Many assume and expect the US to lead the world in press freedom. However, the US has ranked 47 in the 2011 poll. Many have recently stated and even worry that the”US First Amendment is being taken for granted. “Specifically to blame for the drop in ratings are the “months of journalist arrests and press suppression at Occupy Wall Street-inspired protest.” “According to organizations like the Society for Professional Journalists, the National Press Photographers Association and the Committee to Protect Journalists, the arrests at Occupy events are part of a growing trend in the U.S. and worldwide.”
Who ranked # 1 in the world press freedom? Finland remains at number 1 since 2010. In 2010, the US was ranked at # 20. Are the scholars correct in blaming Occupy Wall street on why the US has dropped 27 spots? Before people jump to that conclusion, it must be stated that in 2007 the US was even ranked # 48.
Freedom dominates American’s thought processes. But, do we know what press freedom is like in Finland? Do Americans think US press freedom is as low as it was rated? What can we do to increase US press freedom?
Media response to Wall Street protests aside, the decline in the United States’ ranking may be due to the fact that many perceive U.S. media as increasingly sensationalist and less objective. Laws restricting discussion of certain topics or certain opinions on those topics are not the only way to stifle free speech. If news organizations themselves refuse to report certain information or choose to highlight only select information, free speech is just as stifled as it would be if laws explicitly outlawed press coverage of certain information.
While I am certainly not surprised that we are not one of the lower ranking countries, the fact that the United States jumped from a ranking of 20 in 2010 to a ranking of 47 in 2011 is somewhat surprising. Granted, as the article points out, the United States was ranked 48 in 2007, but the change from 2007 to 2010 was gradual while the change from 2010 to 2011 was much more dramatic and rapid.
The groups that you mention, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists, are likely correct, at least in part, in their hypothesis that that cause of this rank increase is probably due to the numerous arrests connected with occupy wall street and the related press suppression accompanying it. That being said, if such actions caused such a rise in U.S. ranking, it is surprising that the placement shifted so much when other countries have been following the same patterns.
I agree with Justin. Personally I hate watching the news. As an aspiring lawyer it is increasingly important to make sure I am informed about current events but what annoys me with the U.S. media is that you have to watch three different channels to try to piece together what is really going on. That is of course after i weed through all of the horribly depressing news and the filler news about how coffee might kill me one day but is great for me the next. Our media does not focus on getting to the truth. Its about making headlines, pulling people in through fear. I am not saying we should ever do away with the media. i just wish their policies about reporting would change.
Perhaps part of the reason for the U.S.’s ranking here is the disappearance of real news coverage in the U.S. Everything is filtered through either a liberal or conservative lens before it reaches the public. Getting the facts becomes increasingly difficult, as one must search through both liberal and conservation news outlets to discern for one’s self what the facts are. There is CNN on one end and Fox News on the other. If the news outlets in the U.S could make a real effort to separate their hard news coverage from news commentary, perhaps the press-freedom rating could rise again. How can the press be free if no one is reporting what is actually going on?
I certainly agree with Justin’s point that the U.S. media is incredibly sensationalized. Most days, I listen to or read the news and think to myself, “is this really the most important news out there today?” While I could certainly go off on a tangent about my ever-increasing displeasure with the media in general, I will resist the temptation. The Press Freedom Index is, however, measured on factors like government censorship, not on the quality of journalism. Still, no matter how “low” on the press freedom scale we may perceive the United States to be, at least we have a relatively free press when compared with countries that do not enjoy this freedom whatsoever. In many non-democratic countries, the press is state-run and essentially churns out government propaganda. This kind of press suppresses, and basically eliminates, anyone who wishes to challenge the government on controversial issues. Therefore, while the White House can continue to keep secrets from the rest of us, news organizations can report, publish, and broadcast their opinions on controversial issues while other countries are forced to endure state-run press and sit in silence.
I think, Amy, that I will go there. Journalist Theodore White once wrote: “The power of the press in America is a primordial one. It sets the agenda of public discussion; and this sweeping political power is unrestrained by any law. It determines what people will talk and think about — an authority that in other nations is reserved for tyrants, priests, parties and mandarins.”
Now consider the most apparent realization you can derive from the understanding that the hundreds of media outlets across the United States are quite literally receiving their content from one or two sources. To make matters worse, those hundreds of outlets are actually owned by just three different corporations. Don’t want to read the paper, you say? Then turn on the television. But wait, that news channel is owned by the same corporations that own the newspaper that you don’t want to read. So, while it may seem like we have more sources, we actually have less variety than thirty years ago.
I realize that this argument seems to be equating corporations with lack of reliability, and privately funded outlets with reliability. It’s true; many fringe- kook media outlets are private. But Time Warner, Clear Channel, and Fox are really no different. Society picks out zealots and extremists because they fall at the poles of the spectrum, but the average moderate who thinks well of themselves because they are not a member of either extreme, are just as predisposed to seeing the world through the rose colored glass of their ideology.
That is a surprising finding. I would have imagined the United States being among the world’s best when it comes to press freedom. However, before I decry the relatively poor ranking, I’d be curious to know exactly what the difference between Finland, for example, and the United States actually is. Is there greater access to politicians, governmental organizations, etc.?