When former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee died a couple of weeks ago, a lot of ink was spilled on how fearless he was generally, and most specifically in light of the stories brought him by a pair of reporters named Woodward and Bernstein. The record is long on Watergate and what these two reporters divulged about high crimes committed by members of the Nixon administration.

Nicked from http://creativecrista.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/concentration-of-media-ownership/The thing is, this kind of reporting doesn’t happen anymore and even at the time didn’t happen often. And the cojones it took to print it, unheard of in today’s media. A lot of that has to do with media consolidation. Whereas there were, I’m guessing, at least a hundred major media outlet owners in 1973, there are vastly fewer today. I would need to do a little more research to back up that number, but blogger FrugalDad created an infographic a couple of years ago that stated 90% of media outlets in 2011 were owned by six companies, whereas that number was 50 companies in 1983. freepress.net offers more useful numbers. The Bain/ClearChannel and NBC Comcast stats are especially scary.

FrugalDad’s 2011 infographic is here.

I’d like to believe that the illusion of press freedom was put to bed about ten years ago when Dan Rather reported on George W. Bush’s preferential military service treatment during the 2004 presidential campaign. Alas, there’s a lot of doubt regarding the authenticity of the documents Rather and CBS news relied on for their reporting. On the left, there was a lot of desire for some of the shit that was flung about Resident Bush to actually stick. Alas, not only did the Killian document assertions not stick, they weren’t the shit we were looking for either.

I digress. In the 70s, Bradlee expressed a bravery that was uncommon in the news biz. No one in US history had suggested printing a story that might take down a sitting president. I’d like to believe that if the story had involved a president on the left, Bradlee (a confidante of JFK’s) would have made the same call.

Reporting today at least in the West has lost a lot of that editorial bravery. You still have reporters from around the globe going into the most dangerous places, but it seems in the US and the UK we’ve lost the bravery to take on the crimes of our leaders. Reporting the truth can get you killed in many parts of the world, but here it just gets you ridiculed.

It used to be that there were a few conflicts of interest – nuclear power, for example, is still never covered on NBC and its affiliates, given that NBC’s parent company from 1986 to 2013 was General Electric.

ETA: There’s a really good Bradlee story here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/10/22/how-ben-bradlees-outrageous-use-of-white-privilege-turned-my-life-around/