Why a Lack of Government Transparency in Media Relations Affects Us All


If only this were the case…

Last month, we brought something to our scrolled pages (and thank you, PRNewsers) about the Obama Administration reneging on its promises to be the most transparent in U.S. history. In that post, we shared the petition that various journalism wrote to the White House, advising the administration to cease its “political suppression of the news.”

A week later, the administration did it again, this time locking the press corps out of fundraising events.

All that ballyhoo caused this hack-turned-flack to wonder about the current state of affairs in network news and its relation to government transparency: aimless speculation from various and sundry “expert guests” left with only their opinions in the absence of more reliable sources.

That trend is affecting “We, the People” in very negative ways. Here’s how…

The first words of the U.S. Constitution state: “We, the people, of the United States of America…”

Those words were chronicled in the summer of 1787 by advocates, lawyers, and politicians. They did it together to establish a system of checks and balances, a government with an open sign in the window that would be ruled by the people looking at the sign instead by the people turning it off and on. How’d that work out?

If you look carefully at our government, you will discover that we are not a democracy; we are a republic. This is crucial because of its distinct difference in meaning:

Democracy: a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

Republic: a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.

we the peopleIn short, we vote for people to vote for themselves. America, you were never meant to have complete say-so. Rather, the people (those nameless, soulless gnomes on Capitol Hill) you vote into office were.

And that is why the media having a constitutionally ordained access to the government via the press is so important: accountability

The great Bob Schieffer of CBS News was once asked by Leonard Downie, Jr., the former executive editor of the Washington Post, about how the Obama administration ranks among other administrations for its access for the media. His words should be bronzed and applied to a plaque outside the White House press room:

When I’m asked what is the most manipulative and secretive administration I’ve covered, I always say it’s the one in office now. Every administration learns from the previous administration. They become more secretive and put tighter clamps on information. This administration exercises more control than George W. Bush’s did, and his before that.

Is that right “for people to know” abused? Definitely. Can we blame any and every presidential administration? Yes, we can.

According to a riveting read in the Huffington Post, this clandestine mode of cloaked secrecy didn’t begin with Obama, Clinton, or even Bush. Blame Nixon.

“I want it clearly understood from now on, ever, no reporter from the Washington Post is ever to be in the White House. Is that clear?” Nixon says [to his press secretary Ron Ziegler].

capitol88Well, we all know why … now. Every president since Nixon has proven that power corrupts and that elected office brings the power to help prevent journalists from doing their jobs.

Perhaps round-the-clock surveillance will work best for all of us. If nothing is wrong, there’s nothing to hide, right?

However, there is much to hide, and that’s why the approval ratings for both Congress and the president are at historic lows. Moreover, the trust ratings for national news aren’t much better. We, the people, don’t trust anyone because we no longer feel that our “right to know” is being honored by either of these two groups.

MEMO to national news and national leaders alike: We really can and should do better. God knows, we deserve it.