ABC Suspends Reporter, Revealing Major Problems in Establishment Media
“The commercial imperative is incompatible with news.”
ABC News announced last week that it was suspending veteran political correspondent David Wright after right-wing activist group Project Veritas released undercover footage of Wright criticizing ABC and other networks.
“Any action that damages our reputation for fairness and impartiality or gives the appearance of compromising it harms ABC News and the individuals involved,” ABC News said in a statement. “David Wright has been suspended, and to avoid any possible appearance of bias, he will be reassigned away from political coverage when he returns.”
The strong words and heavy punishment seem harsh considering the journalist’s crime was talking about his political positions and criticizing his network for failing to do its job.
The Project Veritas video has accumulated over 1 million videos, and it frames Wright’s comments as exposing bias within the mainstream media.
However, Wright is critical of his bosses and the profit model of corporately-owned media. In the video, Wright said, “Our bosses don’t see an upside in doing the job that we’re supposed to do, which is to speak truth to power and hold people to account.”
Broadcast Media’s Many Failures
Mainstream broadcast media has been under fire from both the left and the right during the rise of President Donald Trump.
Trump supporters have been galvanized by Trump’s antagonism with the mainstream media, and many on the left have criticized the coverage of Donald Trump as an elevating factor to his rise to prominence.
“I think that all these big news organizations, again I’m speaking about broadcast television… we enable him (Trump), and it feels like we take the bait on the outrage.”
Controversy after controversy, as the news media lambasts the President from Russian interference to impeachment proceedings, the criticisms have failed to stick. All the while, Trump enjoyed his highest approval ratings as a president in 2020 while his many crimes and shortcomings as a President are largely under-reported.
CNN President Jeff Zucker perfectly unintentionally summarized the ineffectiveness of CNN’s journalistic integrity and in 2018 said “we’ve seen that anytime you break away from the Trump story and cover other events in this era, the audience goes away. So, we know that, right now, Donald Trump dominates.”
Profit over Everything
While ABC News insisted Wright’s suspension was to shield the organization from accusations of bias, likely the most frustrating thing to hear for ABC executives was Wright’s criticism of his employer’s profit model.
“It (ABC News) became a profit center, a promotion center. You can’t watch Good Morning America without there being a Disney princess or Marvel avenger appearing, it’s all self-promotion,” said Wright criticizing ABC’s owner Disney.
Disney shut down political discussion on its flagship sports broadcaster, ESPN after the sportscasters and personalities expressed occasional political opinions on Twitter and on-air.
But, the silencing of a political journalist over legitimate criticism and analysis in a private conversation reinforces the strength of Wright’s critique.
“The commercial imperative is incompatible with news,” Wright added.
After the suspension, many journalists across the country from both traditional sources and independent media defended Wright.
New York Times reporter Sopan Deb said, “this suspension is patently absurd. Newsrooms continue to give in to bad faith efforts. How many times do we have to go through this before institutions learn?”
While ABC stopped short of firing Wright, his suspension and sidelining to non-political coverage reveal that mainstream media institutions will continually fail to answer to legitimate criticism.
Emma Vigeland of The Young Turks weighed in, “we all presumably got into this industry because we care about the country. ABC just suspended David Wright for that. Project Veritas caught him criticizing Disney, the media’s coverage of Trump and the wealth gap. ABC sees that as unacceptable. Gross.”