Friday, May 28, 2004

Lots of Angry Chickens

There was an interesting dynamic on the editorial page of the NY Times today.

Bob Herbert has joined the growing chorus of people who are fed up with this administration , and expressed his agreement with Al Gore. Meanwhile, on the other side of the page, Paul Krugman tries to explain why his more moderate colleagues are sounding more like him every day; outraged by what the Bushies have gotten away with.

Quoting Krugman:

"After 9/11 much of the press seemed to reach a collective decision that it was necessary, in the interests of national unity, to suppress criticism of the commander in chief.

Another answer is the tyranny of evenhandedness. Moderate and liberal journalists, both reporters and commentators, often bend over backward to say nice things about conservatives. Not long ago, many commentators who are now caustic Bush critics seemed desperate to differentiate themselves from "irrational Bush haters" who were neither haters nor irrational — and whose critiques look pretty mild in the light of recent revelations.

And some journalists just couldn't bring themselves to believe that the president of the United States was being dishonest about such grave matters.

Finally, let's not overlook the role of intimidation. After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative about the president, you had to be prepared for an avalanche of hate mail. You had to expect right-wing pundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation, and you had to worry about being denied access to the sort of insider information that is the basis of many journalistic careers.

The Bush administration, knowing all this, played the press like a fiddle. But has that era come to an end?"

I think that the answer lays closest to the tyrrany of evenhandedness. According to the most recent Pew study of journalists; 34% of national journalists and 23% of local journalists are self-described liberal. As responsible journalists, many of these individuals feel the need to balance their own emotion by taking it easier on the Right. This is, no doubt, the result of decades of hearing about the "Left-wing Media".

Perhaps more interesting is the fact that according to the same Pew report, 55% of the national press feels that the media has not been critical enough of Pres. Bush (as opposed to 34% in the general population); while 57% of management feels that the press is headed in the right direction.

How do I read this?

Most media wants to walk a middle ground, however, their editors and producers are constantly inundated by calls from the right about media bias and the liberal bias. As such, they have done two things to their journalists. They have constantly told their writers that they're too liberal; essentially doing the right's job of moving the middle to the right. They've also censored their own journalists on behalf of the right (don't discount the journalists own ability to censor themselves; Friedman as much as admitted this last week).

But all of a sudden, Bush's house of cards is crumbling; and everyone is getting to say what they always wanted. Will it be too little, too late?


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