The Future of Consortiumnews.com
By Robert Parry
November 29, 2006
Eleven years ago, we founded Consortiumnews.com because we felt the U.S. news media was losing its way – and was taking the American Republic along with it. Our hope was that by combining the new technology of the Internet with the old principles of news, we could help put journalism back on the right track and with it the nation.
Our original Consortiumnews idea was to seek out diverse resources so we could create a full-service institution for producing investigative-style stories on important topics and use the Internet as the chief means of getting the information to the public.
From the start, our existence was an implicit criticism of what was going on in the major U.S. news media of the 1990s, as the press corps wasted countless hours of broadcast time and vast forests of newsprint on items like the O.J. Simpson case or stories about Bill Clinton’s personal life.
Meanwhile, truly important stories – including new evidence implicating prior U.S. administrations in serious Cold War crimes – were being pushed aside as too historical, too controversial or too much of a downer.
The media’s prevailing view was that Americans were an ahistorical people who were interested in news only as diversionary entertainment. They might relish stories about crime and sex or wallow in the bathos of war. But, it was said, they weren’t attentive enough to read articles about how government really operated.
As one of the reporters who had dug out much of the Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press and Newsweek, I disagreed with this view. I knew too many Americans who desperately did want to know the truth.
So, I thought it would be fairly easy to persuade some deep-pocket foundations or wealthy individuals to support our initiative as a way to counter the disturbing media trends of the 1990s. But I encountered surprising resistance to the plan.
Still, I thought that if people just saw how this new idea could work – how we could produce important journalism cost-effectively and could use the Internet to distribute it cheaply – they would quickly get behind us.
So, I cashed out my Newsweek retirement fund and started this Web site in 1995.
As it turned out, I was right about part of our plan. We could generate valuable journalism for a very reasonable cost.
Our first series was based on secret documents that I had uncovered implicating George H.W. Bush and some of his CIA cronies, including Robert M. Gates, in illegal negotiations with Iranian mullahs in 1980 over the fate of 52 American hostages then held in Iran.
Another early investigative series depicted Colin Powell not as Official Washington’s confetti-covered hero but as a calculating careerist who rose through the military and political ranks by never rocking the boat and rarely taking a principled stand.
Though some saw these stories as dated, they often turned out to be ahead of their time. They created a record about important events and key personalities that helped clue readers in to the dangers that lay ahead.
Certainly, if more Americans had appreciated the sinister side of George H.W. Bush, they would have been more leery about letting his eldest son become President. If they knew Colin Powell’s real history, they might have doubted his case for invading Iraq over what turned out to be non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
Even now, our stories about the past are alerting the nation about what to expect from Robert Gates as the future Defense Secretary.
And, with the new Democratic-controlled Congress taking office in January, we intend to keep hammering away at the threat to the Republic represented by Bush’s assertion of “plenary” – or unlimited – powers and at the deceptions that continue to permeate the “war on terror” and the Iraq War.
Yet, while we’ve succeeded in many of our journalistic endeavors – sometimes beyond our expectations – our weakness has always been my failure to persuade wealthy donors to contribute substantial sums. That has meant that we have remained heavily dependent on the generosity of our readers to keep our operation going.
To my surprise, the notion of a consortium to finance independent journalism has turned out to be a consortium of citizens who share our belief that honest information is the lifeblood of democracy.
With our new Web format, launched on Nov. 28, we also have responded to requests from many of you to include such features as RSS feeds and easy e-mailing of stories. We hope to further modernize Consortiumnews.com in the months ahead.
So please consider supporting our end-of-year fundraising drive and its goal of raising $25,000, so can sustain and expand our work in what looks to a very important political year, 2007. Remember, your contributions are tax-deductible.
Also, with donations of $100 or more, we will send you an autographed gift copy of my latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq. (Or, if you prefer, we can substitute my previous book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & Project Truth.)
(Another gift option for donations of $100 or more is to go on the waiting list for one of the first copies of our upcoming book, which is due out in early 2007. It has the working title of Neck Deep: George W. Bush & the Fight for the American Republic.)
(If you prefer one of the alternative gifts, please send us an e-mail after you submit your donation. Or if you contribute by check, just make a notation on the donation form.)
Robert Parry, Editor
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'
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