Union Negotiations And Yellow Journalism

Larry Price
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Wednesday - October 14, 2009
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Few labor negotiations have been subjected to so much political and mass media scrutiny with so little impact, but union members have stayed united and the system appears to work, even though it’s evident that Hawaii’s collective-bargaining laws need to be revitalized.

Our present collective-bargaining laws were not written to withstand the pressure of simultaneous negotiations and heated election-year politicking.

The public has long been disen-chanted with the ability of the mass media to exercise its constitutional privilege as allowed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or the press.” The literature on the subject both praises and severely criticizes efforts by the mass media to inform the public adequately.


The most eloquent and critical appraisal of the role of the mass media was recorded in 1947 by the Commission on the Freedom of the Press, funded by Henry Luce of Time Inc. and the Encyclopedia Britannica. The chairman of the commission was the chancellor of the University of Chicago, Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins.

Hutchins observed, “We must recognize, however, that the agencies of the mass communication are an educational instrument, perhaps the most powerful there is; and they must assume a responsibility like that of educators in stating and clarifying the ideals toward which a community should strive. Adversarial relationships is not a worthy goal for the mass media to strive for.”

It was assumed that the public would have quality information, which they, in turn, could utilize to participate in a fundamental way in government as American democratic theory deems necessary.

The commission also noted that mass media had not always met the expectations of those they were supposed to serve. To attract the maximum audience, the press emphasizes the exceptional rather than the representative, the sensational rather than the significant. Some of them have thought that the way to do this is to supply the public with keyhole gossip, rumor, character assassination and lies.

This type of journalism earned a name, “Yellow Journalism, journalism without a soul.”

The good news is that all of the attempts to divide union members from their leadership have failed. It is possible they may vote their presidents out of office after these negotiations, but not likely.

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