Sunday, July 01, 2007

Moyers and Journalistic Independence

The other day I accidentally stumbled onto the end of a Bill Moyers’ Journal. He was ending his show with an attack on Rupert Murdoch acquisition of The Wall Street Journal. It was the worst three minutes of journalism I ever witnessed. In addition to just outright showing contempt by making statements such as "Rupert Murdoch is no saint" and comparing his propriety to the chastity of the Marquis de Sade, a serious mistake was made. The personal attacks, which bordered on accusing him of tax evasion, were bad do not get me wrong, but the sanctimonious appeal to journalism as a non-partisan activity, which Moyers certainly thinks he was engaging in, is a high crime and offense to my ears. He stated,

But THE JOURNAL's newsroom is another matter - there facts are sacred and independence revered. Rupert Murdoch has told the Bancrofts he'll not meddle with the reporting. But he's accustomed to using journalism as a personal spittoon. . . . Far worse is the travesty he's made of its[Fox News’] journalism. Fox news huffs and puffs, pontificates and proclaims, but does little serious original reporting. His tabloids sell babes and breasts, gossip and celebrities. Now he's about to bring under the same thumb one of the few national newsrooms remaining in the country.

This shows a clear misunderstanding of what newspapers are supposed to do, and have always done. I just do not want to pick on Bill Moyers. Dick Morris makes the same mistake in his book Off with Their Heads (review forthcoming). Morris laments the liberal turn in the ‘Old Grey Lady’ of the New York Times, and for the same reasons. For Morris the New York Times is a national newsroom that has a heritage of unbiased reporting. Both Morris and Moyers are wrong. Newspapers are supposed to be sources of biased reporting. For that matter, I would say news programs on TV are as well.

Most newspapers were established to push a political agenda, and were often associated with specific politicians. The Charleston Mercury served the purposes of the Fire Eaters before the Civil War in 1860. Martin Van Buren created the modern Democratic Party through the organ of his Albany based newspaper. Horace Greeley, perhaps the most famous newspaper man of all, used the New York Tribune to openly support the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. This is not ever denied now, but at the time Tribune was considered a very politically neutral paper. Yet, it was not, nor was it intended to be. So it is with the ‘Old Grey Lady’. The New York Times was an openly Republican newspaper. It showed its independence from the Republican party by supporting Democrat Grover Cleveland for President. Hardly neutral. It gained its reputation for neutrality by not participating in the ‘Yellow Journalism’ of the late 1800’s. That does not make it politically neutral, it just does not make it corrupt. The same can be said of the Wall Street Journal. People who treat newspapers as neutral endanger themselves, and show a great neglect of history.

Moyers’s belly-aching about journalistic neutrality is a load of nonesense designed to make him look like a messenger of truth. The reality is that Moyers is a messenger of Moyers’s ideology, not the facts, nor the truth. So is every newspaper on the planet. Fair and Balanced is a myth pushed by those who want you to believe their version of events. Since Fair and Balanced is used by the right to hoodwink viewers and readers, the left prefers the term ‘Journalistic independence’. They mean the same thing, and they are both equally successful at it.

Just to show my point. All great newspaper stories and writers want the coveted Pulitzer Prize. It is the mark of excellence in journalism. The Pulitzer Prize is named after the great newspaper man, Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the New York World. Pulitzer’s claim to fame is that he along with William Randolph Hearst created ‘Yellow Journalism’. Yes, the award for journalistic excellence is named after the journalist who lead the nation to war with faulty reporting, who was indicted for libel, and who was so known for dishonesty in news that he is the source of the very name of false reporting today.

I rest my case.


Bud said...

And you case is a good one, and very well made