Investigative Journalists are REPORTERS
THE PUBLIC'S RIGHT TO KNOW
John Oliver delivers the single best summation of challenges facing those who do real accountability journalism.
How the War on Terrorism Affects Access to Information and the Public's Right to Know
Prepared by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
2016 HARVARD'S LOUIS LYONS AWARD FOR CONSCIENCE AND INTEGRITY IN JOURNALISM
Yang Jisheng Speech Transcript in Chinese
I thank the Nieman class of 2016 for giving me the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism. I feel overwhelmed by the weight of the words “conscience” and “integrity,” but they serve to encourage and spur me on.
The Nieman fellows are all distinguished journalists. I fervently love the profession of journalism. After more than forty years of being tempered in this position, and based on my experience and observation, this is how I evaluate journalism as a profession:
This is a despicable profession that can confuse right and wrong, reverse black and white, manufacture monstrous falsehoods and dupe an audience of millions.
This is a noble profession that can point out the ills of our times, uncover the darkness, castigate evil, advocate for the people and take on the responsibility of social conscience.
This is a banal profession that evades conflict, ignores questions of right or wrong, plays it safe and willingly serves as a mouthpiece of the powerful.
This is a sacred profession that cherishes all under heaven, contemplates eternal questions, criticizes the political situation, monitors the government, communicates with society and makes the news media the Fourth Estate.
This is a shallow profession that anyone can take on, requiring only the ability to write a coherent narrative and a minimum of knowledge, demanding no brilliant insights but only obedience and submission.
This is an unfathomable profession; while journalists are not scholars, they’re required to study and gain a comprehensive grasp of society. Any journalist, no matter how erudite and insightful, will feel unequal to the task of decoding this complex and ever-changing society.
This is a safe and comfortable profession that gives journalists access to palace balconies and the corridors of power, that lets them attend lavish receptions and gala celebrations, interview important officials and meet the rich and famous, ride the crest of success and enjoy limitless fame. Journalists can barter their essays and influence into positions of power and wealth.
This is a difficult and dangerous profession. Quite apart from war correspondents who spend their time dodging hails of bullets, even in a peacetime, investigating and searching for the truth involves arduous journeys and immense obstacles in the war against tyranny and evil. A journalist who touches a sore spot of the power establishment brings disaster upon his or her head.
This is a profession that is despicable and noble, banal and sacred, shallow and profound, all depending on the conscience, character and values of the individual journalist. The truly professional journalist will choose the noble, sacred, profound and perilous, and remain aloof from the despicable, mundane, shallow and comfortable.
But there is no chasm, wall or pathway that demarcates the despicable from the noble or the banal from the sacred; all of this is left to the journalist to discern. A journalist who takes the pathway of darkness will be nailed to history’s pillar of shame, his own words used as indelible evidence against him. “Debasement is the password of the base, Nobility the epitaph of the noble.” This mordant credo, very much in vogue in the journalistic profession, can make a journalist veer onto the road of dishonor unless he forges on toward heroic self-sacrifice.
This is my understanding of conscience and integrity in journalism.
Insisting on being a journalist with conscience and integrity carries risks. When giving a lecture to a class of journalism students, I passed along a tip for avoiding danger: “Ask for nothing and fear nothing, and position yourself between heaven and earth.” By asking for nothing I mean not hoping for promotion or wealth; by fearing nothing I mean examining one’s own behavior and not exposing a “pigtail” for anyone to grab. Don’t rely on the powerful, but rather on your own character and professional independence. These three methods greatly reduce risk.
Since China embarked on Reform and Opening, many journalists of conscience and integrity have emerged. In the face of enormous impediments they’ve reported the truth, chastised evil and moved Chinese society forward. They aren’t attending this ceremony tonight, but they should share in its honor.
I’ve retired now and can no longer work as a journalist, so I write historical works as a “journalist of past events.” Yesterday’s news is today’s history. What news and history have in common is that both must be true and credible. Credibility is the lifeblood of both news and history. China’s historians have always put an emphasis on the ethics of history: fidelity to unvarnished historical fact, both positive and negative. Every age has included historians who consider it their responsibility to provide an honest record, and who consider distortion a disgrace. Many historians have preserved their moral integrity at the cost of their lives. Influenced by the spirit of China’s historians, I’ve recorded major events that I personally experienced: the Great Famine, the Cultural Revolution, Reform and Opening. We must remember not only the good things, but also the bad; not only the brightness, but also the darkness. I want people to remember man-made disaster, darkness and evil so they will distance themselves from man-made disaster, darkness and evil from now on.
My book Tombstonerecorded a horrific man-made disaster that lasted for several years. Although it could only be published in Hong Kong and remains banned in China, truth-loving people have found various means and channels to distribute it throughout mainland China. Pirated editions of Tombstoneare being sold from the hinterlands of the Central Plains to the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau to the Xinjiang frontier. I’ve received letters from readers all over China expressing their fervent and unwavering support. This shows the power of truth to break through the bronze walls and iron ramparts constructed by the government.
Fact is a powerful bomb that blasts lies to smithereens. Fact is a beacon in the night that lights the road of progress. Fact is the touchstone of truth; there can be no truth without facts.
Journalists are the recorders, excavators and defenders of truth.
Finally I would like to join with all of you in this prayer for the journalistic profession: May the sunlight of conscience and integrity shine upon the desks of all journalists and writers. May more works be published that awaken the conscience of humanity and allow the light of justice to shine on every corner of the earth.
1997 Akre & Wilson - Reporters reveal
Their award was for their investigation of rBGH, a genetically modified bovine growth hormone produced by the Monsanto Corp. To some environmental and science groups rBGH can be linked to human breast, prostate and colon cancer although it is widely employed by the American dairy industry while being banned in Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Japan. FOX Television, their employer, refused to run their four-part series, because the network had been threatened with a lawsuit by Monsanto Co., the manufacturer of rBGH. FOX instead insisted the pair air a report distinctly biased to Monsanto's point of view. Akre and Wilson, however, continued to press FOX to run their original story, and were subsequently fired by the network in 1997.
REPORTERS AKRE-WILSON AWARDED
PRESTIGIOUS GOLDMAN ENVIRONMENTAL PRIZE CALLED "NOBEL PRIZE FOR GRASSROOTS WORK"
April 24, 2001
Jane Akre and Steve Wilson , the two Clearwater, Florida journalists who risked their careers to expose the dangers of the Monsanto-produced rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), and were subsequently fired by their FOX Network station for resisting pressure to broadcast a "false, distorted or slanted news report" favorable to Monsanto, are among eight environmental heroes from around the globe who have been awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, the world's largest award for environmental activists.
The prize is frequently referred to as the Nobel Prize for grassroots work that aids the environment or calls attention to a significant environmental issue. The wife-husband investigative reporter team are the first journalists to ever win the award, given in six geographical categories, which includes a prize of $125,000 from the Goldman Environmental Foundation.
"We are both incredibly humbled by this honor," Akre and Wilson acknowledged in receiving their award, "especially after spending the last few days meeting the other winners selected from each of the other five inhabited continents on Earth.
"The man who has saved the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, an indigenous woman who has fought an incredible battle and endured unspeakable personal hardships in her fight against an American gold mining company [Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. of New Orleans, Louisiana] that is raping her Indonesian homeland, the Greek biologist who brought feuding nations together to save a fragile ecosystem; these are some of the incredible people in whose company we are so proud to be."
Akre also pointed out that "just as we expected, we continue to be `radioactive' as far as getting new jobs in the mainstream media and we remain essentially unemployed. And just as they promised, FOX lawyers have filed their appeal that is slowing grinding through the Florida court system. Steve has also filed an appeal of the jury verdict with regard to his individual claim. The process at this first appeals level could take up to two years while my successful $425,000 award is untouchable to us pending the outcome." (See Issue #91)
Founded and funded in 1990 by San Francisco philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman, the prize annually distributes cash bequests to six of the planet's most deserving "environmental heroes." Each recipient represents one of Earth's six continental regions. Prizes are sometimes awarded to more than one person in each category. This year, each recipient will receive $125,000. The awards were presented at a ceremony in San Francisco, California Monday night.
"The world is getting smaller, and the need is growing for everyone to take responsibility for keeping our planet healthy,'' Richard Goldman, founder of the Goldman Environmental Prize said in a statement.
"The winners this year illustrate how the environment is affected by wars, international business, economic policies, and the tendency to put short-term gains ahead of long term solutions. They also illustrate how the courage and commitment of a single visionary individual can make a difference for generations to come," he added.
Goldman Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a network of over 20 environmental organizations and individuals representing nearly 50 nations.
In discussing their thrill of receiving the award Akre and Wilson also addressed their supporters throughout the world. "We want you to share our joy in this recognition, the brightest spot in a four-year-long struggle. We also want to say to all of you around the world, again, thank you! Thank you for your support, your kind words, and your prayers. We could not have survived and had the courage to go on without you. It has meant more than you will ever know."
AKRE-WILSON STORY DRAMATIZES
HOW THE NATIONAL MAINSTREAM MEDIA
HAVE BECOME DEFENDERS OF THE CORPORATE IMAGE
In accepting the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize investigative reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson pointed out that they plan to use the Prize's generous cash award "to continue to produce documentaries and other projects to bring attention to genetically engineered foods, the state of the American media, and other important issues that the mainstream press is just not covering any more."
Judging from the initial press coverage of their award their work is urgently and sorely needed. Throughout their four-year ordeal the nation's mainstream media have consistently and purposely ignored their story and avoided informing the public of their plight.
Their award was for their investigation of rBGH, a genetically modified bovine growth hormone produced by the Monsanto Corp. To some environmental and science groups rBGH can be linked to human breast, prostate and colon cancer although it is widely employed by the American dairy industry while being banned in Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Japan.
FOX Television, their employer, refused to run their four-part series, because the network had been threatened with a lawsuit by Monsanto Co., the manufacturer of rBGH.
FOX instead insisted the pair air a report distinctly biased to Monsanto's point of view. Akre and Wilson, however, continued to press FOX to run their original story, and were subsequently fired by the network in 1997.
Akre and Wilson sued FOX in 1998 for violating Florida's whistle-blower law.
A six-person Florida jury found that FOX had indeed pressured the reporters to broadcast a "false, distorted or slanted news report" and Akre was awarded $425,000 for suffering job loss on improper grounds. Wilson has appealed his no-claim verdict and FOX has appealed the Akre award decision.
Not only has their story been nationally censored, but the initial news of their award has been similarly, if not barely, reported on and those few stories that have appeared since the announcement of the awards conveniently ignore two key elements of the Akre-Wilson story --- the name of rBGH's producer and the name of the network that employed the couple.
Starting with the Goldman Foundation's own press release we see such evasiveness:
"Jane Akre and Steve Wilson: Two TV journalists who researched the potential health risks of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone)-the genetically modified hormone injected into U.S. dairy cows to stimulate milk production. The hormone is among the first genetically modified products approved by the FDA. It is banned in Europe, Japan and most other industrialized nations. Their resulting story proved too hot for the local TV network affiliate for which it was produced and ultimately led to their firing."
Reuters News in an eleven paragraph story headlined "Eight Activists to Get World Environmental Prize" notes in their lead paragraph "A Rwandan who crusaded to save his country's last 355 mountain gorillas, and two American journalists who uncovered health risks of a growth hormone used by dairy farmers are among eight activists who will be awarded a top environmental prize on Monday."
However the story waits until the second to the last and last paragraph to report:
"The U.S. winners were Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, journalists who investigated the dangers of the rBGH growth hormone, which is banned in Canada and Europe and many other countries but still used by American dairy farmers.
"Their report, which linked the hormone to cancer, was pulled by the television network where they worked after a manufacturer of rBGH raised objections. The two have since formed their own news and documentary production company devoted to exposing environmental and health issues they say are often ignored by the mainstream media."
Likewise, the Wall Street Journal in a four column spread across the top front page of their April 23 "Marketplace" section headlined "A Tribeswoman Takes Top Environmental Prize --- and Grant From Foe." At the end of a fifteen-paragraph story that concludes on page six of the section in very small type appears:
"Goldman Environmental Prize Winners --- North America
Jane Akre and Steve Wilson
"TV journalists who produced story about potential health risks of recombinant bovine growth hormone, a growth hormone for cattle, for affiliate of Fox TV in Clearwater, Fla. Story was killed, journalists were fired. Last summer, a state-court jury awarded Ms. Akre $425,000 for violations of Florida's whistleblower law."
While the San Francisco Chronicle in a bylined story by its environmental writer Glen Martin reported on the Akre and Wilson award and their suit, neither the New York Times nor the Washington Post's April 23 or April 24 editions carried news about the Goldman award winners.
And! . . . And!! . . . And!!! . . .Associated Press distributed an awards story on April 23 headlined: "TV Press Win Environmental Award"
“Genetically Engineered” is the term the FDA uses, this salmon is commonly referred to as a Genetically Modified Organism, or GMO by AquaBouty Technologies. The animal is the AquAdvantage salmon, an Atlantic salmon modified to contain a growth hormone gene from Chinook salmon, turned on by a chunk of DNA from another fish called the ocean pout.
GROWTH HOMONE APPROVED IN SALMON
2015 Atlantic salmon modified for fast growth with genes from two other edible fish.
“Genetically Engineered” is the term the FDA uses, this salmon is commonly referred to as a Genetically Modified Organism, or GMO by AquaBouty Technologies.
2015 FDA okays GM salmon for sale in the US by Brooks Hays
AquaBounty says it will be at least two years before its fish hits U.S. markets. When it does, it likely won't be labeled. Though no law will require GM salmon, or products containing GM salmon, to be labeled as such, the FDA issued two documents guiding manufacturers on how to inform their customers of the presence of genetically modified ingredients. "[Customers] want to know whether their food or any ingredients in their food is derived from genetically engineered sources," the FDA warned. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's have already pledged not to carry GM salmon.
Like rBGH, GE salmon exhibits high levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (or IGF), a hormone that has beenlinked to a variety of cancers in humans. by Tim Schwab
Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and Starbucks offer rBGH-free milk. But Kroger, Publix and Costco also use it for their house brands. AquaBounty and its major biotech ally, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, spent $8 million lobbying in 2011 alone, trying to influence rules and regulations over issues like GE salmon. With former Monsanto executives now backing GE salmon, we can expect Intrexon will be working hard to muscle GE salmon through the FDA. Salmobreed challenges GMO Salmon
Scientifically; however, AquaBounty has been shown to produce abnormally high levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF), a hormone that has been linked to a variety of human cancers.
The first genetically modified animal to be approved in the United States will be regulated as a drug thanks to its DNA makeup, the Food and Drug Administration. The breed of salmon that the FDA says “reaches market size more quickly than non-GE farm-raised Atlantic salmon” will in fact be regulated as a drug under new animal drug provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, “because the recombinant DNA (rDNA) construct introduced into the animal meets the definition of a drug.” #MONSANTO AND Clarance THOMAS
Why Privacy Matters Glenn Greenwald was one of the first reporters to see — and write about — the Edward Snowden files, with their revelations about the United States' extensive surveillance of private citizens. In this searing talk, Greenwald makes the case for why you need to care about privacy, even if you’re “not doing anything you need to hide."
Corporate Crime Reporter
The death penalty should be applied to corporations convicted of defrauding the federal government, according to a report released today by the Corporate Crime Reporter.
In a 3-2 vote, the SEC approved a system in which informants will be awarded anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of any enforced penalty, provided that the figure exceeds $1 million. Previously, whistleblowers could only expect a financial return from the SEC in cases related to insider-trading. The incentive for whistleblowing has proven to be among the most challenging provisions to implement in the 2010 Dodds-Frank overhaul of Wall Street.
Jeffrey Wigand, Ph.D.
Tobacco Whistleblower whose story is featured in the major motion picture "The Insider" Contact Dr. Wigand
Brown & Williamson - 1996 On April 14, 1994, the seven CEOs of the major American tobacco companies testified before Congress and said that nicotine was not addictive. Two years later, Jeffrey Wigand, a vice president for research and development at the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, turned to "60 Minutes" to tell a different story. In an interview with Mike Wallace, Wigand asserted that his employer knowingly doctored the nicotine content in its cigarettes so as to enhance its addictive qualities.Wigand also said that he became the target of death threats, and his story, along with CBS's internal debate over airing the interview, was the subject of the 1999 movie, "The Insider"
"60 Minutes" journalist who fought censorship and got Jeffrey Wigands' information.