Failure of the Media After 9/11

Jannie Botes

Assistant Professor, Program on Negotiations and Conflict Management, University of Baltimore

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

We've sort of talked about this but the current Gulf War; I think was a great example of where American journalism failed us, the public. In the sense that in the aftermath of 9/11 and we've sort of talked about this, to a degree they deferred to the government on whether this war should occur or not. Now to a degree I think the vehement criticism of the 16 words that should or should not have been in the speech made by President Bush is that American journalism is playing catch up. It's sort of a guilty conscience over the fact that they didn't really do what is a major role of the media in all conflict reporting is reality checking. Is it really necessary for us to go to this war? Are there really weapons of mass destruction? What's the motive behind this? And I think we're slowly coming to the realization that again, the British Press and the European Press did a much better job of this than did the American press at the time because they were further away from the conflict and so they could be less patriotic and more neutral and objective or be forced to be. That is another story in terms of international view, and stories which is the whole argument about "do the media have the strength to go against the main stream public view at the time," which might be abused by politicians? Connected to the business parts of that because the worst thing that can happen to a media organization is to do the right thing but to pay the commercial price for doing the right thing. That's a part of our tragedy of conflict reporting. Then you would ask the question about, what role would journalists have in terms of conflict resolution?