A March 16 New York Post story reported that about 22,000 city building owners were behind on their water bills. Several of the entities which owed the most money were listed by name. Among them was Pratt Institute with a bill of $442,000.
The story, however, shows no evidence that the newspaper attempted to contact Pratt or any of the other entities for a comment or explanation.
In Pratt’s case, the school contends that due to errors involving a new meter installation, the city inaccurately estimated its water usage for more than six years. Apparently, Pratt and the city have reached agreement on what the school owes, Pratt has paid that bill in full, and the city is working to make sure the meter operates accurately.
In their classic 1988 essay The Propaganda Model, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky posited that the media have become too reliant on (and trusting of) government sources for information. Some would argue that, had the press more aggressively challenged the Bush Administration’s contention that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, there may not have been ample public and governmental support to launch the war in Iraq.
An unpaid water bill is not a life or death issue, but this story does provide a good example of what can happen when the press accepts what government provides them without taking time to report the full story.