Media Focus: Truth vs. Propaganda

The Shirley Sherrod story turns a spotlight on big problems in the quality of our national information flow. We ask what’s news, what’s propaganda?

A display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., featuring the Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio Gallery. (Credit:

Through the battlefield smoke of the Wikileaks reports and the fresh news out of federal court in Arizona, a story from last week keeps ringing through the news business. The misrepresentation of Shirley Sherrod as a racist – and her sudden firing, then rehabilitation – has put the media, the news media itself, on trial. What has happened to the quality of this country’s national information flow? Is it poisoned? Is it now, really, propaganda? And whose?

This hour On Point: charges of propaganda in the news.


Charles Madigan, presidential writer in residence at Roosevelt University in Chicago where he teaches classes focused on journalism and politics. For forty years, he was a reporter, editor and columnist at the Chicago Tribune and a foreign and domestic correspondent for UPI.

David Keene, president of the American Conservative Union, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative lobbying organization. He served as Special Assistant to Vice President Spiro Agnew. Southern Regional Political Director for George Bush’s 1980 presidential race. Senior Advisor to former senator Bob Dole in 1988 and advisor to Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign.

E. J. Dionne, syndicated columnist for the Washington Post Writers’ Group and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. On Monday, the Washington Post published a column of his titled, “Enough Right-Wing Propaganda.”

Closing segment:

On Friday, NPR senior news analyst and journalistic legend Daniel Schorr passed away. He was 93. In remembrance of Schorr, we’re re-airing comments excerpted from a speech he gave on the present state of journalism when he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002. You can read NPR’s story on Schorr’s life, read the transcript of his Academy of Arts and Sciences speech, and see a slideshow about his career in broadcast.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Oct 9, 2015
A manhole begins to spill over with floodwaters as high tide approaches at Dorchester Road at Sawmill Branch Canal in Summerville, S.C., Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015.  (AP)

Russia goes big in Syria. The US hits a hospital in Kunduz. Hillary flips on the TPP. An epic flood in South Carolina. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Oct 9, 2015
In this Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, photo, Devlin D'Zmura, a tending news manager at DraftKings, a daily fantasy sports company, works on his laptop at the company's offices in Boston. (AP)

Fantasy football scandal, and the wild, booming betting world of fantasy sports.

Oct 8, 2015
US singer Patti Smith performs during the Way Out West music festival in Gothenburg, Sweden, Saturday, Aug.15, 2015.  (AP)

Iconic rocker, poet of punk, and National Book Award-winning author Patti Smith joins us to talk about her new memoir, “M Train”.

Oct 8, 2015
In this Aug. 2, 2012 file photo, local newspapers show stories about the controversial strategy to bail the government out of a financial hole, at a restaurant along Seven Mile Beach on the outskirts of George Town on the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands have lost some of their allure by abruptly proposing what amounts to an income tax on expatriate workers who have helped build the territory into one of the most famous or, for some people, notorious offshore banking centers that have tax advantages for foreign investment operations. (AP)

Trillions of dollars are now stashed in protected tax havens around the world, leaving societies’ bills to those at home. We’ll dig in.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: October 9, 2015
Friday, Oct 9, 2015


More »
Rep. Daniel Webster: ‘I’m Gonna Sell This Message’
Tuesday, Oct 6, 2015

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his retirement and resignation from his position last month, it surprised both his Party and the Washington political establishment.

More »
Our Week In The Web: October 2, 2015
Friday, Oct 2, 2015

We say hello again to our email address (since so many of you did this week) and goodbye to the Log Lady.

More »