Curtis Dahlgren
Journalism malpractice; how about a class-action lawsuit?
By Curtis Dahlgren
March 22, 2019

"When there's a Republican in the White House, reporters see themselves as self-appointed prosecutors. But I'll bet not too many reporters are going to see themselves as prosecutors now that Barack Obama is in the White House." – a reporter quoted by Bernard Goldberg in "A Slobbering Love Affair" (from a 2014 column)

BETWEEN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS, now is an ideal time to take a look at how news gets reported – OR NOT – and how we don't even have to read between the lines to see opinions in the "news pages"! If I had a subscription to the New York Times or Washington Post, I would cancel and suggest that my congressman do the same thing. Bernie (this Bernie) says:

"My first job in journalism was with the A.P. . . Back then [1967], the AP was a 'just the facts ma'am' kind of news organization . . . If I had tried to slip even the subtlest editorial comment into one of my stories, some old grizzled editor would have kicked my rookie @$$ into next month."

Thus saith Bernie in chapter 10 ("Masquerading as the news"). In the subsequent years, the masks (and the gloves) have come completely off the media. Goldberg quotes columnist Rachel Marsden:

"[RE] 'in love with the idea of being in love.' The problem with any such relationship is always that, one day, the spell wears off, and you start getting annoyed at little things like your soul mate . . leaving the toilet seat up. Some media people won't care – they'll blame George Bush for having used the same bathroom months earlier. Others, like the mainstream media, will fall into Obama's toilet and splash around like it's holy water."

Feelin' the bern yet? I could give you quotations from the media people themselves, from back in journalism's good old days, so I want to give you a selection from The Book of Quotes by Barbara Rowes (Ballantine, 1979). The book is out of print I assume, but the author shouldn't mind if I quote part if I call this a book review:

- "Guerrilla journalism came about because we didn't want to be part of access journalism. We hung out at parties and eavesdropped and stole memos and every other d*m* thing to crash through." – Robt. Scheer

- "If a senator is putting his hand on my fanny and telling me how he's going to vote on impeaching President Nixon, I'm not so sure I'm going to remove his hand no matter how demeaning it is." – Sally Quinn

- "I can get a better grasp of what is going on in the world from one good Washington dinner party than from all the background info NBC piles on my desk [although] . . . Deep breaths are very helpful at shallow parties." – Barbara Walters [must have been at a few of Quinn's parties]

- "Why do all you American journalists ask the same question? What factory do you come out of?" – Yevgeny Yevtushshenko, to Barbara Walters

- "Accuracy is to a newspaper what virtue is to a lady, but a newspaper can always print a retraction." – Sen. Adlai Stevenson [but will they?]

- "Hitler said that he always knew you could buy the press. What he didn't know was that you could get them cheap." – Mort Sahl

- "There are honest journalists like there are honest politicians. When bought, they stay bought." – Bill Moyers

- "As reporters, we should stay the h*ll out of politics and maintain a private position on any issue." – John Chancellor

- "Our job is only to hold up the mirror – to tell and show the public what has happened, and then it is the job of the people to decide whether they have faith in their leaders or government." – Walter Cronkite

- "The first essence of journalism is to know what you want to know; the second, is to find out who will tell you." – John Gunter [I think he means "someone who will tell you what you want to hear"]

- "Gossip is when you hear something you like about someone you don't." – Earl Wilson

- "Gossip is horrible. Gossip is suggestion without facts . . and that we avoid." – Rupert Murdoch

- "The truth about a man lies first and foremost in what he hides." – Andre Malraux

- "This is the age of the journalist, more than the age of the artist, the teacher, the pastor. It is the age of 'non-fiction' because imagination cannot keep up with the fantastic daily realities." – Eric Severeid

IN CONCLUSION: Actually it IS half fiction. We not only get the government we deserve, we get the journalism we deserve too. That's the bad news, but the good news is that at least we have a choice now – with the rise of the New Media. LBJ compared the Old Media to puppets, but one of my favorite quotes was by Senator Eugene McCarthy:

"The press is a little like the blackbirds in the fall – one flies off the telephone line, the others all fly away; and the other one comes back and sits down and they all circle and they all come down and sit . . in a row again."

Today's journalists not only ask the same question, but their sly editorials even use the very same words, as if they were puppets or ventriloquist dummies. Spiro T. Agnew never claimed to have invented the internet but he once made a profound prediction:

"The day when the network commentators and even the gentlemen of the New York Times enjoyed a form of diplomatic immunity is over."

The then-president of CBS News said, "Our job is to give people not what they want, but what we decide they ought to have." That's the philosophy of the Times, et al. And they don't have a clue as to why they are losing subscribers and having to lay off employees. Rupert Murdoch said, way back in the day:

"Is there any other industry in this country which seeks to presume so completely to give the customer what he does not want?"

By that he meant the "Liberal Line" of course (congrats to Bibi and the Donald on the Golan Heights).

P.S "If the Foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

PPS: "Where is the God of Judgment?"


© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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