In one of the most brazen acts of self-deception, Kathleen Parker, one of the Washington Post’s Writers Group blamed the likes of Rush Limbaugh for the ongoing slide of America’s newspapers into a cesspool of irrelevance. Ms. Parker wrote:
“The biggest challenge facing America’s struggling newspaper industry may not be the high cost of newsprint or lost ad revenues, but ignorance stoked by drive-by punditry.
“Yes, Dittoheads, you heard it right. Drive-by pundits, to spin off Rush Limbaugh’s “˜drive-by media” are non-journalists who have been demonizing the media for 20 years or so and who blame the current news crisis on bias.
“Surely, there is room for media criticism, and a few bad actors in recent years have badly frayed public trust. And, yes, some newspapers are more liberal than readership and do a lousy job of concealing it.
“Still, the greater truth is that newspaper reporters, editors and institutions are responsible for the boots-on-the-ground work that produces the news stories and performs the government watchdog roles so crucial to a democratic republic.”
There are so many things wrong with that brief statement that it is hard to know where to begin. But let’s try anyway.
“The biggest challenge facing America’s struggling newspaper industry may [be] . . . ignorance stoked by drive-by punditry.” This is always the first reaction of the liberal elites — including those who populate America’s mainstream media. Anyone who disagrees with them is obviously ignorant. They believe themselves to be intellectually superior and infallible in every venue. This is an attitude that they make no effort to hide and to which Americans respond with disdain. If America’s newspapers are looking for their culprits, start by looking in a mirror.
“. . . Drive-by pundits, . . . who have been demonizing the media for 20 years or so and who blame the current news crisis on bias.“ Apparently “demonizing the media” means delineating their demonstrable biases, their routine factual errors in pursuit of those biases, and their routine failures to report news that contradicts their demonstrable biases or is critical of their liberal political supporters.
First, let’s understand that most of America’s newspapers no longer report national news — they “buy” copy from the New York Times, the Washington Post, or Associated Press. The biases on national and international news are repeated over and over again in the local newspapers by reprinting these stories. And the biases of these three sources are so well documented that it hardly needs repeating.
But just in case, let’s take the reporting on the war in Iraq. These three sources routinely report, and the local newspapers routinely repeat without restraint, the tragedies of war, the body count, every act of violence and particularly every perceived wrong alleged to have been committed by American forces. These same sources are virtually silent with regard to the progress in democracy (particularly for women), reconstruction, education (particularly for women), self-determination, and political stability. More time is spent wringing their hands over a pack of terrorists at Guantanamo Bay than on the daily atrocities committed on innocent men, women and children by the savages that they euphemistically describe as “guerillas.” Were Americans left to the mainstream media for their news about Iraq, they would be just as ignorant of progress, success and winning as they were during the Vietnam War when no alternatives to the mainstream media existed.
At the national level, the mainstream media has spent an enormous amount of time, money and energy exploiting Bristol Palin, a minor child, in hopes of damaging her mother, Gov. Sarah Palin. They sneer and snicker at Bristol’s unwed pregnancy, the birth of her child, and the break up of her engagement. And at precisely the same time, the mainstream media ignored the stories of marital infidelity by Caroline Kennedy or the fact that she could not put together two sentences in a row and sounded like a Valley Girl on steroids. But then again, the stories of marital infidelity involved Arthur “Puck” Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times — what a coincidence. Here an innocent child is fair game but a liberal scion and a mainstream media icon are protected.
And on a local level, one has to look no farther than the sexual exploits of former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt and Mayor Sam Adams. Goldschmidt repeatedly raped a fourteen-year-old girl over a period of three years and Adams engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a teenager during the middle of his mayoral campaign. Both Goldschmidt and Adams lied about their conduct. And in both instances the Oregonian knew about the conduct and chose to bury the story. So much for “perform[ing] the government watchdog roles so crucial to a democratic republic.”
“Surely, . . . a few bad actors in recent years have badly frayed public trust. And, yes, some newspapers are more liberal than readership and do a lousy job of concealing it.” Ms. Parker would have us believe that conservative pundits have taken a few isolated incidents and blown them out of proportion to taint the whole profession of journalism. Wow! There hasn’t been such a display of a lack of reality since Vanity Fair declared Chelsea Clinton one of America’s next great beauties. The liberal bias of America’s newspapers has been so great, so consistent, so unapologetic for so long that journalism schools have dropped any pretense of “fair and objective” reporting. In survey after survey, pollster have found that the vast majority of America’s journalists consider themselves liberals — so much so that the few conservatives that find their way into the ranks of journalism have to profess to be “independent” to avoid exclusion. This isn’t a few “bad actors”, this is an institutionalized sense that it is the mainstream media’s job to “manage” the news rather than just report it. They believe it is their role to determine what to report and what to withhold and that having done so they should be immune from criticism.
“Still, the greater truth is that newspaper reporters, editors and institutions are responsible . . . the government watchdog roles so crucial to a democratic republic.” Ms. Parker and her colleagues continue to mistakenly believe that a “free press” is some sort of “corporate right” to which only the mainstream media is entitled — that they alone have the right and the duty to act as “government watchdogs.” But that is not what the United States Constitution says. The right of “free press” is found in the Bill of Rights — the delineation of individual rights.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
It is the height of arrogance to assert that this role, right and responsibility lies exclusively with the mainstream media or those with journalism degrees as Ms. Parker intimates. In point of fact, those conservative pundits, those internet bloggers, and those talk radio hosts by exposing the bias of the mainstream media and their close ties to liberal politicians are more closely fulfilling the “watchdog” expectations of our founders than are those who profess to be the “nation’s guardians.”
No, Ms. Parker, conservative pundits have not caused the downfall of America’s newspapers, they have simply held up the conduct of those in the mainstream media to public scrutiny. The cause of the downfall of America’s newspapers lies solely with America’s newspapers. Their self-absorption led to their alienation from their customers. The Seattle Post-Intelligence will close its doors this Friday. The blame for its demise lies solely and only with the publishers, editorialists and reporters of The Seattle Post-Intelligence. Blaming others for your own foibles has become a popular staple for liberals, it is not surprising that the mainstream media has likewise seized upon it.
America’s newspapers can cure their slide into oblivion but they won’t. To quote from Michael Jackson: “Change begins with the man in the mirror.”