My Two Cents: Disinformation in decline

August 8, 2015

The final edition of the Prince George's Gazette was printed on June 18. Photo courtesy Rebecca Bennett.
BY HUGH TURLEY —

BY HUGH TURLEY —

This opinion piece was written in response to this letter from the editor.  It was not surprising news that the Gazette newspaper is finally finished.  I remember when the Gazette was delivered to homes in my neighborhood for free.

When the Gazette arrived in driveways, neighbors complained that the newspaper was littering and the free delivery ended. If it wasn’t picked up and put in the trash immediately it would get soggy when it rained.

Lately I have been receiving the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post daily. The WSJ just started arriving for free like the Gazette. They hope I will subscribe after receiving a free sample, but I put it in the trash like the Gazette.

I am subscribed to the Post for a special rate of $1.79 a week. I don’t read it but use it for a magic trick or to line the bottom of my rabbit’s cage. It is a good deal at the price since it costs $1.50 daily at the newsstand.

The Washington Post has already ended its Saturday newsstand edition. They give away the free propaganda express edition at metro rail stations. By 2020, as old readers die off, the Post may become a weekly.

Print newspapers are a relic of the 20th century destined to go the way of 45-rpm records, manual typewriters, and “moon landings.”

It is a popular myth that the press is in business to make money with advertising. In truth, most of the American media are in business to make official announcements and shape public opinion.

Abraham Lincoln said, “In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.”

What Americans know and don’t know is carefully controlled. Americans may be the most uninformed and misinformed people in the world, thanks to newspapers like the Post and Gazette.

I wrote a column for the Hyattsville Life & Times for seven years and tried to bring forward news that had been suppressed. I occasionally wrestled with the editors over my column.  Sometimes they would censor things, like the identity of a certain Associated Press reporter that I named.

My final column concerned the importance of knowledge that is true. That column was rejected and it prompted the board of directors to adopt a self-censorship policy. Nothing would be published that was not about Hyattsville or a neighboring community.

A newspaper should serve as the eyes and ears of the people and not as the mouthpiece of the authorities. Censorship, including self-censorship is not in the public interest. Fortunately we live in the Internet age where information is free, including some information the old news media model would prefer to suppress.

Response from Chris Currie, Hyattsville Community Newspaper Inc. (HCN) board member: HCN, publisher of the Hyattsville Life & Times, has as its explicit policy to cover the news in our community and reflect the spectrum of its members’ viewpoints.  The column cited by Hugh Turley above accused the U.S. government of propounding the events of Sept. 11, 2001, as a hoax on the American people, and was withheld as non-germane to the mission of our newspaper.  Subsequently, the HCN board formulated a policy that all columns published in the Life & Times should have a local angle.  That was simply an extension of the board’s original mission to publish a community newspaper.  The editorial decisions made in light of the newspaper’s mission are not censorship or self-censorship, but merely exercises in sound editorial judgement.