America has, arguably, the least inhibited press in the world. We make heroes of investigative journalists and encourgae anonymous informants and whistle-blowers. And we tolerate a wide diversity of opinion, even fringe and lunatic opinions, as a necessary cost of doing business in a democracy.
But there is a darker side to our celebrated free press. This is nowhere better illustrated than in this collection of eighteen essays by leading investigative journalists, each of whom began a significant investigation, only to have their results suppressed or diluted when powerful economic or political interests were threatened.
Gerald Colby recounts how his own publisher derailed his attempts
to look into the DuPont family and their overpowering influence in
the state of Delaware. Jane Akre tells how her look into the
use of bovine growth hormone to increase milk production cost her
her job at a Tampa television station after she was hired with a
promise to have a free hand at developing
exposes. Greg Palast demonstrates how his examination of the controversial 2000 presidential election in Florida was ignored when more trivial irregularities (like hanging and dimpled chads) acted as a smokescreen to cover up systematic intimidation of (mostly) African-American voters. Maurice Murad peeks into the inner editorial process behind America's longest-running investigative TV magazine, 60 Minutes. Kristina Borjesson, April Oliver, and David Hendrix bitterly tell how the mainstream press's investigation of the TWA 800 crash into Long Island Sound was managed to deflect closer and more disturbing scrutiny. Monika Jensen-Stevenson looks at how the press handled the strange tale of Vietnam Prisoner of War (or
deserter?) Bobby Garwood. Michael Levine and Gary Webb indiocate how the war on drugs as reported by the mainstream media often fails to capture the larger picture. Others write on the CIA and the press, on what muckraking has become, on the ethics of reporters going undercover to get an otherwise unobtainable story, and on how the role that the founding fathers envisioned for the press has been subverted by conglomeration and corporate ownership.
These are all "inside baseball" stories, perhaps more relevant to working reporters than to the news-consuming public. But, once read, you will never look at an investigative report the same way again. And you will always be left wondering: "How much more of the story got dropped for image-saving or other non-legitimate purposes?"
Dialogue on favorite books with Deane Rink before and during his latest trek to Antarctica, with a note from Bill Ransom and a digression about Frank Herbert (a.k.a Bookbabble 101) -- a very long and rapidly growing document: