When Professors Karen Turner and Linn Washington forced my Investigative Journalism class to watch most of the film "An Inconvenient Truth," it was clear that they had an agenda they wanted to shove down our throats. Afterwards, the professors said the purpose of watching the movie was to give us varying ideas for our final project, which had to be on different aspects of the environment, and despite telling us to keep an open mind about the issues Gore raises, they showed no film and presented no document that offered an opinion opposing Gore's claim.
We were used to leftwing material; much of our readings, class discussions, and assignments were leftwing political talking points rather than authentic journalism. The text, "Into the Buzzsaw," by Kristina Borjesson, contained a lot of short articles written by journalists who investigated stories that were turned down by their papers and news networks, apparently because their work was too questionable to run. Among the subjects of the articles was the accusation that World War II and the current Iraq war are being fought for oil; the assertion that George Bush won the 2000 election because "58,000" African-Americans were disenfranchised and felons weren't allowed to vote in Florida; a rant by a former Fox News employee about a memo that was passed around the newsroom daily with tips on conservative shows (as if CNN doesn't circulate a memo with liberal storylines).
Also included as part of our instructional materials were videos such as Greg Palast's "Bush Family Fortunes," which talks about the way the Bush family got its money. Palast, who wrote the above-mentioned article about Bush winning Florida in 2000, is a wanna-be investigative reporter who looks for conspiracy theories, palming them off as fact. In the video, he tries to tie Bush's polices as President to his family fortunes (hint: oil wealth).
After I saw and read his work, I understood why he has trouble getting it circulated in the U.S. Another video, titled "Control Room," put down the American media for not accurately reporting the events of the Iraq War. Even though we know that the mainstream media has lunged for negative images, the producers of this film accuse the U.S. media of making the war look too rosy. They paint Al-Jazeera as the fair and balanced news source in the Middle East, because it focuses on blood and gore of war. The head of Al-Jazeera is interviewed, and claims to report both sides. However, all the supporting film clips show are negative images of U.S. troops and unhappy Iraqis spewing hatred toward America.
Forgetting about their shoddy quality for a moment, neither of these videos did much to teach us about investigative journalists, unless that term has become a synonym for conspiracy theorizing. I'm reluctant to criticize my professors in print, but the entire class was a violation of Temple University's academic freedom regulations, and I am fed up with such unprofessional behavior in the classroom. But the one-sided, leftwing propaganda the teachers force fed us had one (for them) unintended consequence. I found myself constantly challenging their opinions – at first simply to myself, and then in class. I figured that even if most of the class didn't agree with me, at least I was presenting a different viewpoint, which is supposed to be what education is all about. I probably would have had more heated, extensive arguments with the professors, but I did not want to put my grade at risk. In the politically correct and leftwing classroom, that is always a dark possibility.