Sunday, March 23, 2008

US Press Corp Is A Door Mat, Unwilling to Use Judgment

Tom Edsall over at The Huffington Post does a terrific interview with Walter Pincus, a reporter who has written for the Washington Post for nearly 40 years (he is 75). The discussion focus on how the press has changed since the 1960s and how in false value of "fairness" has been used by the press to relay all statements equally, even when not supported by the facts.

I wrote elsewhere about why I cancelled my New York Times subscription. I felt (mostly from the editorials over at the Post) that my home town paper was not much better. Pincus' description of his editors is down right heart-rending: Pincus had to cope with attempts by editors at the Post to downgrade his articles. His stories were described as too "incremental," or "difficult to edit." He was criticized as a "crusader." Editors claimed his stories were hard to "verify."

Here's more context:

While seeking to "be neutral, unbiased and objective, presenting both or all sides as if they were on the sidelines refereeing a game," the print and electronic media have relegated themselves to the role of "common carriers, transmitters of other people's ideas and thoughts, irrespective of import, relevance and at times even accuracy," Pincus contends.

At this stage, Pincus suggests, a relatively simple courageous act for the media would be to stop printing non-news:

"A new element of courage in journalism would be for editors and reporters to decide not to cover the president's statements when he or she--or any public figure--repeats essentially what he or she has said before. Journalistic courage should also include the decision not to publish in a newspaper or carry on a television or radio news show any statements made by government officials that are designed solely as a public relations tool, offering no new or valuable information to the public."

And this is just from the background set up for the interview Edsall conducts, which I highly recommend. I hope that it opens a bigger discussion, especially given how the press' treatment of Hillary's "viability" is still affecting the campaign.

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