Sunday, November 1, 2009

The PDN's Liberation Day propaganda

I never much cared for Guam's Liberation Day celebration and in writing this I don't mean to marginalize the heroic sacrifice of U.S. troops in freeing the island from Japanese occupation. But the celebration always struck me as a bit much, considering Guam's history as a trophy possession by major powers. There are events of equal consequence to the people of this island, if not even more, that are given little attention. Most notably, is the turning over of Guam by Spain to the U.S. as part of the 1898 Spanish-American War settlement.

An interesting paper published in the
Journal of Communication Inquiry looks at the role of the of the Pacific Daily News for this historical blindness. The author, Francis Dailisay of Washington State University, traveled to Guam to examine the newspaper archives and conclude that the newspaper is essentially a vehicle for reinforcing the American occupation and expansion.

Dailisay's analysis is a worthwhile read. For instance, even in those cases were the newspaper reported opposition to America's occupation ...
...the PDN found it necessary to reaffirm the actors’ loyalty to the United States. This was a strategy used by the newspaper to legitimize local dissenting opinions that challenged dominant American ideologies. These findings reveal how a local, mainstream newspaper in a U.S. colonial context presents the resistances of colonized actors within a socially controlled manner.

One conclusion is that the PDN has downplayed this conflict to foster U.S. control of the island.

Because the PDN was part of an American corporation (Gannett) at the time of this study, it may have chosen to do this in order to secure the continued flow of U.S. capital to Guam, which the PDN needed to support its daily news operations.

It's important to note that this paper's analysis concerns coverage over many years. Newspapers are fluid, living things and the philosophies and approaches of the current staff may not necessarily reflect historical patterns. Newspaper reporters, in my experience, are often the last people around to blindly accept authority. But this research paper, nonetheless, offers a means to assess the PDN's coverage. The work isn't available online and has to be purchased.
Here's a link. It ought to be required reading in any newsroom considering anew: what does it mean to serve readers?

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