Suspicious as they are of American intentions, and bolstered by court
rulings that seem to give them license to seek out and publish any and
all government secrets, the media‘s distrust of our government,
combined with their limited understanding of the world at large,
damages our ability to design and conduct good policy in ways that the
media rarely imagine.
The leak through which sensitive information flows from the
government to the press is detrimental to policy in so far as it almost
completely precludes the possibility of serious discussion. The fear that
anything they say, even in what is construed as a private forum, may
appear in print, makes many people, whether our own government
officials or the leaders of foreign countries, unwilling to speak their
Must we be content with the restriction of our leaders‘ policy
discussions to a handful of people who trust each other, thus limiting
the richness and variety of ideas that could be brought forward
through a larger group because of the nearly endemic nature of this
problem? It is vitally important for the leaders of the United States to
know the real state of affairs internationally, and this can occur only if
foreign leaders feel free to speak their minds to our diplomats.
Until recently, it looked as if the media had convinced the public
that journalists were more reliable than the government; however, this
may be changing. With the passage of time, the media have lost
lustre. They—having grown large and powerful—provoke the same
public skepticism that other large institutions in the society do. A
series of media scandals has contributed to this. Many Americans have
concluded that the media are no more credible than the government,
and public opinion surveys reflect much ambivalence about the press.
While leaks are generally defended by media officials on the
grounds of the public‘s --right to know,| in reality they are part of the
Washington political power game, as well as part of the policy process.
The "leaker" may be currying favour with the media, or may be
planting information to influence policy. In the first case, he is helping
himself by enhancing the prestige of a journalist; in the second, he is
using the media as a stage for his preferred policies. In either
instance, it closes the circle: the leak begins with a political motive, is
advanced by a politicized media, and continues because of politics.
Although some of the journalists think they are doing the work, they
are more often than not instruments of the process, not prime movers.
The media must be held accountable for their activities, just like every
other significant institution in our society, and the media must be
forced to earn the public‘s trust.
1. Based on the information in the passage, with which of the following
statements would the author most likely agree?
A. Feeding the public misinformation is warranted in certain situations.
B. The public has a right to know the real state of foreign affairs.
C. The fewer the number of people involved in policy discussions, the better.
D. Leaders give up their right to privacy when they are elected.
E. The media is not accountable to the public
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