Friday, May 30, 2008

Freedom of the Very Expensive Press

From the NYT:

Katie Couric, the anchor of “CBS Evening News,” said on Wednesday that she had felt pressure from government officials and corporate executives to cast the war in a positive light.

Speaking on “The Early Show” on CBS, Ms. Couric said the lack of skepticism shown by journalists about the Bush administration’s case for war amounted to “one of the most embarrassing chapters in American journalism.” She also said she sensed pressure from “the corporations who own where we work and from the government itself to really squash any kind of dissent or any kind of questioning of it.” At the time, Ms. Couric was a host of “Today” on NBC.

Another broadcast journalist also weighed in. Jessica Yellin, who worked for MSNBC in 2003 and now reports for CNN, said on Wednesday that journalists had been “under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation.”....

Mr. Williams, who was an anchor on MSNBC at the time, emphasized the climate of “post-9/11 America.” In the early days of the war, he said, he would hear from the Pentagon “the minute they heard us report something they didn’t like.”

Not everybody agreed the press had failed America:

“I think the questions were asked,” Mr. [Charles] Gibson, who was a host of “Good Morning America” before the war began, said in response to Ms. Couric. “It was just a drumbeat of support from the administration. It is not our job to debate them. It is our job to ask the questions.”

Is that the same Charlie Gibson who along with George Stephanopoulos were the moderators of a Democratic debate and spent most of that time asking about American Flag lapel pins? He is right - he asked very important questions. Here is part of an article about that debate:

For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with....

Gibson sat there peering down at the candidates over glasses perched on the end of his nose, looking prosecutorial and at times portraying himself as a spokesman for the working class. Blunderingly he addressed an early question, about whether each would be willing to serve as the other's running mate, "to both of you," which is simple ineptitude or bad manners. It was his job to indicate which candidate should answer first. When, understandably, both waited politely for the other to talk, Gibson said snidely, "Don't all speak at once."

For that matter, the running-mate question that Gibson made such a big deal over was decidedly not a big deal -- especially since Wolf Blitzer asked it during a previous debate televised and produced by CNN.

Thanks for your input, Chuck. I am sure your corporate masters are pleased with your response. Here is a pat on the head, and run along and play now. Good Boy.

I am not sure Ms. Couric's or Brian William's corporate masters are pleased with them, though:

A spokeswoman for General Electric, which owns NBC and MSNBC through its division NBC Universal, declined to speak about the specifics of the comments but said, “General Electric has never, and will never, interfere in the editorial process at NBC News.”

Well, GE, Ms. Couric just said that was not true. Are you lying, or is she? You can't both be right, you know. Either GE is lying, or Ms. Couric and Brian Williams - two of NBC's premier anchors - are liars.

Not all journalists drank the kool-aid. Some took brave stands and spoke truth to power. Some paid a high price. And many journalists have died in Iraq trying to bring the truth home to the People - more reporters have died covering the Iraq war than any other. And Phil Carter, a lawyer and a journalist, volunteered for a year-long tour in combat in Iraq with the 101st Airborne, and he did not cheerlead this war and has questioned authority. He and I disagreed about the war before it began (I always thought it would lead to disaster and was not justified) but he never once questioned my patriotism and admitted he was unsure about it. Not all journalists drank the kool-aid.

But most did. Some were like Charlie Gibson - they chugged down gallons of the stuff, wallowed in it, swam in it. They enabled this war. And they still are.

So here in the USA we have a free press. As long as you have millions of dollars to pay for it, it is free for you to buy and manipulate how you want. Our press is pretty much just like our federal government these days - free to the first buyer, and the price is very high.

And the price for us allowing that to happen? Our freedom.

1 comment:

basilbeast said...

Scott McClellan: back-stabbin' sell-out or true American patriot?

I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Meanwhile, Tom Brokaw is shocked I tell you, positively shocked.

Snore! : )