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Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com wrote a brilliant article Sunday (April 10) on how the parent of the Washington Post must kiss the buttocks of the federal government, which its reporters are supposed to be covering objectively. The Post itself on Sunday did a major story revealing how, in essence, the newspaper has become "a side vanity project" at the company, writes Greenwald. Reason: Kaplan Higher Education, a for-profit university entity, was 61% of the parent company's revenue in 2010. More than 90% of Kaplan's revenue comes from the federal government, mainly through loans and grants to students. That means one-third of the parent company's revenue comes from the federal government. Writes Greenwald, "The company that owns the Washington Post [newspaper] is almost entirely at the mercy of the federal government and the Obama administration -- the entities which its newspaper ostensibly checks and holds accountable." Greenwald's essay, as well as the Post's own story, reveal how the parent company has been doing fierce lobbying for the for-profit education industry.

Greenwald goes on to point out how other media behemoths such as Comcast, CBS (owned by Viacom), ABC (owned by Disney) and CNN (owned by Time Warner) are also beholden to the federal government.

Writes Greenwald, "How can a company which is almost wholly dependent upon staying in the good graces of the U.S. government possibly be expected to serve as a journalistic watchdog over the same government? The idea is absurd." Greenwald then goes on to discuss the snug relationship between journalists and the politicians they are supposed to be covering. "Because media stars are now as wealthy and celebrated as the politically powerful whom they cover, they identify on socioecomic and cultural grounds with these political officials...one crucial factor driving this decisively non-adversarial journalistic posture is that the large corporations which own these media outlets need desperately to maintain good relations with the political class."

Greenwald's article does not mention San Diego's Bridgepoint Education, which has a symbiotic relationship with the San Diego establishment and is generally mollycoddled by the mainstream media. (The Reader, however, has written a stream of articles extremely critical of Bridgepoint.)

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Visduh April 13, 2011 @ 9:12 a.m.

Forty-eight hours have passed and nobody has made a comment? I really am surprised at that. One would almost think that Don has gone over to the Limbaugh/"Vannity"/Beck side with this blog. They have been making a career out of pointing out the built-in bias of the "mainstream" media, such as the Post, NYT, TV networks, and a host of others. I doubt they could describe the situation as eloquently as Greenwald did in the passages quoted above.

The real reason for this and many other systemic failures in the US is the far reach of federal government tentacles into all nooks and crannies of the economy. Educational institutions, corporations, hospitals, and even states, cities and counties cannot function without a steady flow of funds from the US treasury into their coffers. That money corrupts. Worse yet, it is borrowed money that soon may no longer be available at any price. If you're on the receiving end of a stream of dollars shooting out of a federal nozzle, you will think long and hard before criticizing that government.

Add the corrupting influence of dependence upon federal funds to what Greenwald describes as how the media stars "identify on socioeconomic and cultural grounds with these political officials", and you have the recipe for a free press that has no freedom and no inclination to criticize. Could it be that those aforementioned talk radio personalities have had it right--on that at least--all along?


Don Bauder April 13, 2011 @ 12:11 p.m.

Frankly, I didn't know the Fox crowd denigrates the mainstream media because I never watch Fox or listen to Limbaugh, except when MSNBC runs some goofball statement by Limbaugh, Beck or Hannity. You are correct about the government's influence on the press, but you failed to mention that big business's influence is equally or more pervasive. Companies have the power of the ad dollar. And they are equally powerful in other respects. In my judgment, it's only a few publications like the Reader that stand up to both government and business. Best, Don Bauder


Visduh April 13, 2011 @ 3:37 p.m.

The topic here was media criticism, or lack of same, of the government. I don't doubt that corporate America has its own strong influence on newspapers, TV news departments, and other miscellaneous media. But that influence may be waning now that fewer dollars are flowing into the print media, at least. I'd always been skeptical of the claims of newspaper publishers that they had a "Chinese Wall" between their editorial departments and advertising departments. It stretched the imagination to view a paper smiling at advertisers who came in the front door with millions of ad dollars while digging up dirt on them and printing stories that cast those advertisers in a bad light. There were probably papers who did that scrupulously, but it was more of an ideal for journalists, not an everyday thing they did.

Don, I'm sure you will never claim that the U-T kept the editorial department free from pressure to obfuscate bad news about big or otherwise influential advertisers. If the Reader does stand up to both business and government, it is a rare publication. We need more of those in all our cities and states.


Don Bauder April 14, 2011 @ 11:58 a.m.

For the most part, the Chinese Wall is a myth. It's taught to journalism students, but the upwardly mobile ones realize quickly that it is a fiction, and look the other way. I wrote for Business Week from 1964 to 1973. In that period, the magazine was written and edited for the advertisers, not for the readers. The cover story was routinely whored out to an advertiser. The publication tried to introduce credibility in 1970, but not enough for me. (Later, it became a very reliable magazine.) In the Copley organization, the prostitution was not just for the benefit of advertisers, but generally for the benefit of the entire ruling establishment. You fought it at your peril. I fought it and was always in peril. A bunch of the executives wanted me fired for years, but thankfully I had readership. I left in 2003 when I was almost 67, but had the brass found out I was planning to retire, I would have probably been gone in a flash. Best, Don Bauder


Fred Williams April 13, 2011 @ 12:40 p.m.

In computer science, feedback loops lead to systems collapse.

Government funds media, which says what the government wants, which give more funds...

-- or worse

Media produces stories, which prompts government reaction, which produces government money, which is subject of triumphant media stories...and so on.

I think the latter has happened in this case, and wouldn't think it difficult to put together a trail of stories over the last decade extolling private educational institutions like Kaplan in the media entities controlled by the conglomerate.

So in the IT world this would have guys working around the clock to fix it. In American political discourse, this is met with a collective yawn.


Don Bauder April 14, 2011 @ 12:03 p.m.

I'm not the only journalist chasing for-profit colleges. A writer on Bloomberg Business Week has followed this industry for a long time and has written very good pieces. There are others, too. Best, Don Bauder


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