Another public relations fail

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As a journalist, it can sometimes be hard to look at my industry in an objective manner. Although journalism students are taught the importance of fairness, accuracy and the First Amendment, it can sometimes be easy to slip into fear and an inability to resist the pressure not to tell the hard truths.

In the past, the revealing of governmental travesties &#;agrave; la Watergate were downright laudable and led to resignations or structural changes. Even lately, the media has had field days when uncovering sensational stories like Gen. Petraeus’ affair with his biographer or the scandal involving Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, the man in charge of the Air Force sexual assault prevention program.

But it seems there has been an unsettling trend growing at the heart of today’s national media.

Recently, there have been a troubling number of embarrassing national incidents, and these incidents have been under-reported or completely ignored by the media and, as a result, the public.

The first incident concerns the recent disclosure that the Internal Revenue Service was targeting groups for political discrimination, particularly groups that have tea party or other conservative leanings. These groups were given prejudicial treatment when applying for tax-exempt status. President Obama responded by calling the scandal inexcusable.

“It should not matter what political stripe you’re from,” the president said. “The fact of the matter is the IRS has to operate with absolute integrity.”

Even though IRS commissioner Steven Miller stepped down from his position as a result of the episode, the fact remains that this was a much bigger deal than the mainstream news media outlets made it seem. What was essentially at risk from the IRS’ misconduct were the First Amendment rights of American citizens to express their political opinions in a forum where they are given equal treatment. The IRS is not an independent corporation that experienced a public relations flop; it’s an extension of the U.S. government that is guilty of trying to silence American voices.

The second, and more important, incident of media under-reporting concerns the cover-up of the Benghazi, Libya, attack that occurred on Sept. 11 last year. When the deadly strike on the U.S. diplomatic compound occurred, many media outlets blindly chalked it up to Islamic fundamentalist outrage against a controversial anti-Muslim video that had been circulated over the internet.

New testimony from Americans who were in Benghazi at the time has come forth, however, that decries the video as the source of violence. It would seem that, in fact, the attack on Benghazi was planned, and that members of the U.S. government—particularly former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the UN Ambassador Susan Rice—deliberately misled the public. In fact, Clinton testified in court over the attacks in which she linked the violence to the video despite her now-proven knowledge about a weak security plan for the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.

“What difference, at this point, does it make?” asked Clinton.

All the difference in the world. Although Clinton has since resigned from her post as Secretary of State, the truth remains that Clinton may have been guilty of perjury. However, information has been denigrated as conspiracy theory or obsession by many news outlets.

When all is said and done, repression of American rights doesn’t happen overnight. They are the culmination of small infringements on our everyday lives. These infringements can be hard to find when journalists aren’t doing their jobs correctly or when they feel pressure from the government to spread only certain information. But ultimately, it’s the job of all journalists to ensure that all our rights are protected, and that the truth is made visible.