Saturday, April 29, 2006

History repeats itself

And the process seems to go faster all the time. Will the next version of this book have to be written only ten years from now?

On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency
Mark Hertsgaard, June 1988

During the Reagan years, the White House Press Corps has "functioned less as an independent than as a palace court press," according to Hertsgaard. Basing his arguments on hundreds of interviews with important administration leaders and reporters, Hertsgaard convincingly portrays the White House press as noncritical and sycophantic. As members of the same power elite that they write about, White House reporters more often than not agree with the President's policies. In addition, they have been reluctant to strongly criticize Reagan for fear of being cut off from the flow of information and of losing their privileged status.

Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush
Eric Boehlert, May 2006

Lapdogs is the first book to demonstrate that, for the entire George W. Bush presidency, the news media have utterly failed in their duty as watchdog for the public. ... Throughout both presidential campaigns and the entire Iraq war to date, the media acted as a virtual mouthpiece for the White House, giving watered-down coverage of major policy decisions, wartime abuses of power, and egregious mistakes -- and sometimes these events never made it into the news at all. Finally, in Lapdogs, the press is being held accountable by one of its own.

Boehlert homes in on the reasons the press did not do its job: a personal affinity for Bush that journalists rarely displayed toward his predecessor, Bill Clinton; a Republican White House that threatened to deny access to members of the media who asked challenging questions or voiced criticism; and a press that feared being tainted by accusations of liberal bias. Moreover, journalists — who may have wanted to report accurately on the important stories — often found themselves at cross-purposes with media executives, many of whom were increasingly driven by economic concerns. Cowed by all of these factors, the media abandoned their traditional role of stirring up meaningful public debate.



At 7:52 PM, May 02, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It does seem to me be more widespread among the media types now. My recollection of the Reagan era is that NPR and NewHour were more on the ball and less intimidated. Now, quite good at toeing the maladministration line.

Some good stuff does get through (I learned in the early fall of '02 that the aluminum tubes, per nuclear experts in the DOE and out, could most likely not be used for centrifuges), but not so much anymore. And where, oh, where, is the follow up and follow through on stories?.


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