Voice: American journalism not what it used to be

February 21, 2001

As a young boy I came to this country escaping communism. Early in my education, I learned how lucky I was to partake in a system of government where the individual's right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" was tantamount. When I was old enough, I gladly and proudly became a U.S. citizen.

As part of the freedom we enjoy, the media served as the upholder of the civic conscience by giving information in an unfettered and unbiased way.

I remember learning back in the 1960s how the USSR was not so lucky. The media was controlled by the political party in power and by powerful bureaucrats who owned whatever the government didn't.

I studied examples in recent history of how the media did its job admirably: the confrontation that ultimately stopped the destruction of innocent lives by Joseph McCarthy; the Pentagon Papers, which changed the mistaken support of the Vietnam War; the reporting that ultimately led to the resignation of Richard Nixon. So what happened?


Many in America feel outrage over the ascendancy of George W. Bush to the presidency under questionable circumstances. Between Election Day and the final outcome in December, the pundits began almost immediately to tell Gore to concede: "The nation's stability is more important … the system is more important than either man or party. (Boston Globe, Nov. 10); "his decision made the poisonous political atmosphere in Washington even more toxic." (Fox News, Nov. 12)

Some brought up Nixon as a historical parallel, albeit an incorrect one — legal challenges in 1960 were actually widespread.

All the while polls suggested a majority of the voting public took a more reasonable approach, wanting a recount of ballots, even if the process took several weeks.

Unfortunately, the final decision was not made by the voters but by the Supreme Court. The decision was made by individuals who should have, if the law was followed, recused themselves due to involvement of family members with the Republican campaign: The media did not and does not question this.

On Inauguration Day the media effectively downplayed the estimated 20,000 demonstrators in Washington and concurrent demonstrations around the country. Mr. Bush has had a

trouble-free "honeymoon," though his actions have shown his talk of bipartisanship has been mostly smoke and mirrors.

Yet the media continues

to hold Clinton to public scrutiny, which, if done to any other citizen would be hard-pressed not to be called harassment.

When his predecessor, George Bush, pardoned Iran-Contra figures, the media reacted with less than outrage, though most polls showed voters did not believe Bush was telling the truth about Iran-Contra and this was a factor in his electoral defeat.

Unfortunately, the third estate has become a commodity, not unlike pork bellies, bought and sold to the highest bidder. It appears if you wish to be a journalist today, you must sell your soul to the company store and ultimately those company stores are predominantly conservative.

The position of journalist is no longer the noble calling it was. It appears the job has morphed into a combination P.R. "hack" and infotainment specialist, to the detriment of our democracy.



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