As servants to the public, the real journalists find that reporting the truth to citizens is more important than avoiding the ire of a major corporation. When the Walt Disney Co. went to war with the Los Angeles Times earlier this month, it was another instance of honest journalists making an enemy of those who resent the truth being exposed to the public.
To get back at the Los Angeles Times for an exposé on the Walt Disney Co., the multi-billion-dollar company tried to enforce a ban on the news organization from any future screenings of Disney-produced movies.
The exposé in question is a two-part story which showed that Disney was getting significant tax breaks by running their Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. The second story of the two-part exposé by the Los Angeles Times revealed that Disney has spent years funding campaigns for politicians in Anaheim who would use their power at the Anaheim City Council to vote in favor of plans that benefit Disney.
In a 2015 NPR podcast, journalist and editor of The New Yorker David Remnick talked about the challenge that journalists face when going up against dominant organizations.
“Journalism, some huge percentage of it, should be devoted to putting pressure on power…and if that’s going to invite a lawsuit, well, bring it on,” Remnick said.
This is the type of story that journalism is made for and why the press is needed in our country. Without dedicated reporters putting their time and effort into researching and asking questions, these shady dealings would still be going on without the public knowing about it.
Even when Disney criticized the Los Angeles Times for writing the story, they never outright said that the story was made up. According to CNNMoney, Disney released a statement calling the story “a complete disregard for basic journalistic standards,” but never disputed any of the facts presented in it. The fact that Disney did not say that the story was made up or stand their ground on the ban against the Los Angeles Times speaks volumes about who is telling the truth in this scenario.
When Disney tried to ban the news organization from advanced screenings of their movies, they exhibited a gross misuse of power. This misuse of power was challenged by other news outlets and online review sites, who refused to attend advanced screenings of Disney films until the ban was lifted. More so, certain critics groups disqualified Disney films from any award considerations unless they came to their senses and ended the injustice.
Not only was it unfair to punish the news outlet for doing its job in keeping the people informed about the truth, but it was unfair to everyone who was involved in a Disney film to have their work disqualified from award considerations. Filmmakers, actors and crew members now found themselves getting punished for something that was done by the higher-ups in their company. Ava DuVernay, whose upcoming film “A Wrinkle In Time” is produced by Disney, boldly stated her opposition of the ban on social media and showed her support for journalism.
All was made right as the increasing backlash against the Disney company forced them to drop the ban against the Los Angeles Times.
This is the type of story that honestly makes me proud to write for my university’s newspaper every single week. In a time where people say that the press is under attack and news outlets are dying, here we saw a shining example of the power that good journalism can have on our society.
We saw reporters do their jobs and present the honest news to the public, who in turn stood up for their public servants when they were being threatened by a company that was trying to use their power to silence the truth. Even up against the most imposing organizations in our country, the free press continues to serve as a mediator that keeps the powerful in check, exposes the wrongdoings of the corrupt and keeps the principles of democracy shining bright.