Curtis Dahlgren
Journalistic malpractice while national security "evolves" (decline happens?)
By Curtis Dahlgren
June 25, 2014

"When there's a Republican in the White House, reporters see themselves as self-appointed prosecutors. But I'll bet not too many reporters are going to see themselves as prosecutors now that Barack Obama is in the White House." – a reporter quoted by Bernard Goldberg in "A Slobbering Love Affair" (2009)

IN THE MIDDLE EAST people are either fighting to the death or fleeing to refugee camps; they worry about their next meal. Likewise people in Nigeria, Sudan, etc etc. In America, where the borders are wide open, the America of Lois Lane Lerner and Superprez, the number one priority is the plight of 1960s housewives and changing the name Redskins, although he would welcome a "more diverse government" in Iraq (that's easy for him to say). Being a Liberal means never having to say "Sorry" – or OOPS!

Meanwhile back in New York, the 50 shades of Grey Lady, the Times, worries about the danger to the Republic threatened by Governor Walker of America's Dairyland. The New Republic called him "the unelectable white Scott Walker." Unelectable? Great threat? Unelectable? Great threat? Not that it matters now but they think it's got to be one or da udder. No pun.

It's a long, long way between presidential elections, but now is an ideal time to take a look at how news gets reported – and how we don't even have to read between the lines to see the opinions in the news pages. If I had a subscription to the New York Times I would cancel it and suggest that my congressman do the same thing (on account of the Scott Walker story the other day). And I want to re-review Goldberg's book, subtitled "The True (and Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media":

"My first job in journalism was with the A.P. . . Back then [1967], the AP was a 'just the facts ma'am' kind of news organization . . . If I had tried to slip even the subtlest editorial comment into one of my stories, some old grizzled editor would have kicked my rookie @$$ into next month."

Thus saith Bernie in chapter 10 ("Masquerading as the news"). In the subsequent five years, the masks (and the gloves) have come completely off the media. Barack is their man and they're sticking with him. Bernie asked Rush Limbaugh how long the honeymoon was going to last. Rush said, "Forever! He is too big to fail." Goldberg quotes columnist Rachel Marsden:

"Up until Barack Obama's victory, much of America – and the rest of the world – was deeply in love with the idea of being in love. The problem with any such relationship is always that, one day, the spell wears off, and you start getting annoyed at little things like your soul mate . . leaving the toilet seat up. Some media people won't care – they'll blame George Bush for having used the same bathroom months earlier. Others, like the mainstream media, will fall into Obama's toilet and splash around like it's holy water."

I could give you quotations from the media people themselves – back in the good old days of journalism – and so I want to give you a selection from The Book of Quotes by Barbara Rowes (Ballantine, 1979). The book is out of print I assume, but I hope the author won't mind the use of a few quotes if I call this a book review too:

- "Guerrilla journalism came about because we didn't want to be part of access journalism. We hung out at parties and eavesdropped and stole memos and every other d*m* thing to crash through." – Robt. Scheer

- "If a senator is putting his hand on my fanny and telling me how he's going to vote on impeaching President Nixon, I'm not so sure I'm going to remove his hand no matter how demeaning it is." – Sally Quinn

- "I can get a better grasp of what is going on in the world from one good Washington dinner party than from all the background info NBC piles on my desk [although] . . . Deep breaths are very helpful at shallow parties." – Barbara Walters [must have been at a few of Quinn's parties]

- "Why do all you American journalist ask the same question? What factory do you come out of?" – Yevgeny Yevtushshenko, to Barbara Walters

- "Accuracy is to a newspaper what virtue is to a lady, but a newspaper can always print a retraction." – Sen. Adlai Stevenson [but will they print the retraction?]

- "Hitler said that he always knew you could buy the press. What he didn't know was that you could get them cheap." – Mort Sahl

- "There are honest journalists like there are honest politicians. When bought, they stay bought." – Bill Moyers

- "As reporters, we should stay the h*ll out of politics and maintain a private position on any issue." – John Chancellor

- "Our job is only to hold up the mirror – to tell and show the public what has happened, and then it is the job of the people to decide whether they have faith in their leaders or government." – Walter Cronkite

- "The first essence of journalism is to know what you wantg to know; the second, is to find out who will tell you." – John Gunter [I think he means "someone who will tell you what you want to hear"]

- "Gossip is when you hear something you like about someone you don't." – Earl Wilson

- "Gossip is horrible. Gossip is suggestion without facts . . and that we avoid." – Rupert Murdoch

- "News theater is any event that confuses news with theater and theater with news." – Robt. Brustein

- "The truth about a man lies first and foremost in what he hides." – Andre Malraux

- "This is the age of the journalist, more than the age of the artist, the teacher, the pastor. It is the age of 'non-fiction' because imagination cannot keep up with the fantastic daily realities." – Eric Severeid

- "The emergence of the press as a power in American life is directly proportionate to the failure of the other branches of our society to perform their historic assigned functions." – Norman Cousins


In other words, we not only get the government we deserve but we get the journalism we deserve too. That's the bad news, but the good news is that at least we have a choice now – with the rise of the New Media. LBJ compared the Old Media to puppets, but one of my favorite quotes was by Senator Eugene McCarthy:

"The press is a little like the blackbirds in the fall – one flies off the telephone line, the others all fly away; and the other one comes back and sits down and they all circle and they all come down and sit . . in a row again."

Today's journalists not only ask the same question, but their sly editorials even use the very same words, as if they were puppets or ventriloquist dummies. Spiro T. Agnew never claimed to have invented the internet but he once made a profound prediction:

"The day when the network commentators and even the gentlemen of the New York Times enjoyed a form of diplomatic immunity is over."

The then-president of CBS News said, "Our job is to give people not what they want, but what we decide they ought to have." That's the philosophy of the Times and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, et al, and they don't have a clue as to why they are losing subscribers and having to lay off employees. Rupert Murdoch said, back in the day:

"Is there any other industry in this country which seeks to presume so completely to give the customer what he does not want?"

By that he meant the "Liberal Line" of course. I could go on and on, but here's the bottom line, from the Psalms:

Shall Thy wonders be known in the darkness?
And Thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
. . . If the Foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?


© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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