Second Most Troubling Media Trend of 2005
Number 2: George Bush Helps Subvert Journalism's Credibility
It's not just the pundits paid by government organizations to support their policies (see Armstrong Wiliams, Maggie Gallagher, Mike McManus and Doug Bandow). Or the government press releases developed to look like TV news reports and passed off to television stations natiowide as real news, also known as Video News Releases. Or the constant, insincere insistence that disregarding the reports of major news organizations somehow makes him a better leader.
But it seems our President and his administration has developed a myriad of strategies to devalue and discredit media institutions in America and abroad: from the baldfaced attempts to bring PBS under Republican control earlier this year, to the ongoing campagin paying Iraqi newspapers to print pro-American stories written by military officers.
At times, these methods seem an extension of the dynamic columnist Craig Crawford writes about in his book Attack the Messenger, in which politicians deflect incisive coverage by attacking the media's methods and objectives. Using CBS anchor Dan Rather's confrontation with George H.W. Bush over Iran/Contra scandal as an example, Crawford notes the time-honored tactic of making the reporter's questions the subject, not the questions themselves. And in a media universe whereevery day seems to bring a new scandal, the public seems increasingly willing to believe the worst of its news outlets.
Unfortunately, such activities don't support the freedom and democracy our President spends so much time extolling. If the best news stories of 2005 taught us anything -- the secret CIA prisons; the secret (possibly illegal) eavesdropping campaign conducted by the NSA without court approval; the aggressive coverage of governmental dysfunction revealed by Hurricane Katrina's aftermath -- it's that America's best news outlets do valuable work in checking the power of government every day.
Responsible leaders should be trying to help that process, not bend it to their particularly short-sighted political objectives.