War in the Media

Author, syndicated columnist, and Park Scholar Tenth Anniversary Speaker Norman Solomon talks about good journalism and bad.  by Erika Spaet '09

Opening the morning paper and getting fingers messy with ink is as much a ritual for many Americans as a morning cup of coffee. But according to Norman Solomon, author, syndicated columnist, and Park Scholar Tenth Anniversary Speaker Series guest, the search for good journalism should go far beyond the routine.

“Whether you’re a newspaper reporter, a student, a government official, a school teacher, a librarian, or a ditch digger,” he says, “we all have a responsibility and opportunity to engage in civic discourse and promote democracy.” Solomon himself reads a variety of news sources each day, he says, because “there’s no gospel out there.”

In his February lecture, “The Media Politics of War,” Solomon encouraged students, many of them future journalists, to “swim against the current” of corporate-controlled media. Solomon’s dedication to independent journalism prompted him to create the Institute for Public Accuracy, a national consortium of policy analysts and researchers that provides journalists with access to experts whose voices aren’t often heard.

The Ithaca audience was treated to a sneak preview of the film made from Solomon’s latest book, War Made Easy:
How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. The documentary, produced by the Media Education Foundation, is being released this spring as the next step in Solomon’s “push against the mainstream.”

But that kind of push can be a scary thought for many journalism students; maintaining journalistic integrity rarely
results in the superstardom and sizable salaries that some journalists have assumed. Park Scholar and former IPA intern Emily McNeill ’08 admits, though, that she’d sacrifice fame to do what she loves. “I worry that I won’t be able to have as much of an influence outside the mainstream,” she says, “but I would be miserable if I felt I couldn’t do the kind of journalism I believe in.”

With students like McNeill at the helm of the future of journalism, perhaps media analysts and everyday readers may find more truthfulness in their news. “We can hope,” says Solomon, “that there is an allegiance to journalism that draws on a diversity of sources. People should be heard and information unearthed without regard to who has power.”


Read more about Solomon’s work at the Institute for Public Accuracy,