Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Reporting on the Reporters - Rating the Media in Haiti & Massachusetts - The CPT Hall of Fame


Let it not be said that those who report the news are not the news as that is one of the journalistic standards in this day and age of egocentric journalism. My stories often call attention to the violators of journalistic integrity disguised as our nation's news media, and the elitist media of major newspapers and television.

More often than not the elite reporters have agendas that checkmate their desire for objectivity, non-biased reporting or telling the story of the subject of the article. Such a mindset leads directly to the reporter judging rather than reporting on the person being discussed.

Another distraction from the truth for reporters of today is the intense pressure on them from bosses or peers to write books, once again essays in judgment and violations on the confidentiality of news sources for the purpose of creating celebrity status for the reporters. In the eyes of the newspaper or TV network such celebrity status translates to recognition, ratings and money.

Of course it is little different than the pressure put on university professors, especially scientists, who are viewed by the school administration as a revenue source more than a teaching instrument for kids. Often the grants brought in by these professors pay for the cost of the department or unit. It is an atmosphere for corruption as altered test results may make the difference between winning or losing millions of dollars.

In journalism, however, it never used to be that way until the reporter or TV anchor retired. No one ever wrote books while they were supposed to be reporting the news. When I was a reporter it was impossible to tell whether the seasoned old pros were Democrat or Republican, normally they were Independent, or how they felt on any topic. They reported the news, did not editorialize or inject bias into the stories.

Oh but for the good old days. Today most reporters are not like that. Once the press was highly respected and their writing was the protection of the people from corruption. The Fourth Estate, as I like to attribute to Edmund Burke in 1792 was the English reference to the press who covered the actions of the English government. In America the press was considered important enough to protect with the Bill of Rights and the shield of the Constitution.

Today the definition of press includes almost every kind of trash known to men along with a few good papers and TV programs. Thus reporters who seem to uphold the principles of our founding fathers are few and far between. Most are entertainers like the O'Rielly, Beck or Hannity of Fox News or Olbermann, Matthews, Schultz and Maddows of MSNBC.

While Fox dominates the ratings as conservatives must dominate in America where limited federal government and states rights have long been held sacred, none of those mentioned from the right and the left would ever be accused of objective reporting. As TV network news self-destructed over the past 30 years the audience has moved from the big boys to the cable news where the news of the world must be in sound bites and 2 minute stories. It also ceased being news and became entertainment.

Once in while I come across journalistic performances so foreign to our normal trash talk and sound bites that I must draw attention to these reporters as they may be the last of the endangered species and you should enjoy them while they exist.

Two major recent stories have resulted in new candidates for the Coltons Point Times "Who can you trust" news reporters Hall of Fame. The tragic earthquake in Haiti was the first in which the real news people stepped forward to tell the real story of what was going on in the rescue and recovery effort. I must say I was surprised and pleased to discover gems of reporting amongst the many people covering this disaster.

First and standing alone in superior reporting was Anderson Cooper of CNN, a network that at least tries to report the news and to remain somewhat unbiased. As a result few people watch the network except when in depth news is sought like in the case of Haiti. Cooper should earn a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage from being one of the first on the scene to his fearless travels to every nook and corner of the disaster.

His stories pointing out the flaws of the rescue and recovery efforts when the government officials were telling a different story probably saved many lives. He discovered medical facilities with no medicine first, mass burials with no identification of bodies, the failure to distribute food, water and medicine when it was sitting at the airport for days, and on and on.

When Cooper reports you get empathy, compassion, emotion and truth in doses not often seen in reporters and you just know he will not stop digging for information until he finds the truth. His stories told the horrors of the thousands of deaths, the potential for thousands more from untreated injuries, and the sad failure to search for the 100,000 or more trapped under the debris. Cooper and his 360 program on CNN are a must if you seek truth.

Most surprising to me was the addition of Doctor Sanjay Gupta also of CNN. May times before I had seen him but the seriousness of the stories were never much so I did not notice him. But in Haiti, he performed as no other using his skills as a medical reporter combined with his skills as a neurosurgeon to tell the story and save a life by treating victims he found.

One night when a Belgium hospital team abandoned patients on the operating table for fear of their own safety Sanjay stayed at the tent and spent all night treating the abandoned patients. His reporting deadlines were sacrificed while saving lives.

When Cooper and Sanjay did joint reports which they did often they were always humble while upset over the treatment of the victims. Very subtly they asked critical questions about the promises for help and the failure to deliver and many times their reports resulted in help arriving.

The third reporter deserving recognition for her Haiti performance was Ann Curry of the NBC Today program who was sent to the disaster and literally scoured the city from one end to the other with no regard for the danger to herself in order to make certain the true stories of the tragedy were broadcast on the Today show every morning. I must say Curry was also a pleasant surprise since I was so accustomed to the entertainment aspects of the morning news shows but now I know she has a great news presence.

In regards to the Massachusetts Senate race the coverage was generally lousy as the bias of reporters dominated their reports. Thus the right was overly rejoicing and the left was overly depressed. It does not occur to either of them that the Independents embrace neither the right or the left but the middle.

However, I have been watching the evolution of Savannah Guthrie of NBC and she came into her own recently when they made her co-host of a morning show on MSNBC, The Daily Rundown this year. Ever since she left a lucrative law practice to be a journalist she has been on a fast track spending about a year with Court TV, jumping to NBC, and soon becoming a White House correspondent with Chuck Todd.

I knew there was something about Savannah that made her special and it took a while to discover she was a Tucson, Arizona native who graduated with honors from the University of Arizona, my school, and Georgetown Law School. She was always first in everything. Unlike most network correspondents she seems to have no axe to grind and no political philosophy to advocate but actually reports the news as fair and unbiased as you will find.

The Los Angeles Times named her one of the top female entertainment personalities in the nation to watch in 2010 this past December, she ranked #3, and was the highest ranked from the news media. As long as MSNBC does not corrupt her and she seems far too strong for that to happen she is a delight to watch and a fountain of truth and information. Her new show is a must see.

So Ann Curry and Savannah Guthrie of NBC are the two newest additions to my very limited Hall of Fame along with Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN. You should give them a try as they are rocketing to fame based on talent and truth.

1 comment:

conjo1963 said...

Always have been an Anderson Cooper fan. I thought he was very unbiased during Presidential campaign coverage. Does he have a book out yet?