of the charges in 1992, and he is reportedly serving a 40 year prison term in a comfortable prison in, of all places, sunny; Miami, Florida. Of course, where else?
Here's where the interesting media connection enters the story. After the Panamanian invasion, CNN was reportedly charged with contempt of court because according to federal prosecutors at the time, it was alleged that the network reporters ignored a judge's order that forbade the airing of the deposed dictators taped telephone conversations that were recorded while he was in jail awaiting trial.
According to the record, it is unknown how CNN accessed the tapes, but after they reportedly broadcast a previously taped conversation, the drug king pin's high paid defense attorneys immediately attempted to get the charges dropped because of the argument that the client's "right to confidentiality was breached."
At that time, it was widely reported that CNN eventually contended in a litany of subsequent legal proceedings that the original federal judge's order was unconstitutional and a therefore a violation of the First Amendment right of the free press to disseminate the news. Years later, it was reported that a higher U.S. appeals court rightfully determined that this was not the case, and CNN was found guilty of one count of contempt of court.
Back then, as a law enforcement officer, I felt that in this matter; CNN was at the very least, irresponsible, and may have seriously jeopardized the case against Noriega who was finally considered by authorities to be a known international criminal instead of an ally. Similarly, now as a private citizen I believe that the recently reported "WIKI Leaks" issues endangered American national security and must be dealt with by the legal system as such.
In law enforcement, police officers and investigators often catch the press delving into areas where they really shouldn't be and authorities frequently uncover the inaccurate reporting of public affairs that are known first hand to them.
Sometimes the role of the news media should therefore be carefully examined, critiqued and reformed as to their efforts' over-all value to society.
New York University's department of journalism is one group that has tried to do just that.
NYU academicians have attempted to change journalistic ethics through the: "Project On Public Life And The Press." At one point in time the director, Jay Rosen, professor and associate of the Kettering Foundation headed the project which proposed to link journalists to community activism for the public good. That is facilitating change.
The philosophy of the program once centered around the idea that the "public journalist" is obligated to actually do something about a public problem, not merely report on it through words and images then move on to the next story.
This approach is a welcome relief from the traditional one dimensional armchair media concepts and practices of the past.
Public journalism is socially responsible journalism in which the craft and profession then takes on an air of community support and advocacy. As a result of this point of view, the media adopts a more positive, supportive, proactive and problem solving role in civic affairs on the ground in our communities. It also can be termed: "results-oriented journalism."
Wouldn't it be nice if all reporters always followed this philosophy and strategy?
It's about time that the media and the community become one and the same, especially in the areas of public safety, national security and maybe even their reporting on the American economy.
The media should therefore ultimately work for, support and be accountable to the American people not politicians, corporations or other special interests.
Writer Robert A. Young of Rome, Pa. is a retired police officer and maintains "Robert A. Young's Blog For Social Responsibility@Blogspot.com"