Saturday, October 2, 2004

Who Will Uncover "Iraq-Gate"?

I came upon this in an AOL article that showcased a panel discussion at The New Yorker Festival, starring Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Dan Rather---the "Network News Triumvirate."  Seems that Jennings and Brokaw rallied behind Rather following his "Bush National Guard Documents" blunder:

Rather said he did not ask enough questions before the war or conduct enough follow-up reporting.

"If the country is in dire peril, as the president of the United States says it is ... I want to be a patriotic journalist," he said.

"You know that the role of the patriotic journalist is to put your fear aside, stand up, look them in the eye, ask the rough questions. But you also know that when you do that, you're going to get hammered..." Rather said. "So what happens is you just say ... maybe tomorrow."

I have been wondering, in my heart of hearts, why the press has been so LAME during the events leading up to, and the subsequent obvious disaster of, the war in Iraq. I am anything BUT the most politically savvy or worldly-wise human being in the world. Yet even I could perceive, in the lead-up to the war, the hijinx that the administration was pulling. Inflicting their war on a shell-shocked and angry nation. Using "9/11 fervor" as a basis to challenge the patriotism of anyone who questioned their agenda. The Congress rolled over for them. And so did the press. Up to and including "embedding" reporters with the military invaders of Iraq. What sane human being would post a negative story about the very people who are protecting that reporter’s life in a war zone? The whole scenario seemed like the death knell for the impartial, unbiased reporting we needed to depend upon in this situation.

I’ve been waiting for the 21st-century version of Bernstein and Woodward to mount their white chargers, wield a battery of incontrovertible evidence consisting of White House leaks and Washington insider information, and blow the cover off this malarkey as high as ever they blew the Watergate break-in scandal. But I have been sorely and utterly disappointed. In today’s climate of ten-second sound bytes and instant gratification, no reporter has risen to the challenge of the dogged, long-term dedication to the truth that it would take to construct an important, history-making story. Even when the head of the trail to the story is obvious to your average Joe on any street corner in America.

The above quote from Dan Rather finally shed some light on the problem for me. The old reporters---the ones of the Viet Nam era and the decade following—are all…OLD. Tired. No longer up to the challenge. And there has been no new generation to step into their shoes. No one to take the risks. The media don’t take that kind of risks anymore.

You know, in the old days, I used to HATE Dan Rather. His reporting was SO liberally biased, it was more like preaching than journalism. I could watch him for about five minutes before I began to gag on his self-righteous, holier-than-thou broadcasts, and change the channel. But now…now I wish someone had apprenticed at Rather’s elbow, and been ready to don the mantle when it slid off old Dan’s shoulders. It’s SAD to see a once fiery liberal media figure knuckle under to the pressure of the ever-increasing conservative bias of the day. I can almost see this debacle of the forged Bush military documents as Rather’s last feeble reach toward a story that might have been a glorious, possibly administration-toppling finale to a remarkable career. Unfortunately, he went about it in the impatient, short-cut 21st-century way that spelled certain doom for the story, and perhaps his career as well.

I can only hope that "tomorrow," some young reporter, somehow, somewhere, is inspired to put fear aside, "stand up, look them in the eye, [and] ask the rough questions." Before it’s too late.


  1. I wonder where the good, young investigative journalists are too.  We need them, and I don't want to think that j-schools are turning out grads who are more interested in looking good for the camera than providing solid, in-depth information.

  2. "Unfortunately, he went about it in the impatient, short-cut 21st-century way that spelled certain doom for the story, and perhaps his career as well."

    Unfortunately, that's how all reporters go about it now. They are afraid that if they spend the time truly needed investigating a story that it will be old news by the time it hits the public's view. And, todays journalists are the likes of that guy (I forget his name) who instead of investigating a story stole info from others to fabricate his stories.

    Look at the covers of Time and Newsweek these days. Those "news" magazines were originally created because it enabled them to go further indepth on the sound bites. Now, we get stories about people's sleep and eating patterns. That's not news to me. :-( ---Robbie

  3. Which is why I don't support putting 70 plus geezers like Rumsfeld in charge of policy or would suuport Nader as president even if he had a platform. Too much baggage, especially Viet Nam era baggage. I don't think it's coincidence that the guys running Iraq were the support troops during Viet Nam.

  4. Personally, I noticed journalists backing down when Fox Network began. They seemed to get so many viewers (higher ratings) that the other stations began trying to be more moderate and there was suddenly no one to "take on" the right without fear of losing viewers.

  5. It seems that the "news reporters" are all becoming "the news."  This is NOT journalism to me.  I don't trust what anyone says on the news anymore.

  6. It is all about the dollar.  Reporters do not make waves because they want to be selected to be the next Diane Sawyer or Dan Rather.  And in the name of pretending to seem fair, they will not rock the boat to unearth good old investigative journaling stuff.  No way, that interferes with their future bread and butter, or should I say penthouse and limo.

  7. Rather's comments confirm my decision to quit watching CBS News. I used to respect Dan Rather. I guess I still do, a little. But, since September 11th it's as if he lost his guts.  During WWII the senate had a committee that kept track of wartime contracts and spending. Harry Truman was the chairman. Haliburton wouldn't have stood a chance.