As an investigative reporter, one faces many things like criticism, ridicule, cynicism, and telling the truth at any cost, even one’s life. In the film, “Kill the Messenger,” which came out in 1990, a journalist working for “The San Jose Mercury News,” by the name of Gary Webb, allegedly uncovers the CIA’s role in importing large amounts of cocaine into the United States.
Webb’s findings also allegedly discovered where the drugs were being sold in Southern California, and found the reason was to help the Nicaraguan Contra’s rebel army. Webb reported on this story because he felt convicted to and did so against the advice of his colleagues.
In his series, written in 1996, “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion,” Webb enacted his right to freedom of speech, resulting in a ferocious smear campaign fed by the CIA. Webb found himself defending who he was as a person to the public at large. However, this is not the worst part, the people who had helped him to discover information, such as his co-workers, on the journey to seek out the truth, also abandoned him in the end.
The controversy of Webb’s reporting on the crack cocaine use in the U.S. and the CIA’s involvement is one that sits on the edge of Yellow Journalism. His reports, though they were extensive, did not include comments from the CIA, according to The Intercept, because after trying to make contact with them, they would not respond. It is stated he did not care what the CIA had to say because he did not want them to diminish the impact of his stories to the public. His efforts to obtain CIA comments were not mentioned in his series.
Investigative reporters are a sect of people who choose to put their lives on the line to deliver real news to the people of the world. Most of the time without a second thought to the effect it will have on them or their loved ones. In truth, they are like policemen and women who place their lives on the line to serve the greater good.
As a matter of fact, “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion,” did not report the current news. In 1985, Associated Press journalists Robert Parry and Brain Barger found similar documentation on the Contra groups trafficking cocaine to help finance the war in Nicaragua. In 2006, the “Los Angeles Times” made this statement against Webb:
The story offered no evidence to support such sweeping conclusions, a fatal error that would ultimately destroy Webb, if not his editors.
Like Webb, journalists around the world seek the truth, unlike Webb, not many commit suicide because they were blackballed from the journalism world. Reporting like Webb’s, on the CIA and the Contra groups trafficking drugs knowingly into the U.S. without sufficient evidence to back it up, is the type of journalism widely frowned upon.
His supporters will say that in 1998, a CIA inspector, by the name of General Frederick Hitz, vindicated Webb. His supporters point to Hitz because he uncovered an agency mindset of apathy toward the drug smuggling allegations.
We have found no evidence in the course of this lengthy investigation of any conspiracy by CIA or its employees to bring drugs into the United States.
It would seem most of what Webb reported on had already been brought to light by other reporters and was investigated by Reagan’s White House. Grandiose reporting for ratings is typically what is known as yellow journalism, a practice known to report news that is not really news, but is used to bring readers and hype to said newspaper.
Opinion News by Tracy Blake
Edited by Cathy Milne & Jeanette Smith
The Washington Post: Gary Webb was no journalism hero, despite what ‘Kill the Messenger’ says
The Intercept_: MANAGING A NIGHTMARE: How the CIA Watched Over the Destruction of Gary Webb
Huffington Post: Gary Webb, Jon Stewart, and the Stories That Are Too True to Tell
Image Courtesy of Alyson Hurt’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License