Reporters in bed with their sources
Ever wonder why reporters in our day and age fail consistently to hold government officials to account? Why they fail to carry out what's really their constitutional responsibility, to act as a check on irresponsible and oppressive government? In part, it's because reporters are quite literally in bed with the powers that be. James Rainey spells it out in the Los Angeles Times:
– Los Angeles Times political reporter Ronald Brownstein recently began a new assignment as a columnist for the newspaper's opinion and editorial pages after his bosses banned him from writing news stories about the presidential race. The Times was seeking to avoid the appearance of a conflict: Brownstein is married to Eileen McMenamin, chief spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain, a candidate for the Republican nomination.
– Matthew Cooper, the former Time magazine correspondent who was a witness in the recent trial of former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, says he hasn't figured out exactly how to cope with the fact that his wife, Mandy Grunwald, is a chief ad strategist in Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign for the Democratic nomination. Now Washington editor for Portfolio magazine, Cooper said he expects to write about Clinton and "to acknowledge my wife works for Hillary . . . at least on Hillary-centric stories."
– Nina Easton, Fortune magazine Washington bureau chief and Fox News analyst, said she would not write stories centering on McCain's campaign, because her husband, Russ Schriefer, is plotting media strategy for McCain. When appearing on Fox, she said, she plans at least occasional disclaimers to tell TV viewers she is married to a McCain advisor.
– NBC's Campbell Brown will continue to cover politics after her husband rejected overtures to join the campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican presidential candidate. Dan Senor, a former White House aide and once top spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, opted to start a private firm, partly so his wife would not face a conflict. . .
Official Washington is a small world, where elected officials, political operatives, lobbyists and journalists fraternize and sometimes become intimate.
There's any number of reasons this is the case. One of them is the rise of professional journalism in the mid-20th Century, and with it the notion that journalists need, at the very least, a bachelor's degree. A new generation of journalists found itself on the same educational and cultural plane as the new class of bureaucrats that proliferated in the imperial city. They started hanging out at the same cocktail parties and in time, successful "journalism" was more about maintaining "access" to government officials than it was keeping those officials accountable.
It was this environment that fostered the irresponsible reporting of Judith Miller in the New York Times that accelerated the rush to war in 2002 and early 2003. Something to think about as you take in media coverage of the invasion's anniversary today.