Corporations are aided in their bid to dominate news sources by the tendency of most journalists to use, as sources, people from the mainstream establishment, whom they believe have more credibility with their audience. Highly placed government and corporate spokespeople are the safest and easiest sources in terms of giving stories legitimacy. When environmentalists are used as sources they tend to be leaders of the ‘mainstream’ environmental groups that are seen as more moderate.
Those without power, prestige and position have difficulty establishing their credibility as a source of news and tend to be marginalised. According to Charlotte Ryan in her book Prime Time Activism:
Using institutional affiliation and famous faces to measure an issue’s importance has an interesting overall effect: the criteria implicitly reinforce the stability of government or other powerful institutions while at the same time providing spice via the drama of shifting faces and activities. This is truly novelty without change.
Journalists who have access to highly placed government and corporate sources have to keep them on side by not reporting anything adverse about them or their organisations. Otherwise they risk losing them as sources of information. In return for this loyalty, their sources occasionally give them good stories, leaks and access to special interviews. Unofficial information, or leaks, give the impression of investigative journalism, but are often strategic manoeuvres on the part of those with position or power. “It is a bitter irony of source journalism, ... that the most esteemed journalists are precisely the most servile. For it is by making themselves useful to the powerful that they gain access to the ‘best’ sources.”
Contrary to all the hype, journalists who gain renown for breaking torrid stories about the federal government may be among those most enmeshed in a mutually-reinforcing web connecting them with power brokers on the inside.