Transparency Benefits the Practice of Journalism

Giles, Bob
September 2004
Nieman Reports;Fall2004, Vol. 58 Issue 3, p3
Discusses the benefits of transparency for journalism practice. Recent reexaminations published in The New York Times and The Washington Post that probe into flaws in their coverage during the months leading up to the Iraq War bring to mind the journalism of the cold war era and early days of the fighting in Vietnam. As time passed, it became apparent that the American government used the press to deceive its people. Once the press began to provide a more accurate picture of the fighting in Vietnam, public attitudes began to change. Disclosures in the Pentagon Papers, first published by The New York Times, presented an archive of secret government decisions made by several administrations that led the country into war in Southeast Asia. Implications drawn from this information remind us that those who occupy the White House are often more interested in building public support for its policies than in giving citizens a fully accurate picture. The experience of being misled about the Vietnam War--most notably the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution--by government officials has weighed heavily on Murrey Marder, who was diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post during that time. According to Marder, he is convinced that if the American Congress and press had performed their proper constitutional functions of questioning--and counter-balancing--the executive branch, the U.S. never would have gone to war in Vietnam, says Marder.


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