AIM Representative

University of Wisconsin - River Falls

Oct. 18, 1996

Media Critic Urges Students to Higher Standards

By Penny Huntington
UW-RF News Bureau

Those who believe the media deliberately skew the news to conform to the reporter's viewpoint have every reason to feel justified in their criticism, according to a nationally know media critic.

"There is no longer any question that there is bias in the media," said Charles Wiley, a spokesperson for Accuracy in the Media. A veteran journalist, Wiley spent several days at UW-River Falls speaking to journalism classes.

Wiley gave an interesting account of why he thought the media were failing at its obligation to provide accurate, objective accounts of "real news."

"If you want to change the world, you become a journalist," says Wiley, "When a reporter is allowed to be objective, they can change the world."

But Wiley believes that advocacy journalism is what exists in today's world. In that role a journalist takes what he or she doesn't like about society and reports the information from his or her view point. It is a tactic that is getting out of hand, Wiley added.

"If we don't make some crucial decisions about the media, we are going to go down like the Titanic," says Wiley.

Accuracy in Media, founded by Reed Irvine, investigates complaints of serious media misdeeds and works for the adoption of higher standards in reporting, editing, and approaching the news responsibly.

Based in Washington, D.C., AIM publishes a report twice each month and distributes a weekly column about media error and distortion to over 100 newspapers each week.

Wiley has reported from over 100 countries, while being arrested eight times by the former Soviet Union's secret police and in Cuba, in his search for the truth while reporting for WOR radio in New York. Along with covering eight wars for U.S. and foreign news media, several of his freelance articles and photographs have been published in Time, Newsweek and The New York Times.

Wiley also has appeared in hundreds of presentations in the media and college campuses. He has addressed media accuracy through appearances on Crossfire, Donahue and C-SPAN.

Wiley pointed to failures in the educational system as the cause of journalists losing their sense of their role within a democracy. But that does not exonnerate journalists, he added. "It is our job to educate ourselves. There is more to it than sitting in a classroom and having a piece of paper to show for it."

He went on to say that experience is necessary to reporters.

"We have reached tthe point that too many young journalists don't even know that they are advocate journalists."

The loss of objectivity is reporting was a primary motive for forming Accuracy in Media, Wiley explained.

"It is not a reporter's job to tell us how the world should be, it is their job to tell us how it is. And too often that is not the way that it is," says Wiley. Journalists, young and old, should "learn their craft," to investigate and get the correct data.

Wiley also says "we should keep in mind what journalists are and what they are not. Don't go out to prove your theory."

Because of the complexities of their profession, journalists are a special breed of person. However, that does not allow for arrogance or patronizing that assumes the journalist knows best.

"The thing that is sad is they could really be informative if they did their job right," he adds.

As a spokesperson for Accuracy in Media, Wiley spends his time giving over 100 speeches a year.

Accuracy in Media publishes a report twice a month that exposes media abuse, distortion, and error, Wiley said.

It also investigates allegations of serious media misdeeds, seeks corrections from media; brings a public spotlight to media indiscretions; promotes higher professional standards for reporting, writing and editing.

The organization claims that jobs, business, reputations, peace of mind, and even freedoms can be endangered by irresponsible media actions. Therefore it works to combat media distortion and abuse.

Wiley urged students to "not get caught up in the arrogance of the job. The press has no more freedom than anyone else."

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