Thursday, February 28, 2013

Politics Means Intimidating the Journalists

While visiting my sister back in January, I suggested to her that, even allowing that the mainstream media guys are all Democrats, the utter lapdog attitude towards Obama seemed extreme.

Sure, the media wants Obama to look good, but the net result seemed to be too good to be true.  I told my sister that journalists are not that accommodating to people in power, even their favorite Democrats.  Journalists live for the big coup, and surely there are liberal journalists willing to stick their heads out for a scoop.

There must be something else going on, I suggested.  There must be intimidation, I said, and my sister agreed.

So now we know how it works in Obamaland, from the Bob Woodward flap here reported by Bryan Preston.  When veteran journalist Bob Woodward called to tell the White House that he was going to call the president a liar over the sequester, because the sequester was not Congress's idea, but the president's, he got yelled at for half an hour and an angry email with a veiled threat: "I think you will regret staking out that claim."

Now Bob Woodward is the hero of Watergate, and at 69, a grand old man of journalism.  He can afford to have the White House mad at him; he can afford to go public and publish threatening memos from White House bulldogs.  But how many others would dare?

The truth is that journalists are wusses.  That's because 97 percent of journalism is "source" journalism. That is French for sucking up to powerful people.  Here's an example of how it works, reported by Justin Katz, from the great state of Rhode Island.
A conservative news and commentary site for which I work,, recently offered a young journalist a regular freelance opportunity at a very competitive rate of pay. The one catch was that his name must appear on the articles, and that was a step too far. It appears that union leaders and other insiders who are entrenched in boards, initiatives, and agencies at every level across government had only just begun responding to the journalist’s calls, having suspected his political leanings. For the journalist to be identified by his own name would be fatal. His calls would go unanswered again.
Journalists are like sharks: they only bite when there is blood in the water.  I learned this thirty years ago when the Seattle Seahawks first coach, Jack Patera, got fired.  All of a sudden, it turned out that the broadcast journalists, that had covered and interviewed him for years, thought he was useless.

Oh really.  Now you tell us.

Political journalists, not less than sports journalists, depend on getting their phone calls to powerful people answered.  To put your access at risk means risking your career, in a world where there are thousands eager to take your place.

No doubt there will come a moment in the Obama administration when there will be blood in the water, and we will suddenly learn how all those noble journalists hated being spun and intimidated.

But who remembers or cares about the sixth guy to stick the knife into Caesar?

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