As the nation enters the "home stretch" of the 1992 election race, it's time to address the question of whether we in the news media are doing an accurate, fair and responsible job of covering the bozos running for president.
I would have to say, in all objectivity, that we are. Oh, I realize that there are some critics who believe that we in the media are a bunch of childish, irresponsible snots with zero attention span and no interest in real issues. Well, let me tell you something, Mr. Media Critic: Your fly is unzipped. Ha ha! Made you look!
Seriously, I'm sick and tired of this media-bashing. I happen to be darned proud of the job that we journalists do, sometimes under very difficult circumstances. I'll give you an example from the Republican Convention:
It was the night that George Bush was to give his speech accepting the nomination, and all of us in the media knew that unless he gave The Speech Of His Life, his candidacy was doomed. We had learned this the same way we learn everything, namely by conducting a scientific poll of 549 people.
Perhaps you are saying: "Wait a minute. You can't get any kind of meaningful information by polling only 549 people."
Oh yes we can. Because this is a SCIENTIFIC poll. These are not just any old 549 people. These are, by scientific measurement, the 549 stupidest people in America who can still answer a telephone. We in the news media get all our major facts from them. That's why, as the presidential race has developed over the past two years, we've been able to inform you, with complete confidence, that: (1) George Bush was unbeatable; (2) Bill Clinton was doomed; (3) Ross Perot had a very serious chance; (4) George Bush was doomed; (5) Bill Clinton was unbeatable; and (6) Ross Perot never had a chance. You do not obtain information of this consistency without the aid of science.
So anyway, when the Republican Convention was held, our polls showed that George Bush was scientifically doomed, and his only hope was to give The Speech Of His Life. Everybody in the media was saying this. A gang of leading pundits roamed the convention press center, and if they found a journalist who had failed to use the words "The Speech Of His Life" in a news report, they'd knock this offender down, and Jack Germond would sit on him while David Broder yanked off his press credentials in a painful manner.
I was with a group of journalists who had decided to cover the president's speech from a Houston establishment named, but rarely called, "Richard Heads' Restaurant and Bar." Our idea was that we'd find ordinary voters there, and we could gauge their reaction to the speech, using a battery-powered reaction gauge.
The problem was that this particular night turned out to be Bikers' Night at Richard Heads'. And when I say "bikers," I'm not talking about the health fanatics you see pedaling furiously around on their 10-speeds, wearing what appear to be girdles from space. I'm talking about people who ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles; large, muscular, hairy people who have individual tattoos larger than my entire body. And those are just the WOMEN.
Fortunately the bikers were basically friendly, by which I mean they did not pick us up by our small-circumference journalistic necks and use us in a game of Human Wall Darts. But they did not seem at all interested in the president's speech. You could see the president on a ceiling-mounted TV, but you couldn't hear him, because there was a very loud jukebox playing heavy-metal songs by bands with names like Ear Discharge.
We were able, however, to follow the speech, because one of us, Craig, had a cellular phone, which he used to call a friend of his in Washington, D.C., who was watching it on TV.
"WHAT'S HE SAYING NOW?" Craig would shout to his friend. Then he'd turn to us and shout: "IT'S SOMETHING ABOUT CAPITAL GAINS. OR MAYBE WAR WITH SPAIN."
Meanwhile, the rest of us, as trained observers, were sharing our observations on the speech. "HE HAS ONLY ONE STRIPE ON HIS TIE," somebody would observe. And somebody else would say: "I THINK HE'S MAKING THE HAND GESTURES OF HIS LIFE."
And thus, using gritty determination and advanced journalism techniques, we were able to overcome major obstacles to "get the story" and report it to the American people, who were unable to watch this vital speech themselves because they had rented Revenge of the Nerds.
And so, Mr. Media Critic, don't try to tell ME that we're not doing a heck of a job. The U.S. news media corps just so happens to be the finest corps of news media in the entire nation. And that statement is not just my opinion. It's backed up by a scientific poll.