Why Media Blackouts help Arizona Corrections
There is no doubt the Arizona Department of Corrections engages in media blackouts. The effectiveness of such censorship has long been an effective strategy to keep the government safe and the public hushed about the manner how these prison administrators run their facilities.
So far this blackout has silenced the concerns by public officials, constituents and taxpayers regarding the high number of homicides, suicides, natural deaths, assaults on staff and inmates as well as extravagant spending on prison related projects and costs. It is more likely expensive litigation pending makes the headlines but the facts related to such lawsuits are rarely published or discussed.
Should there be an open debate about this practice and who should lead such an activity. It is suggested that because this is an election year, the governor-elect should prompt such action and begin to remove the cloaking devices put in place to protect government from public criticism, eventual media harm or failing to meet the headline circumstances.
The role of the governor is of utmost importance as it serves the public better if the prison system operated with accountability and transparency related to operational costs, administrative changes and public safety issues.
It is just too dangerous for the condition to remain status quo. Relying on government propaganda how well the agency is doing its job remains skeptical as news leaks out occasionally showing serious concerns and extensive public safety failures that impacts public safety as well as the safety of those employees working there and the inmates housed there. Should the government be required to answer questions that require accurate and timely information to detail precisely the facts and events in real-time?
The media has dillydallied and severely hesitated to report prison news as there are rarely enough facts released to make a good story. Hence this lack of coverage has created an apathy by the media to seek further information and routinely seek as the government seeks to suppress information. It is likely this blackout has developed this attitude by the media that prison news is not worth covering. The truth is just the opposite. There are many issues inside prisons that impacts public safety and health concerns.
There is no requirement by government to debrief journalists or reporters on the happenings inside the prisons. A simple press release appears to satisfy the media’s appetite for getting the narrative of the events reported. These events are selectively processed to ensure no embarrassing news is leaked or disclosed. It is politically correct and often brief enough to stave off any further follow up questions.
Little consideration has been given to the impact of media blackouts and how it impacts the media’s own credibility. In the long run, the tolerance of such blackouts undermines the media’s ability to report the news accurately, timely and completely. The use of selective blackouts furthers suspicion on government decisions and soundness. The outcome is rarely truthfully and completely revealed resulting in a gross disservice to citizens and others interested in such reports.
As long as the governor, the public and the media themselves condone blackouts, the power of the media is diluted and clouded with suspicion. It makes the media uniquely vulnerable to criticism rather than the government’s thus it reverses the accountability factor. The purpose to withhold information is to lessen negative publicity but the ultimate impact is the loss of trust by the public in the media’s attempts to acquire the particulars and report them in a timely factual manner.