Something has happened to journalism in America. And it’s sad.
Skillful, tough reporting has been replaced by reporters, editors and producers who are allowing their political biases and agendas to get in the way of what journalists once valued as a search for the truth.
|The So-Called Big Five|
Truth is no longer the goal. Instead the objective for reporters today is to provide uncritical enthusiastic support for the person, position, idea or social stance that best conforms to their worldview.
How things have changed from the time I entered the journalism profession in 1969 right out of college.
I made the leap from being the editor of my college newspaper (The University Daily Kansan at the University of Kansas) to covering the city of Chicago for the Chicago Tribune.
It was a not an easy leap! First, I was exposed to some of the best reporting in the United States. There were five competing newspaper in Chicago then and the competition was fierce. I learned very quickly just how little I knew about being a good reporter.
Second, what I wrote was passed through some of the toughest editors I have ever known. And it was that experience that allowed me to hone both by reporting and writing skills to the point that I was given the ultimate job as foreign correspondent.
But before I made that move, I spent five years covering Chicago, often working horrible hours and covering just about every kind of story. This was called “seasoning” and I am still grateful for that experience.
I learned quickly to keep any bias I might have out of what I reported and wrote. Any hint of opinion in one of my stories and I was called to the City Editor’s desk where I was (how shall I say it?) Critiqued? Disparaged? How about verbally bludgeoned?
“Keep your opinions to yourself!” the late Don Agrella, my feisty old Day City Editor would say. “People don’t give a shit what YOU think!”
Don must be screaming his head off when he looks down from heaven at the Tribune and other newspapers today.
Too many stories today are filled with opinion–or even worse–are made incomplete by the deliberate omission of facts or information that would create a fair and balanced report.
Even worse are the media’s purposeful failure to cover stories that might be damaging to a position or a person that the reporter, editor or producer doesn’t want to harm.
Look at the way the media have covered President Obama–or should I say, have refused to cover him when stories were deemed detrimental to him.
If you watched the debates you saw this for yourself in the second debate when Candy Crowley, CNN’s chief political correspondent who was moderating the event, jumped in and corrected Mitt Romney when he challenged Obama on his failure to call the attack on the Benghazi consulate an act of terror–even though Obama was obviously lying.
Look at this exchange from the second debate:
ROMNEY: I — I think it’s interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
OBAMA: That’s what I said.
ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?
OBAMA: Please proceed governor.
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me–call it an act of terror…
OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?
CROWLEY: He — he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.
ROMNEY: This — the administration — the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.
But of course, the damage was already done. Crowley’s action made it seem as if Romney didn’t have his facts together, when in fact, he did.
According to the transcript of Obama’s Rose Garden remarks Obama spoke only generically about how “no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this nation.” Not once did he directly refer to the violence in Benghazi as a “terrorist attack.”
Next, let’s look at Hurricane Sandy. Obama makes a one day trip to a few places, including New Jersey and FEMA and other federal agencies begin patting themselves on their backs praising the great job they are doing to help victims of the storm.
In fact, millions of people are still without power, food, medical help and other forms of assistance and are wondering where FEMA is.
Now rewind back to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and recall, if you will, the way President Bush was excoriated for not doing more to help those victims.
Yet here we are with a storm that has left millions more Americans homeless and without shelter than Katrina and the media has said nary a discouraging word about our recently re-elected Golfer-in-Chief and how his administration has obviously dropped the ball.
If this were a Republican president I can guarantee that the media would be hammering him (or her) relentlessly on their callous disregard for the suffering millions along the East Coast. But not Obama. He gets a pass.
Then there is the most relevant issue of all–the horrible U.S. economy. The media seldom said anything about it during the campaign nor did it hold Obama’s feet to the fire they way it did with President Bush.
According to a study by the Media Research Center’s Business and Media Institute in 2004 the economy under George W. Bush was far better than it is today — higher growth, lower unemployment, smaller deficits and cheaper gasoline — yet network coverage that year was twice as hostile to Bush than it was towards Obama this year.
|The Media Have Put a Halo Around Obama|
How many stories have you seen about $4 and $5 per gallon gasoline in the past six months? Now think back to 2004 and 2005–the last time gas prices were this high. Stories were rampant about the high price of gasoline and guess what? The media blamed President Bush!
Today, we have 7.9 percent unemployment, 23 million Americans without jobs and a president who has increased our national debt to $16 trillion and is likely to push it to $20 trillion before he is finished.
Of course when you have a president like the one half of this country just re-elected and who the media apparently think is able to walk on water and turn it into wine, news organizations are strangely silent.
They refuse to report critically about the economy, about a president who spent more time the past six months on the campaign trail and on golf courses than he did in the oval office, about the deaths of four Americans in Libya and the dismal failure of FEMA and other federal organizations to help Hurricane Sandy victims.
No, this is definitely not the kind of hard-hitting, watch dog journalism that I cut my teeth on in Chicago.
This is nothing more than classic public relations with a media working on behalf of a president that now has four more years to destroy traditional American values, undermine capitalism, weaken our military and eviscerate the nation’s position as the world’s only democratic superpower.
Where are the Don Agrella’s of the world when we need them more than ever?