September 25, 2004

Newsroom intimidation

After seeing all this CBS furor, the column cited below may have even more relevance than it did last week when I ran across it.

Here's an essay from a journalism ethics professor, on why he thinks the nation's great papers are losing their nerve.

It's hard now even to write for publication without being uncomfortably aware of just how thoroughly what you say is going to be inspected for any trace of undesirable political tilt and denounced by a free-floating cadre of rightist warriors.

If that's apparent to me as a mere columnist, I can only imagine the current mind-set of supervising editors: If we give prominence to this story of carnage in Iraq, will we be accused of anti-administration bias? And -- here it gets interesting -- will we therefore owe our readers an offsetting story, perhaps an inspirational tale of Marines teaching young Iraqis how to play softball?


The underlying problem is that news then becomes a negotiation -- not a negotiation among discordant pictures of reality, as it always is, but an abject negotiation with a loud and bullying sliver of the audience. News of great significance becomes not an honest attempt to reflect genuinely contradictory realities, but a daily bargaining session with an increasingly factionalized public, a corrupted process in which elements of the news reports become offerings -- payments really -- in a kind of intellectual extortion.

Unfortunately, neither he nor I have any way of infusing newspaper editors with courage. Perhaps they should go see The Wizard of Oz again? (From Romanesko).

This becomes even more pertinent when we learn that CBS is now so cowed that it is spiking a story which would shed light on the Niger yellowcake document forgeries.

Posted by Linkmeister at September 25, 2004 03:36 PM

hmmmm, it seems CBS doesn't want to tread on Bush's toes anymore...
Too bad. All news about him should be out and made public to the citizens.
Both the good and the bad..

Posted by: toxiclabrat at September 26, 2004 08:07 AM