Paul Krugman has a post about how the correctional industry demanded retractions to statements he made in his column. Only he didn’t make the statements that they say he made. As Krugman points out, the point is not to get the correction, but to intimidate the writer from venturing down this path again. Those who practice journalism should always strive for absolute accuracy, but also know that the powerful will come after you no matter what–perhaps especially if you are accurate.
As Krugman points out, and I have also seen, some reporters (perhaps most) do get intimidated and strive to present the side of the powerful. For instance, whenever gas prices go up I see nearly every reporter talk about the various refinery shutdowns or government regs that lead to higher prices. Why don’t reporters just say the obvious truth: that the prime motive of corporations is to make the most money possible, not to make a reasonable profit margin. I’m okay with that. That’s capitalism. But let’s not pretend that businesses are always stuck charging you higher prices because of various inputs that are out of their control. In some cases, as Krugman points out in another column, when they have market power they would have to be philanthropists or bad businessmen if they didn’t raise the price to maximize revenue.
Let us always remember the California electricity crisis, when brownouts and sky high prices were blamed on state regulations or normal maintenance shutdowns. We now know that oligopolies like Duke energy were gaming the system to jack up prices. Real journalists should not be afraid to point this out. Real news organizations are not afraid to back up their real journalists.