The Decline of Journalism

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

Chuck_ToddA lynchpin of the idea of America has been the meme “freedom of the press”. It is specifically mentioned in the First Amendment and many have declared it essential as a bulwark against tyranny. The Constitution, however, was written at the time when it took little expense to produce a newspaper or a one sheet broadside informing the people about one’s point of view. It was a time that had no media except for the print media and so “the press” as it existed then played a central role in informing the citizenry about the important issues of the time. From 1704 on the regular newspapers and magazines in the colonies had begun to charge for advertising, but the price of a paper still was the most significant revenue stream. While press freedom always was impacted by the major advertisers a paper had, the impact was quite minimal for more than 150 years, most importantly because each newspaper reflected its publisher’s point of view and that was the raison d’etre for the publishers. Then too, one could publish independent leaflets (broadsides) that could also sway the public discourse. Print media, which mainly included newspapers and magazines held sway as the conduit through which most Americans learned of the doings of the world and from which they formed their opinions politically. This “monopoly” last until the late 1930’s when the CBS and NBC radio networks started developing correspondents to go overseas and cover the world descending into war.

Depending on which side you were on the tradition of American journalism was a long and proud one. It played a significant role in the American Revolution and continued to do so for long afterward. The “free press” almost always took sides in that certain publications were known for their views and from what point on the political spectrum they saw the world. Investigative reporting was a proud American tradition, protected in the main by our Constitution and exposing the dark underside of America’s dream. The reader either is aware of, or can easily find instances where such reporting made a difference in the “people’s view” of a given issue and so I won’t detail the history except broadly. Sometimes, such as in William Randolph Hearst’s manufacture of the “The Spanish American War”, this press freedom was used in service of private interests. At other times with journalists like Lincoln Steffens; Ida B. Wells; Ambrose Bierce; Upton Sinclair; and Jacob Riis; to name a few, the public was informed of corruption both public and private in a long tradition dating back to the founding of this country. Whether one agreed, or disagreed with the information source, one could depend on the fact that given the already obvious point of view of the journalist/reporter, what they were reading was indeed a nuanced version of the facts that at least properly developed one side of the issue. The advent of first Radio and then Television supplanting the print media as the source of information for most Americans led to a trend in so-called “objective journalism” that has resulted in reporters/journalists/newsreaders presenting “both” sides of a dispute, without insight or context. Its’ my contention, as I’ll explain, that this has become very dangerous to the idea of an informed electorate and has resulted in sensationalistic bombast on a given issue, rather than intelligent debate allowing the public to make informed judgments as to where they stand.The idea for this blog came to me a few weeks ago after hearing about the controversy that erupted after Chuck Todd, NBC’s News Director had a discussion on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe”, with Ed Rendell, former Governor of Pennsylvania. The significant portion was this:

“MSNBC host Chuck Todd said Wednesday that when it comes to misinformation about the new federal health care law, don’t expect members of the media to correct the record.

During a segment on “Morning Joe,” former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) speculated that most opponents of the Affordable Care Act have been fed erroneous information about the law. Todd said that Republicans “have successfully messaged against it” but he disagrees with those who argue that the media should educate the public on the law. According to Todd, that’s President Barack Obama’s job.

“But more importantly, it would be stuff that Republicans have successfully messaged against it,” Todd told Rendell. “They don’t repeat the other stuff because they haven’t even heard the Democratic message. What I always love is people say, ‘Well, it’s you folks’ fault in the media.’ No, it’s the President of the United States’ fault for not selling it.”

In the aftermath of more than 150,000 people signing a petition in protest of Todd’s belief, he was still somewhat nonplussed by the reaction he had caused. In truth he was clueless because from his perspective and from the perspective of all of the corporate news media in this country just presenting both sides of an issue meets their journalistic obligations and they have no duty to inform the public when clear misstatements are being made. I’d originally thought when I planned this piece to go into a long history of why this once honorable profession has fallen on hard times, but my preference is to cut to the chase. The broadcast and digital media has become the most important source of educating the public as to the issues of our time. I say educating specifically because as I see it the purpose of including the press in the First Amendment was the understanding of our founding Fathers that in order to maintain this new type of government they had invented, there was an overarching need for an informed public.

“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.”

Reading the First Amendment in context its aim is to ensure a public informed enough and active enough to redress any grievances they might have with potential government tyranny. From their perspective, in their era, the freedom of the press was the mechanism for ensuring that the public was informed. With the advent of the public’s information being filtered through large information entities, that are run for profit by extremely large corporations, the duty to inform the public on the issues has devolved into merely reporting the naked contentions of either side, without the need to provide context. Thus though Todd knows and has admitted that the Affordable Care Act has been wildly mischaracterized by those opposed to it, he feels no duty to inform the public of that mischaracterization or any of the mistruths associated with it. From his perspective that is the job of the Administration and they are losing the battle simply because the President has not “sold it” properly.

Todd’s view reduces journalism to mere reportage of the various statements made about an issue and the coverage of the “horse race” aspect of election campaigns. It allows vastly unqualified people of either party, to run for and attain office based merely on their ability to craft a message or to sell themselves. With people of this mindset reporting the news is it any wonder that our political system has become a circus based on the principle of advertising and public relations? I seriously wonder why anyone would bother to get a Journalism Degree any more if this is what Journalism has become. Regarding the central mindset that encourages this phenomenon NYU Journalism Professor and Media Critic, Jay Rosen wrote a blog analyzing the basics. It is called: “He Said, She Said Journalism: Lame Formula in the Land of the Active User” and he writes:

“There I am, sitting at the breakfast table, with my coffee and a copy of the New York Times, in the classic newspaper reading position from before the Web. And I come to this article, headlined “Ex-Chairman of A.I.G. Says Bailout Has Failed.” I immediately recognize in it the signs of a he said, she said account.

Quick definition: “He said, she said” journalism means…

  • There’s a public dispute.
  • The dispute makes news.
  • No real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims in the story, even though they are in some sense the reason for the story. (Under the “conflict makes news” test.)
  • The means for assessment do exist, so it’s possible to exert a factual check on some of the claims, but for whatever reason the report declines to make use of them.
  • The symmetry of two sides making opposite claims puts the reporter in the middle between polarized extremes.

When these five conditions are met, the genre is in gear. The he said part might sound like this:

Mr. Greenberg asserted that he would have reduced or at least hedged A.I.G.’s exposure to credit-default swaps in 2005, when A.I.G.’s credit rating was reduced.

“A.I.G.’s business model did not fail; its management did,” he asserted.

Followed by the “she” said…

That provoked another scornful counterattack from his former company, saying that Mr. Greenberg’s assertions were “implausible,” “not grounded in reality” and at odds with his track record of not hedging A.I.G.’s bets on credit-default swaps.

I had read enough of the Times coverage of Mr. Greenberg to wonder why the editors would run something so lame. Their business columnists have been (excuse the expression) kicking ass on meltdown coverage, including A.I.G. But here there was no attempt to assess clashing truth claims, even though Times journalism was available to do just that. Instead Hank Greenberg got to star in a game of “you say black, I say white.”

Mr. Rosen wrote that blog in 2009 and four years later nothing has changed. In his blog he went on to describe the advantages, to the press, of this type of reporting:

“Turn the question around for a moment: what are the advantages of the newswriting formula I have derisively labeled “he said, she said?” Rather than treat it as a problem, approach it as a kind of solution to quandaries common on the reporting trail. When, for example, a screaming fight breaks out at the city council meeting and you don’t know who’s right, but you have to report it, he said, she said makes the story instantly writable. Not a problem, but a solution to the reporter’s (deadline!) problem.

When you kinda sorta recall that Hank Greenberg is a guy who shouldn’t necessarily get the benefit of the doubt in a dispute like this, but you don’t know the history well enough to import it into your account without a high risk of error, and yet you have to produce an error-free account for tomorrow’s paper because your editor expects of you just that… he said, she said gets you there.

Or when the Congressional Budget Office issues a report on ethanol and what it’s costing us in higher food prices, the AP reporter to whom the story is given could just summarize the report, but that’s a little too much like stenography, isn’t it? So the AP adds reactions from organized groups that are primed to react.

This is a low cost way of going beyond the report itself. A familiar battle of interpretations follows, with critics of ethanol underlining the costs and supporters stressing the benefits. Of course, the AP could try to sort out those competing claims, but that would take more time and background knowledge than it probably has available for a simple “CBO report issued” story. “Supporters of ethanol disagreed, saying the report was good news…” gets the job done.

These are some of the strengths of the he said, she said genre, a newsroom workhorse for forty years. (Think it’s easy? You try making any dispute story in the world writable on deadline…)”

In the end it comes down to the truth that these types of journalism make the job of the reporter/news writer much easier. The other big advantage is it keeps you out of hot water with your bosses and leaves your work immune from criticism. However, in its wake it leaves an uninformed electorate and a news media more interested in poll numbers than it is in reporting the facts. Most Americans lead very busy lives and keeping themselves informed of the news is low on their list of priorities. Given the difficulty entailed in really obtaining the facts on a particular issue, is it any wonder how really uninformed the electorate in this country is? My point here is not pro or con health care, although some comments will no doubt go there. My interest is in whether you think this mode of reportage is either fair, or valuable in the creation of an informed public. My opinion is that it is a travesty, but your may have a different perspective.

Submitted By: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

77 thoughts on “The Decline of Journalism

  1. I say that we are better off now than we were fifty years ago when the likes of Edward R. Murrow had a half hour news show on a network and ten minutes of that was commercials for cigarettes and other products. Ed smoked the cigarette product on the air. The New York Times was good then and major cities had great newspapers like the Post Dispatch in Saint Louis. The news papers have declined horribly. But television has morphed. The networks stink but we have new avenues on television like CSPAN and CNN and CNBC and LINK. We can find things of world or local interest 24/7.
    But the most recent and what will turn out to be the most drastic expansion of media is through this internet and these blogs by which we discuss matters of public concern.

    By this blog here we are directly and indirectly assembling with each other to speak, and to petition our government for redress of grievances.

    I want Dianne Feinstein and her old gophers in the Congress to drop their plans to Define what a journalist is and to limit the First Amendment protections for the rest of us. So, let us petition her and call her names if need be to stop this intrusion on our First Amendment rights. We the people.

  2. Good job Mike. I believe that the core of the problem with the media is the corporate ownership. Chuck Todd is a bought and paid for lackey of the corporations that are taking over this country. It is not only laziness that causes this problem. It is where the money is coming from.

  3. Unfortunately, the speed and pace of the internet has taken us there. It’s like a dart competition in a bar where everyone is aiming for the bullseye but the bar is about to close, even though the game is not over. The rush to page one on Google Search or Yahoo is more important than what people find when they get there. That’s the real deadline.

    I write a column for a women’s magazine (I’m not a graduate journalist) but I spend many hours researching my facts for each opinion I write. I do the same for my blog articles. Interesting you brought up polls, because I write opinion for a social research polling site. Under each opinion is a data point box. That’s for facts (sources) to be credited. It’s amusing that no one ever checks off the box, which asks if the data point was helpful or not. People are only interested in clicking the Yes or No buttons for liking or disliking the opinion. So we both know what that proves.

    There’s a lot I would like to say about what has happened to journalism today, but who would listen? I recently wrote an article on how the news media has become more of a judge and jury, rather than a fact-gathering source. So, when you have that as the public’s number one news source for credibility value, things tend to become a bit contrived. How do you expect to control that?

    As for ObamaCare, the real and true facts of it will be reported from household to household and around water-coolers at the office, where people will be comparing the costs of their new policies. That’s where real journalism will abound. Yes, you were right…it did come up.

    I liked your article. There was a lot of truth in it. But if we think of opinions as just lazy rhetoric with no fact-based foundation…where’s the entertainment?

  4. Mike Spindell;

    I concur with “hit a home run” (but do not concur coining it as ‘rant’)

    Unfortunately, I’m afraid Senator Feinstein found the final motivation to join the dark side 100% – once she sent a letter to USAG Mukasey per yours truly request (purportedly on our eToys Public Corruption issues); but it was speciously turned into a quirky alternative ideal (reportedly the investigation of GOP Jerry Lewis issues)

    We (those involved in the eToys case) were informed by persons upon high to file an 18 U.S.C. 3057(a) Complaint about the issue that the U.S. Attorney in Delaware (Colm Connolly) was declining investigating/prosecuting Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital issues. What is wrong with Colm Connolly’s behavior – is his abject silence on the issue – that Colm was a partner of MNAT firm (which represents Goldman Sachs/Bain Capital interest in Delaware).

    An extensively heinous & egregious violation given the fact that MNAT confessed to lying under oath and Goldman Sachs/ Bain Capital engaged in billions in frauds schemes collusively – as an organized crime “association in fact”.

    As a result of yours truly filing a December 7, 2007 18 U.S.C. 3057 and other (time/date stamped complaints) – approx twelve (12) weeks later – the DOJ’s Public Corruption Task Force was Shut Down

    And career federal prosecutors were THREATENED to keep their mouths shut as to the reasons why – or ELSE!

    At that time Senator Feinstine sent a letter to USAG Mukasey.

    The letter was never ended and the Senator changed the email address that yours truly was provided.

    Since that time, Senator Feinstein has acted as if she were a Manchurian candidate.

  5. Washington D.C. activist, Lawyer, former writer for the Hartford Courant (recognized – at one time – as the U.S. oldest paper and largest publication) and author Andrew Kreig wrote a book titled; “Spiked”. Though the name was a play on words of another writing about Russia called “Spike” – Mr. Kreig did an excellent job detailing the demise of American Journalism.

    Though you would think Andrew Kreig penned a point apropos – doing so after the facts are now history; the truth of the matter is, Andrew Kreing, wrote “Spiked”

    in 1988

  6. Chuck Todd is the poster boy for stenographic journalism –Report what they say, don’t question, don’t research and by all means don’t bring up the facts. ( His colleague David Gregory is another great example.) This why the most respected journalists in America are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert! They research, they show the videos, they report the facts. They are also amazingly funny and insightful and they are equal opportunity truth tellers. No one is immune from their wit or their research.

    People do want to know that is why Jon Stewart has such high numbers. It is too bad that corporate ownership has silenced anyone who dared take them and their buddies on. I hope Stewart and Colbert continue for years to come.

    Thanks for this piece.

  7. Joseph E Rathjen,

    Some work for a piece of paper to hang on a wall for it to only collect dust,

    Some work for the trophy wife,

    Oh of course we all need the Amerikan dream of a McMansion with a 30year mortgage, student loan debt out the back side & all their Vazed up kids on meth & porzac.

    Joe, if you want to go to the top of the mountain there are those of us that will help you for Free!

    Look at this, For Free I & many others haver tracked this bxstard Jamie Dimon/AKA: JPM for it must be a decade, we’ve at least wounded him & his name is disgraced forever by his own actions.

    Oky1 1, October 4, 2013 at 7:11 pm

  8. **
    Justice Holmes 1, October 5, 2013 at 2:16 am

    Chuck Todd is the poster boy for stenographic journalism –Report what they say, don’t question, don’t research and by all means don’t bring up the facts. ( His colleague David Gregory is another great example.) This why the most respected journalists in America are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert! They research, they show the videos, they report the facts. They are also amazingly funny and insightful and they are equal opportunity truth tellers. No one is immune from their wit or their research. **

    Sorry JH, I’m calling Bullsheeet on your post!

    Sold out Shill Commie Nazis the lot!

    Sometime funny, ya, unless you know the facts!

  9. Joseph E Rathjen,

    This is how you & I & others get to where we need to go!

    Ck out Greg Hunter

    maybe his site suits you?

  10. MikeS, That’s real big game hunting!

    We don’t need a gun & we’re hunting American hatin Commie/Nazi azzholes!

    I think we bagged the ph’ers!:)

  11. An under reported NSA scandal from America’s news corpse…
    … You know, the zombie yes wo/men of ABCNNBCBS&FOXNews(R).

  12. Unfortunately….. The ‘Decline of the free Press… often accompanies the decline of Democracy!!!! There is no Democracy without a Free Press!!!

  13. Great Article Mike S.,

    Mike S: “Its’ my contention, as I’ll explain, that this has become very dangerous to the idea of an informed electorate and has resulted in sensationalistic bombast on a given issue, rather than intelligent debate allowing the public to make informed judgments as to where they stand.”

    Then Mike S states: “Most Americans lead very busy lives and keeping themselves informed of the news is low on their list of priorities.”

    By making these statements, especially the last one, your article title should be changed to: the evolution of journalism or Americans’ desire for entertainment news has changed/ruined/destroyed the sanctity of journalism?

    Let’s look at our-fellow-Americans’ background:

    only 41% of 25 year olds and older have at least an associates degree.

    15% of the US population has a specific reading disorders

    46% of American adults can’t understand the labels on their prescriptions

    50% of American adults are unable to read an 8th grade level book

    33% American high school graduates will never read a book after they graduate

    42% College students who will never read another book after they graduate

    70% American adults have not been in a book store in the past 5 years

    80% American families did not buy a book this year of 2013

    15% of the US inmates are literate

    Is it any wonder that we want to read or hear about the Kardashians and not the Affordable Care Act (ACA or ObamaCare)?

  14. My interest is in whether you think this mode of reportage is either fair, or valuable in the creation of an informed public. My opinion is that it is a travesty, but your may have a different perspective.” – Mike S

    That says it for me too Mike. McTell News.

  15. What RWL said.

    Despite the vast amount of information available in the internet age, Americans are surprisingly ignorant of the world around them. When students can’t find their own state on a map of the US, we have a problem. Despite all the news coverage of the Middle East, 63% of Americans 18 to 24 could not find Iraq on a map. Heck, a lot of them could not find New York on a map, and think Canada and Mexico have a common border. Yeah. Its called the USA.

    One of the things that constantly amazes me is the inability of so many people with college degrees to understand parables and proverbs. Or analogies.

    As for Chuck Todd, he seems to be a nice enough man, but he is not a reporter or journalist, despite whatever degrees or job titles he has. Can you imagine him as one of “Murrow’s Boys?” Think he could compete with the likes of Eric Sevareid, Richard Hottelet, William Shirer, Walter Cronkite or Daniel Schorr? I am not just picking on poor Chuck Todd. The same goes for most of the rest of them as well.

    Using “reporter” or “journalist” in the same sentence with the stenographers on the idiot tube these days is laughable. The real reporters are found on blogs and internet journals. That is probably one reason the establishment is so resistant to calling people like us “journalists,” with the rights and privileges that come with the title.

    One of my daughters used to date a newspaper editor and part time news photographer. He was with a newspaper out west, but quit his job to go to work for NASCAR in their PR department. He told me his publisher wanted everything yesterday. He did not have time to dig up facts and fill out the back story. He says it was all about a couple of phone calls to get some interesting quotes and on to the next story. Working for a big sports operation gives him what he never had in the dead tree news business. Access to sources, in depth interviews, time to develop stories, and no pressure to write a half-baked story without time to fact check.

  16. Oky1,
    You got it with Colbert and Stewart. When Colbert was the guest speaker at the 2006 White House Correspondent’s Dinner, he delivered one of the gutsiest speeches ever given in Washington. In little more than twenty minutes he skewered the entire press corps, calling them “stenographers” to their face. Even Keith Olbermann was critical of him the next night on his program, saying Colbert was “not funny.” Bit too close to home even for Olbermann who is no shrinking violet himself. This is twenty-four minutes of scorched earth journalism at its best, couched in comedic form.

  17. Mike Spindell,

    I started reading your article last night. It hit so hard in the start I had to stop. I read Todds quote and a lightbulb went off. (actually on).
    Capitalism now owns the press. Like a contrived sport, it is the New York Dems vs the Texas Repubs. (fill in your own sport name) Todd thinks his job is solely to report what the team owners tell him to. MSM responsibility (according to Todd) is to sit in the luxury box and repeat equally what each team owner tells him to.
    I have feared this was true for a while now, but my cynicism often takes me too far…… OOPs not this time.

  18. Diane Rehm is the best interviewer on the airwaves. Her radio programs discuss issues, concepts, and reasoning in civil dialogue. In my experience she often has three panelists, right, left, and a researcher or educator. Her format is what all exploratory, issue exposing, civil discussion is meant to be.
    The bread and circus crowd need not apply

    The Repubs are trying to drown NPR in the bathtub. The “New” Dems are probably in agreement with the repubs on this one.
    New Dem meaning the now exposed philosophy of Fienstein. Obamas blatant support of Wallst and corporate deals. Pro bomb everything Kerry. Talk tough Harry Reid, has been tying his own shoelaces together. Harry Reid is not this stumbling, and fumbling, due to ignorance, He too is a Manchurian candidate.
    The crony capitalists are winning, The crony capitalists want everything, Congress is in their pocket. (most of them)

  19. This just in:
    -The Kardasians are Roma.
    -Mike Wallace has a prior name of Wallechinsky and his son used it for a while on Air.
    -John King talks too fast but does so at the direction of the CNN tribe.
    -The word Media is kind of like the word Data– overused and amorphous.
    -When the Media quotes Data, you get what you pay for. The Data shows.
    -Congress has no gonads and that is not because Dianne Feinstein is an 80 year old lady who wants to define “journalist” so as to take away the First Amendment Rights of bloggers.
    -Koch Brothers both do coke. Not talking soda here.
    -Americans need to look elsewhere for Media.

  20. “Haven’t even heard the Democratic message,” on Obamacare?? He’s been trying to sell that snake oil legislation, passed by reconciliation, for going on 4 years. He has the bully pulpit and he’s a gifted speaker who could sell fridges to Eskimos. This won’t sell because you can’t sell shit, everyones got plenty. I’ve been watching campaign like ads DAILY for months telling us this snake oil will cure our woes. The insurance companies involved in this Ponzi scheme are getting taxpayer funded ads, it’s corporate welfare.’s those damn Republicans fault. Critical thinking goes down the toilet when ideology is in play.

  21. Who exactly is responsible for this confusion?

    Who coined the term “Obamacare”?

    Who propagated it?

    Also, what RWL and OS said. Eric Severied would eat Chuck Todd’s face for claiming to be a journalist. This is one area where British terminology is far superior to American English. They use the term “news readers”. Because that’s what they are. But here, there is much less actual news than entertainment. I just might run screaming into the streets if I have to see one more picture of Miley Cyrus sticking her tongue out. But that? Is an editorial decision.

    Who hires the editors?

    Who determines their priorities?

    A good faith decision about substantive material interest to the public or a corporate mandate and the drive for ratings and ad dollars?

    Good job, Mike.

  22. Mike S: In my view, this is a common failing of many a business; in this case it is a failing of a terrible business model (Journalism).

    In particular, the state of Journalism you describe today is a common failure of the free market; what is truly in the best long term interest of the typical citizen (being informed and able to make a decision that reflects reality) is seldom in their short term interest, always optional, and almost never the “winner” in the competition of their various work, household and relationship duties they should accomplish right now.

    As a business failing, businesses by their nature cut corners; and this “he said, she said” journalism is clearly a form of cutting corners. By Jay Rosen’s description, I suspect it has always been in use as a way of generating some filler for pages going to press, a kind of “patch” to cover a hole in the page. But the same market failure rears its nearly invisible head. The patches are easy, and over the course of a generation or two, instead of a page with a few patches on it, the whole newspaper has become just a daily quilt of patches, and the original opinion and direction that sold the paper (and distinguished it from other papers) has been lost. People stop buying it. But the business model has evolved, the paper is just that quilt of “he said she said” patches and advertisements, and nobody will pay for it, and now the industry dies as the Internet replaces it.

    But the Internet is hardly better, it is just more free. There is more actual Journalism on the Internet (Greenwald and Taibbi come to mind, others like Turley provide actual researched content by himself and some guest bloggers), but for the most part the Internet is also awash in the “easy filler” paradigm of an endless sea of shallow words and asinine assertion.

    I would say the kind of “free press” the Founders envisioned is still alive and well on a handful of Internet sites, it is just overwhelmed thousands to one by the flood of others shouting for attention, wannabe celebrities and angry venting. Not to mention the competition for attention in every possible form of entertainment, and the relentless striving of those that want to “monetize” any content ever read or seen by anybody.

  23. Gene,
    I have this evil fantasy of Chuck Todd walking into Edward R. Murrow’s office for a job interview. It would be a sight to behold.

    There are few real journalists any more. Christiane Amanpour comes to mind. She would have a far better chance of becoming one of ‘Murrow’s Boys’ than the likes of Chuck Todd or David Gregory.

    Speaking of Murrow, NPR canned one of the best interviewers they ever had when they let Bob Edwards go from “Morning Edition.” He is now back, with “Bob Edwards Weekend” on NPR. Edwards wrote a book about Murrow, “Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism,” and it is worth a read.

  24. OS,

    There is a wicked comedy skit in that idea.

    And I agree about Edwards. He’s the real deal. I’ll have to keep an eye out for his book.

  25. Gene,
    Bob Edward’s book about Murrow was published in 2004. After NPR fired him, he went on an extended book tour. Unfortunately he never came to our area or you can bet I would have an autographed copy. You can get a discounted copy at booksellers, and Amazon has a few hardback copies left for less than twelve bucks.

  26. Chuck Todd is actually a fairly good, straight, reporter. And I saw him on Jeopardy, he’s very smart. Chris Matthews is dumber than dirt. Katy Kay from the BBC is also pretty smart.

  27. Jake Tapper is about the best, straight reporter out there, IMO. He has hammered the NSA more than anyone else that I’ve seen. He has Greenwald and Wyden on regularly.

  28. Who Coined ‘Obamacare’?

    Jeanne Schulte Scott, a heath care industry lobbyist and former senior counsel in the Office of the General Counsel for the Health Care Financing Administration under Reagan who – despite that – has done some really good work on behalf of citizens since then.

    Who used the term first as a pejorative?

    Mitt “it was a great success at the state level I take credit for but disastrous socialism (ooooooo spooky) at a national level” Romney. A neo-fascist, neoconservative Republican of the worst sort.

    A term coined by an industry lobbyist, used in an irrational albeit self-serving attack by a Republican.

    (Mis-)Usage is important, especially for neologisms used in propaganda, as is etymology.

  29. Otteray,

    I like Amy Goodman. She isn’t a member of the corporate media or half of a “power couple” like Amanpour–who is married to Jamie Rubin (Robert Rubin’s son). I’m always suspicious of members of the media who have links to big banks, corporations, and government–like Andrea Mitchell who is married to Alan “The Oracle” Greenspan.

  30. Elaine,
    I forgot about who Amanpour is married to. Regardless, she goes where most reporters fear to tread. I saw her reporting live several times with bullets whizzing over her head. One has to wonder how often she can tickle the tail of the dragon and get away with it.

    What I am waiting to see is the modern equivalent of Murrow cutting Joe McCarthy down to size on live television. I figure with people like Todd and Gregory doing the interviewing, it will be a long wait.

  31. I trust your research on the origins as that is what I figured was the case. I’m just saying Obama is too narcissistic to stick w/ an acronym like ACA. I guess the term grew on him. Plus, I think it’s a smart way to go. Once Obamacare became part of the nomenclature, just say, “Yeah..not bad.”

  32. OS,

    Murrow’s interview of McCarthy is a thing of beauty. He pushes all of Joe’s buttons and then basically stands back while the man proceeds to self-destruct. Truly a masterful reveal of McCarthy’s nature by playing to his nature.

  33. About Amy Goodman:

    Investigative journalism career

    In 1991, covering the East Timor independence movement, Goodman and fellow journalist Allan Nairn reported that they were badly beaten by Indonesian soldiers after witnessing a mass killing of Timorese demonstrators in what became known as the Santa Cruz Massacre.[8]

    In 1998, Goodman and journalist Jeremy Scahill documented Chevron Corporation’s role in a confrontation between the Nigerian Army and villagers who had seized oil rigs and other equipment belonging to oil corporations. Two villagers were shot and killed during the standoff.[9] On May 28, 1998, the company provided helicopter transport to the Nigerian Navy and Mobile Police (MOPOL) to their Parabe oil platform which had been occupied by villagers who accused the company of contaminating their land. Soon after landing, the Nigerian military shot and killed two of the protesters, Jola Ogungbeje and Aroleka Irowaninu, and wounded 11 others. Chevron spokesperson Sola Omole acknowledged that the company transported the troops, and that use of troops was at the request of Chevron’s management. The documentary, “Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship”, won the George Polk Award in 1998.

    Michael Delli Carpini, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, said, “She’s not an editorialist. She sticks to the facts… She provides points of view that make you think, and she comes at it by saying: ‘Who are we not hearing from in the traditional media?'”[10]

    Democracy Now!

    Goodman had been news director of Pacifica Radio station WBAI in New York City for over a decade when she co-founded Democracy Now! The War and Peace Report in 1996. Since then, Democracy Now! has been called “probably the most significant progressive news institution that has come around in some time” by professor and media critic Robert McChesney.[11]

    In 2001, the show was temporarily pulled off the air, as a result of a conflict with a group of Pacifica Radio board members and Pacifica staff members and listeners. During that time, it moved to a converted firehouse from which it broadcast until November 13, 2009.[12] Democracy Now! subsequently moved to a studio located in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.[13]

    Goodman credits the program’s success to the mainstream media organizations who leave “a huge niche” for Democracy Now![11]

    When President Bill Clinton called WBAI on Election Day 2000[14] for a quick get-out-the-vote message, Goodman and WBAI’s Gonzalo Aburto challenged him for 28 minutes with questions about Leonard Peltier, racial profiling, the Iraq sanctions, Ralph Nader, the death penalty, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Clinton defended his administration’s policies and charged Goodman with being “hostile and combative”.[15]

    Arrest at 2008 Republican Convention

    During the 2008 Republican National Convention, several of Goodman’s colleagues from Democracy Now! were arrested and detained by police while reporting on an anti-war protest outside the RNC.[16] While trying to ascertain the status of her colleagues, Goodman herself was arrested and held, accused of obstructing a legal process and interfering with a police officer,[17] while fellow Democracy Now! producers including reporter Sharif Abdel Kouddous were held on charges of probable cause for riot.[18] The arrests of the producers were videotaped.[19] Goodman and her colleagues were later released,[20] and City Attorney John Choi indicated that the charges would be dropped.[21] Goodman’s (et al.) civil lawsuit against the St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments and the Secret Service resulted in a $100,000 settlement, as well as an agreement to educate officers in First Amendment rights of members of the press and public.[22][23]

  34. Nick S. I must strongly disagree with you on Chuck Todd. I have had several exchanges with him well before this latest claim that reporters need be nothing more than stenographers that convinced me of 1. He is lazy; 2. He is not a journalist by any stretch and 3. As as stenographer he would be employable because of 1. He is lazy.

    I am still for Stewart and Cobert. They are the best!

  35. Mr. Turley…

    Did you receive the copy of the book i sent you…And the Writ of
    Certiorari and documents on the subject of wiretaps at the Supreme
    Court…that i sent you…my mail has been manipulated from time to
    time…want you to know that it has been mailed to you…you should
    try to get Geraldo to address this important landmark issue

    woody voinche

  36. Elaine,
    Did you notice that about 2:40 in that video, McCarthy laughs. He sounds like Beavis and/or Butthead.

    Seems appropriate to me.

  37. Interesting article. The reasons for the problems in journalism are varied, but I think dishonesty is a major reason. The idea that a journalist does not have a responsibility to correct false information is egregious.

    My time watching the news is limited, so when I do watch it, I usually watch Fox News. They believe in objective journalism and correct mistakes made on the air. They not only correct their mistakes, but mistakes that others make. Fox News is probably the last objective reporting agency.

    My second choice is CNN. Although they are not as objective as Fox News, they are less influenced by propaganda than networks like MSNBC. NBC has basically become an arm of the Obama media network.

  38. davidm,

    “My time watching the news is limited, so when I do watch it, I usually watch Fox News. They believe in objective journalism and correct mistakes made on the air. ”

    I didn’t know you were a comedian. That’s the funniest thing that I’ve heard all week.

  39. david,
    I do hope you are kidding about Fox News.? Objective journalism? You may want to double check their lies about Obamacare and death panels just as a primer into how objective they really are.

  40. Thank you everyone for an interesting discussion thread. Because OS and I are old enough to remember Murrow as he actually broadcast we became aware of what a real journalist is. I was 10 when my parents let me stay up to watch is “See It Now” program at 10:00pm on CBS. It was a two parter that exposed Senator McCarthy for the man he was and led to his eventual downfall. It was the Murrow’s, the Sevareid’s and the Cronkite’s generation of correspondents matured via WWII that led to a “golden age” of TV news. One that was destroyed by Corporate takeovers and the relegation of the News Divisions as responsible to the Entertainment Divisions.

    BTW here is an interesting link that directly deals with this topic:

  41. ** Gene H. 1, October 5, 2013 at 11:33 am


    Murrow’s interview of McCarthy is a thing of beauty. He pushes all of Joe’s buttons and then basically stands back while the man proceeds to self-destruct. Truly a masterful reveal of McCarthy’s nature by playing to his nature. **

    The irony of the day, we still have not broken free & are currently stuck trying to forge & hold the middle ground while we fight off the rotten Fascist to our right , (Romney, Bush Family, Karl Rove type, etc..) & those damn Commies to our left, (Clinton’s, Obama, Reid, etc..)

    So close to the same demagogues one can hardly tell any difference between to 2 groups of azzholes.

    Where are our leaders?

    Is it Alex Jones/Infowars, Professor Turley, Ron/Rand Paul,Dennis Kucinich, Alan Grayson?

    If only Willie Nelson was younger, Johnny Cash & Waylon Jennings was back with us maybe they could be leaders, but they are not.

    We have to stop being fooled again & again.

  42. Elaine,
    keep the Murrow video coming. Chuck Todd should be watching Murray and understand that the facts do matter. No matter who is telling them.

  43. One problem is the language. We call any talking head on TV that can read a list of questions assembled by someone else a journalist or a reporter. They’re not. Chuck Todd exemplifies that. The British called them “News Readers”, journalists and reporters were something else entirely.

    Our format is entertainment, not the delivery of news. Half a dozen people with opinions sitting around opining about events is not news, it’s an agenda-driven propaganda-fest.

    Our media: TV, radio, press (and increasingly Internet if business and the government has it’s way) is extraordinarily consolidated and the business’ that owns it has an agenda that, in the absence of a fairness doctrine, is freed from even a passing nod to facts or reality.

    We do not have anything that even begins to resemble a free press as many of us recognize (or remember) a free press assuming actual journalism and investigation is part of that equation.

    Good reporters/journalists on TV? Rachel Maddow’s staff, they know how to put a story together and do research.

  44. Elaine M wrote: “Jon Stewart Revisits ‘Bullsh*t Mountain’ As Fox News Reports On The ‘Liberal’ Shutdown”

    LOL. So you depend upon a liberal comedian referenced on a left wing propaganda website to establish authority for your worldview?

    Fox News far outshines Comedy Central for objective journalism. I guess that is one reason Jon Stewart regularly appears on Fox News.

  45. Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite both revealed the underside of the good ol days of network news when you had three channels to chose from. Both made ad pitches for cigarette brands while doing the news show itself and both smoked on the air. Millions bought into this and millions have since died of smoking. In his biography Cronkite makes light of the time that he corrected the diction of his employer when he stated: Winston tastes good as a cigarette should. He was supposed to say: “like” a cigarette should and he got chastised. In his memoir he never apologizes for encouraging millions of kids to smoke.

    Today if you can find Link TV on your television choices, that is where you can find Democracy Now! and Amy Goodman. She is the best. And ten times better than the likes of Ed Murrow or Walter Cronkite.

  46. davidm,

    Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert skewer both Democrats and Republicans.
    They usually do a better job than the mainstream media of exposing politicians as well as their doublespeak. They are also adept at ridiculing the MSM when they fall down on the job. I don’t have much use for MSM. I rarely watch the Sunday morning news programs these days. It isn’t just the “talking heads” on Fox News for whom I have little respect.

  47. Which is which…. As has been pointed out news is slanted to present the interest of those that pay the Salary….. Some of the misinformation is intentional I am sure…. We gotta get the message out….

  48. The dog commits the informal fallacy of presentism in which present-day ideas and perspectives are anachronistically introduced into depictions or interpretations of the past.

  49. Gene H wrote: “The dog commits the informal fallacy of presentism…”

    I don’t think dog is doing that at all. Sometimes time reveals the truth of a matter. The idea that cigarette smoking was bad for health was talked about in the 1920’s and earlier. Sinclair Lewis in his 1920 book “Main Street” has a character named Guy Pollock saying he would one day get cancer if he didn’t stop smoking. The first scientific studies linking smoking to cancer was in the mid 1940’s. The problem was that many people denied it, despite suspicions and facts. Even the Nazi’s were against smoking in the 1930’s. The television media made it look fashionable and cool to Americans, so most people ignored the empirical evidence.

    There are many issues debated today, from abortion to gay rights. Eventually time may reveal who was right in these debates as new generations look at the issue without the bias and prejudice of a culture that is in error on the matter. So, for example, if someone in a future generation complains about the error you have in your promotion of gay rights, that is not an informal fallacy of presentism. It simply points out how you contributed toward promoting a sociological error while others in your generation were on the side of truth.

  50. Mike S.:

    I remember Edward R. Murrow quite well; he was my first model of journalism. Chuck Todd, on the other hand, is not in the same class. I have always regarded him as mainly a statistical analyst who plays well with numbers. Excellent piece.

  51. Then David doesn’t understand the fallacy of presentism and compounds that error by inventing a new fallacy: the fallacy of correlative futurism. That’s when someone tries to justify a present wrong or irrational position by postulating future vindication.

    And who said you weren’t creative.

  52. **Otteray Scribe 1, October 5, 2013 at 10:47 am

    When there is a reporter like this, you don’t need film: **


    Thanks for posting that audio of Edward Murrow.

    Not to take anything away from WW2 vets & all involved yet there remains the current questions of who & how much did they know & when did they know it?

    Did E Murrow, commanders, etc. realize they were being ordered not to bomb/distroy USA corporate plants/assets in Germany during WW2?

    Who knew at the time that Wallst/London Banks/Insurance scum met with their Nazi German counterparts nearly every day of WW2 & conducted business?

    What did Murrow know yet kept it quite to the public because of the times he lived in?

  53. Oky1,
    That is CT stuff. Do you have a credible source for that?

    It would not have been possible to isolate a single facility and avoid bombing it. In the 1940s there was no technology for aiming bombs to that kind of accuracy. Damage assessment photos showed bombs landed six miles from the target, on average. Most bombers flew at 30,000 feet, and they had to compensate for winds at lower levels, often a near impossible task. The RAF bombed at night, and did well to hit a city, much less a single installation. The only way they could bomb targets with dumb bombs and have any hope of hitting the target was by massive multi-plane raids. Some of those raids involved a thousand planes or more.

    My former flight instructor, the one who was a P-38 ace, said that when he was flying tail-end-charlie escort on some of the raids to Germany, they would meet shot-up planes coming back as they headed over the coast of France.

    So, it would have been impossible for bomber command to isolate a single target facility in a bombing raid. The Hiroshima bomb missed its target by only 800 feet, but the Nagasaki bomb was off by a mile and a half. When evaluating that aiming accuracy (or lack of it) one must consider those crews were hand picked for being the best at their jobs in the entire Army Air Corps. Laser and GPS guided munitions were a half century in the future.

  54. .OS,

    The case against Senator Prescott Bush is easy to prove as it’s a matter of public record from Southern District Federal Count of NY, NY.

    It’s been a long time since I researched the banks here meeting with the Nazis, but it’s still all out there somewhere.

    And your point about poor targeting abilities during WW2 is very valid.

    Yet there is info out on the subject of what was targeting & what was to not be targeted.

    I feel comfortable bring that topic up, but I’m not comfortable with my memory of creditable sources on the subject.

    If I get time later I’ll glance further.

    I see some stuff on google right now on Ford in Germany, but still need to crew through it.

  55. Mike S.,

    Regarding the decline of journalism:

    60 Minutes Report Denounced For Disability Misinformation
    National Disability Organizations Criticize Media Coverage That Echoes Misleading NPR Report

    National disability organizations have criticized a misleading CBS News 60 Minutes report on Social Security disability which relied on anecdotal evidence to deceptively portray the vital program as wasteful and unsustainable, despite the fact that award rates fell during the recession and that fraud is less than one percent of the program.

    On October 6, 60 Minutes stoked fears that the Social Security Disability Insurance program is “ravaged by waste and fraud,” relying on Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) partisan investigation and anecdotal evidence to hype growth in the program while misleadingly claiming that it “could become the first government benefits program to run out of money.”

    In response, organizations that advocate for and support people with disabilities nationwide have criticized the report. Rebecca Vallas, co-chair of the Social Security Task Force at the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities — a coalition of approximately 100 national disability organizations — told Media Matters the coverage was “sensational” and did a “tremendous disservice” to people with disabilities:

    “The recent 60 Minutes broadcast is just the latest in an array of sensational and misleading media reports that have perpetuated myths and stereotypes about the Social Security disability programs and the people they help. These media reports do a tremendous disservice to viewers as well as to people with disabilities. Any misuse of these vital programs is unacceptable; however it is unfortunate and disappointing when media reports mislead their viewers by painting entire programs with the brush of one or a few bad apples, without putting them in the context of the millions of individuals who receive benefits appropriately, and for whom they are a vital lifeline — as well as the many disability advocates around the country who work hard to protect the rights of individuals with significant disabilities and serious illnesses who have been wrongly denied Social Security disability benefits.”

    Lisa Ekman, Director of Federal Policy at Health & Disability Advocates, said the organization was “extremely disappointed that 60 Minutes chose to air such a one-sided story based on anecdote and supposition … Misleading media reports like the one on 60 Minutes distract from focusing on the real issue of helping American workers with and without disabilities achieve economic security.”

    The myths pushed by 60 Minutes have been repeatedly debunked by experts. The report admitted that the vast majority of people applying for benefits are denied, but ignored the fact that the majority of appeals are also denied, and that award rates have actually fallen during the economic recession. In April, the Wall Street Journal called the claim that federal disability benefits were to blame for people leaving the labor force “exaggerated,” explaining that disability was in fact the least common reason individuals left the workforce.

  56. Oky1,
    The sympathies and plotting by P. Bush and his co-conspirators in the 1930s is well documented. Of course they made the mistake of trying to recruit an honest man to help them implement their plot. General Smedley Butler blew the whistle on it. As for the bankers, who knows what went on. There were no doubt communications with the secretive (and neutral) Swiss. The gnomes of Zurich were undoubtedly used as intermediaries for a lot of things, some legal, some not. The notion of direct communication between Wall Street and German financial institutions is not credible.

    Once the shooting started, the gloves came off. Everyone wanted the war over as soon as possible. I lived through those days, and the degree of fury at the Axis powers had to be experienced to be believed. Both Germany and Japan were devastated, and I doubt there was any military installation anywhere that was not targeted at least once. Darrell Carlson, one of our regular commenters, lost his father when his B-17 was shot down over the outskirts of Paris. I don’t think it would be a good idea to suggest to Darrell that they were protecting Ford or whatever.

    RAF bomb command leader Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris earned his nickname. That was outside the RAF. His own men called him “Butcher” Harris. He and Curtis LeMay were kindred souls, subscribing to William T. Sherman’s philosophy of war. Eisenhower made Harris furious before D-Day when he pulled rank on him, forcing him to cease area bombing and focus on transportation infrastructure. Sir Arthur wanted to continue carpet bombing entire cities and major military installations. Nevertheless, he followed orders, wiping out roads, bridges and rail lines which kept the Germans from bringing up reinforcements on D-Day.

    As for the news organizations. Those were real reporters, and they would have dug up a story if there was one and they got wind of it. At the same time, no reporter would have done anything that hurt the war effort. On the other hand, if crooked behavior was getting Allied soldiers killed, you can bet they would dig at the truth.

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