Friday, April 23, 2010

The Washington Press Corps - the New Age Idols and Idol Makers


Have you ever heard the expression "you've lost your compass", meaning you have lost your way? Well when it comes to the news media corps in our nation's capitol it seems their compass is hopelessly lost in the Bermuda Triangle. That's where the needle of the compass just starts spinning.

I've worked in Washington for the Office of the President and for Congress and spent some time with different federal agencies. Then I worked in Washington with private corporations and not as a lobbyist which means I've lost a lot of potential revenue.

For the past couple of years I have been observing Washington and my focus has been on the news media and whether they really fulfill their role as the eyes and ears of America. Such a romantic thought, that the journalists in the news media were protecting the nation from the crooks in Washington and on Wall Street.

Let me tell you my conclusions. First, there are a few good journalists there who really try to act like the news media of the old days, seeking out truth and reporting objectively. Unfortunately they are few and far between.

There is a new standard for news media in our capitol just as there are new standards for politicians, Wall Street executives and special interest groups. Today's media seem to spend more time interviewing each other on the many news, talk and entertainment shows than they spend interviewing real news makers.

What is with that? Since when did the reporters become the stars? At what point did they acquire the audacity to believe they were the news makers? Fox, MSNBC, CNN and even the network news shows have far more so called reporters as guests than real opinion makers.

And speaking of objectivity, when reporters speculate on what is going to happen in the future, like Chuck Todd, White House correspondent for NBC and MSNBC did recently when he said what would happen in the Florida Senate race that is not over until November, it makes you wonder at what point did the news corps become their own source for information.

Just how objective can Chuck Todd be if he is predicting the outcome of a story? Wouldn't that influence him to report the story in a way that makes him look right? Far worse, of course, are the many made for television reporters whose liberal or conservative views dominate anything they report on. If partisanship is bad for politics as Obama likes to say, then ideologically slanted reporting is the death knell for news journalism because almost every reporter who is leaning to the right or left has lost their ability to be objective.

I often wonder if the current courses for journalism in college might not include classes like make up, camera awareness, how to write a book with no experience and nothing to say, battling for the anchor's seat, charisma and charm and of course, finding the right dentist for maximum whiteness. Come to think of it, with the time today's reporters spend on camera they might need acting courses as well.

Then there are the editorial journalists, the self-proclaimed sergeant in arms for discipline of the ranks, the self-perceived "Chosen One" to keep the people's philosophy in line. Truth has little to do with the field of ideological warfare. More entertainer than journalist, at least these types seldom claim objectivity.

While the TV journalist is required to write and possibly sell books, the editorial journalist is expected to crank out books, coffee mugs, do live, stand up on stage appearances, and generally whatever it takes to whip the true believers into a frenzy. They are also required to complete basic evangelizing courses.

Those claiming to be reporters who do television interviews, not of news makers but them being interviewed by the many so called news and opinion shows who can't get quality guests, also seem to belong to the club of "longing to be loved by celebrities and politicians".

As professional name droppers whose standing is measured by whether they are on a first name basis with the White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, they are sent into long periods of depression if they aren't invited to the most expensive affairs of the Washington elite. To them success is measured not by winning a Pulitzer prize but by Obama knowing their name or a backstage pass to meet Sting.

If the journalists were doing their jobs the economic collapse would have been known ahead of time, the crooks who caused it would have been exposed, politicians would no longer be able to lie to the press, illegal influence of special interests would have been exposed long ago, and perhaps we would have known the truth. As it is, the only truth we may find is with the citizen journalists blogging their stories while the paid news media is getting smashed at the latest White House gala.


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