By Batiaan Vanacker
Although the United States Constitution guarantees the country's media freedom from government interference, some have argued that this freedom and independence are being endangered from a different threat: corporate interests and financial pressures are said to shape and determine news and media content. Polls among journalists by media watch groups such as the Pew Center for the People & the Press and Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), indicate that journalists often are compelled to put the economic interests of advertisers ahead of the public's right to know when writing or selecting news stories.
FAIR collected some examples of these kinds of pressures and their influence on the news of the year 2000 and presented them in a report released on February 14, 2001. The report is by no means an exhaustive overview, nor a scientific study of the phenomenon, but it provides the reader with an idea of the "behind the scenes" pressures exerted on journalists. The report is divided into five sections: pressures from advertisers, how power players and their influential PR machines try to steer the news, the sometimes less than critical coverage local sports teams receive, corporate ownership of the media and official and government pressures on the media.
While the report is a laudable initiative, the anecdotal evidence only scratches the surface of what is a very complex, but understudied issue. The report by FAIR, which can be found at the organization's website,