Not much has changed

Yesterday, while looking at something else I found this:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/press/interviews/hertsgaard.html

That is was nearly 20 years ago isn’t the point. The point is that it’s only gotten worse.

Taken at face value, you could say the same things today that Mr. Hertsgaard was saying in 1996, like this…

“That is the oldest canard, I think. This idea of a liberal bias is now, twenty almost thirty years old. Nixon started talking about that with Pat Buchanan as his speechwriter.

You know, first of all, who do they work for? They work for the biggest corporations in the country…..not exactly inclined to tearing down the established order. But more importantly, look at the coverage. And that’s really, I think the most persuasive proof that this idea of a liberal press is really poppycock.”

Ah yes, good old Pat Buchanan, of the vile Buchanan’s.

On Bob Woodward, who, even 20 years ago, had lost his credibility in the journalism community.

Here’s a guy who made history, with Carl Bernstein. History. Very few journalists ever do that. And made history in a very grand and noble fashion…. the best of what journalism’ is supposed to be about. And, as you say, inspired an awful lot of people… set off a whole revolution within the Press.

And now you look and it’s 25 years later, and he’s basically become a stenographer to power. And “The Choice” is not the first book, where you see this coming. His book on the Gulf War also was very insider. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong about writing an insider book, but it is extremely limited.

And essentially what he does, he’s kind of like a tour guide to the White House. And you get enormous, enormously interesting detail of who’s sitting where and who said what. But no critical distance. And obviously Watergate had quite a bit of critical distance. And unfortunately, he seems to have lost that interest.

He says, if you ask him “What is journalism about?” He says, “It’s about ‘the truth.'” There are very few journalists in Washington who could get away with saying something quite so self-important: “The Truth.” But it’s quite right. That’s what we’re supposed to be about. I think that his truth, though, is a very narrow vision of things. Why? Because it is told in the words and from the perspective of the power-wielders, and with no view from outside the wall.

And that’s really I think in a nutshell, the problem with so much of the coverage in Washington. Is that the habits of mind that inform it, the sympathies that inform it, are all with the people at the top. And not with the people outside the Palace.

And that’s who we journalists are supposed to writing for. We’re not supposed to be writing for the powerful. We’re supposed to be writing for the citizens of this democracy, who rely upon us to tell them what’s going on here because they can’t be here themselves. They have jobs, they have kids, they have all these things they’re supposed to be doing. We as journalists are their surrogate to tell them what’s going on in their government, in their democracy.”

And it’s only gotten worse.  If you read the complete transcript, you’ll find he takes on the “nightly news” (which isn’t really “the news”) and you can replace Brokaw, Jennings and Rather with the current three and they’re still just actors.  But Hertsgaard saves his best arrows for the Sunday morning gobshite meanderings…

“I think that they are the most over-rated things. The only people who pay attention to that, to those shows on Sunday mornings, are here in Washington. You know, and the occasional political junkie out in the country.

That’s again something that’s very important inside the Palace Court because you can go to the cocktail party and these people watch the weekend shows — the Georgetown set and the journalists, they all take that stuff seriously. On the other hand, because the Press takes it seriously, those shows often do end up helping to set the agenda for the news of the week.”

Earlier this year, Chuck Todd, the caretaker at what used to be “Meet the Press,” let the cat out of the bag when he actually told the truth, as opposed to what he normally does, in a exchange with comedian Lewis Black, who asked him, point blank, why don’t you call these people out on their lies? “Because they wouldn’t come back on our shows.” That, right there, is the modern day “press” in a nutshell.

Keep in mind, this was 1996, the year FOX News was founded.  As the above video states, “How long has this been going on?” But I think the bigger question remains, in the immortal words of Richard Pryor, “How long will this bullshit go on?”

We, the people, have the power to change that. We can change it by demanding it.  “Let’s remember here the public airways are ours. They belong to the people of this country,” argues the interviewee, “They don’t belong to NBC and CBS. And in theory, we could very well say to them, as the 1934 Communications Act originally implied, that, “Look, if you want to be able to make hundreds of millions of dollars of profit every year, well then,you have to give something back to the community. And one of the things you can give to the community is not just 22 minutes of happy talk news every night, but 30 minutes or 60 minutes and you can’t sell ads.” There is nothing technological about television that keeps it from doing a good job. That is the pursuit of profit speaking. Not the requirements of the television technology.”

Once again, I say, this is why we can’t have nice things anymore.

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