Suspicious as they are of American intentions, and bolstered by court rulings that seem to give them license to seek out and publish any and all government secrets, the media's distrust of our government, combined with their limited understanding of the world at large, damages our ability to design and conduct good policy in ways that the media rarely imagine.
The leak through which sensitive information flows from the government to the press is detrimental to policy insofar as it almost completely precludes the possibility of serious discussion. Leaders often say one thing in public and quite another thing in private conversation. The fear that anything they say, even in what is construed as a private forum, may appear in print, makes many people, whether our own government officials or the leaders of foreign countries, unwilling to speak their minds. .
Must we be content with the restriction of our leaders' policy discussions to a handful of people who trust each other, thus limiting the richness and variety of ideas that could be brought forward through a larger group because of the nearly endemic nature of this problem? And along with the limiting of ideas, we have less reliable information to analyze. It is vitally important for the leaders of the United States to know the real state of affairs internationally, and this can occur only if foreign leaders feel free to speak their minds to our diplomats. This cannot occur when leaders are fearful of finding their private thoughts published in newspapers, and therefore do not share their real beliefs (let alone their secrets) unless they are certain that confidences will be respected.
Until recently, it looked as if the media had convinced the public that journalists were more reliable than the government; thus, many citizens came to believe that the media were the best sources of information. When the media challenged a governmental official, the public presumed that the official was in the wrong. However, this may be changing. With the passage of time, the media have lost luster. They—having grown large and powerful—provoke the same public skepticism that other large institutions in the society do. A series of media scandals has contributed to this. Many Americans have concluded that the media are no more credible than the government, and public opinion surveys reflect much ambivalence about the press.
While leaks are generally defended by media officials on the grounds of the public's "right to know, " in reality they are part of the Washington political power game, as well as part of the policy process. The "leaker " may be currying favor with the media, or may be planting information to influence policy. In the first case, he is helping himself by enhancing the prestige of a journalist; in the second, he is using the media as a stage for his preferred policies. In either instance, it closes the circle: the leak begins with a political motive, is advanced by a politicized media, and continues because of politics. Although some of the journalists think they are doing the work, they are more often than not instruments of the process, not prime movers. The media must be held accountable for their activities, just like every other significant institution in our society, and the media must be forced to earn the public's trust.
Based on the passage, when the media now challenge the actions of a public official, the public assumes that:[A] the official is wrong.
[B] the media are always wrong.
[C] the media may be wrong.
[D] D. the official and the media may both be wrong.
Leaked information typically comes to journalists anonymously since the government official leaking the information fears reprisal. What relevance does this have to the passage?[A] It supports the claim that the leaker plants information to influence policy.
[B] It supports the claim that journalists are more reliable than the government.
[C] It weakens the claim that the media can be used as a stage for an official's preferred policies.
[D] It weakens the claim that a leaker can curry favor with a journalist.
In the context of the fifth paragraph, the term prime movers would most accurately refer to:[A] U.S. officials who pass on sensitive information to the media.
[B] journalists who are attempting to enhance their own prestige.
[C] media executives who use their own journalists to further political causes.
[D] the unwritten rules that govern the flow of leaked information in Washington.
Implicit in the author's argument that leaks result in far more limited and unreliable policy discussions with foreign leaders is the idea that:[A] leaks should be considered breaches of trust and therefore immoral.
[B] leaks have occurred throughout the history of politics.
[C] foreign and U.S. leaders discussed policy without inhibition before the rise of the mass media.
[D] leaders fear the public would react negatively if it knew the real state of affairs.
Imagine you are an opponent of the author and disagree with his conclusions. In an upcoming written rebuttal you want to address the author's best—supported claims first. For which of the following claims does the passage provide some supporting evidence or explanation?[A] The media rarely understand that their actions damage America's ability to conduct foreign policy.
[B] Leaks can be an intentional part of the policy process.
[C] Every significant institution in society besides the media is held accountable for their activities.
[D] The media is suspicious of the intentions of the American government.
The passage suggests that press expos?s of the private thoughts of foreign officials do NOT result in U.S. leaders having a better grasp of foreign affairs because:[A] U.S. leaders are already privy to the private thoughts of foreign leaders.
[B] foreign officials begin to view their American counterparts as untrustworthy.
[C] foreign officials do not reveal their secrets to the press.
[D] the information that reaches the press about policy discussions is unreliable.
Based on the information in the passage, with which of the following statements would the author most likely agree?[A] Feeding the public misinformation is warranted in certain situations.
[B] The public has a right to know the real state of foreign affairs.
[C] The fewer the number of people involved in policy discussions, the better.
[D] Leaders give up their right to privacy when they are elected.