Friday, June 29, 2007

Tom Cruise and Germany: The News Media gets it wrong again

Too often these days, the news media seems incapable of printing the truth. The recent frenzy over Germany banning Tom Cruise from filming at German military sites is a perfect example of that. In fact, there is no such ban!

The initial feeding frenzy was very noisy, with "reputable" news sources such as Reuters spewing forth authoritative pronouncements like, "Germany has barred the makers of a movie about a plot to kill Adolf Hitler from filming at German military sites because its star Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, the Defense Ministry said on Monday."

Time magazine even had the bad taste to print an article entitled "Why Germany Hates Tom Cruise". In the article they quote an anti-religious extremist, Ursula Caberta, who has a history of corruption which includes accepting bribes to attack minority religions. Wow, the Time reporter really did his homework before putting finger to keyboard.

And now, big surprise! We find that the German Defense Ministry never said any such thing. The very same "authoritative" source, Reuters, now has this headline "Germany now would welcome Cruise production". And we discover that the source of all this nonsense was a posting on the web site of a right-wing German politician. Does the press ever check their sources? Did anyone bother to call the German Ministry of Defense to verify the claim before printing lurid headlines about controversy, conflict and hatred? I suppose we mustn't let mere facts get in the way of a good story.

Will Reuters or Time apologize for lying to the public? I very much doubt it. They just don't have time to do the minor stuff like checking facts or apologizing for errors. They have new headlines to produce, they have to keep the public's attention so they can make a profit and keep the shareholders happy and if the truth doesn't make a couple extra bucks then forget it!

I want to acknowledge that there are journalists who care about facts. Unlike the Time Magazines and Reuters of this world, I don't want to make my article into a generality of "all journalists". There are journalists around who care. Unfortunately, it seems they are in the minority.

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