Wednesday June 13, 2012

It is not unusual for media organizations to feel political pressure but it is unusual for them to yield to it. That is why the decision of WTBR radio to abandon its plan to offer former WBRK talk show host Bill Sturgeon a program has gone from puzzling to disconcerting.

In an interview with Clarence Fanto (Eagle, June 12), Larry Kratka, program director of the Taconic High School community radio station, said pressure from unknown sources persuaded him to delay the program’s debut, which he then abandoned after Mr. Sturgeon suggested this option. In the same interview, Mr. Kratka said pressure was coming from both within and outside the political system and "the pressure was getting to me." It is unclear how pressure can be felt without knowing its source, which strongly suggests Mr. Kratka is reluctant to say where the pressure was coming from.

When news organizations feel pressure from any source their first instinct is to find out why. The application of pressure suggests that a nerve has been struck, and/or there is something to hide. In either case, there is usually a news story lurking in the darkness that should be pursued. When news organizations succumb to pressure they are letting their audiences down and telling those applying the pressure that their strategy worked and can be successfully employed again.