A lot of people wonder if the folly of the Iraq War could have been stopped, if only their had been a truth-telling journalist like a Woodward or Bernstein to expose all the flaws and all the lies. But there was such a reporter, and to add a layer of irony, he works at the Washington Post. His name is Walter Pincus and his scoops about the run-up to Bush and Cheney's splendid little war were buried on Page A19, where they could have minimal impact on public opinion.
Today, Pincus gives his overview of what went wrong with American journalism, and to ironically steal a phrase from those dark days of 2002-03, it's a slam dunk. It demands to be read from start to finish, and thus it's hard to excerpt. He does find plenty of fault to go around, such as:
My profession is in distress because for more than a decade it has been chasing the false idols of fame and fortune. While engaged in those pursuits, it forgot its readers and the need to produce a commercial product that appealed to its mass audience, which in turn drew advertisers and thus paid for it all. While most corporate owners were seeking increased earnings, higher stock prices, and bigger salaries, editors and reporters focused more on winning prizes or making television appearances.
Then there's this:
They used their presses to influence government, but that is what the founding fathers contemplated when they wrote the First Amendment. The idea was that citizens in a democracy were to read more than one paper or pamphlet, weigh all opinions and facts as presented, and make up their own minds.
Today, mainstream print and electronic media want to be neutral, presenting both or all sides as if they were refereeing a game in which only the players—the government and its opponents—can participate. They have increasingly become common carriers, transmitters of other people’s ideas and thoughts, irrespective of import, relevance, and at times even accuracy.
When is the last time you saw a major newspaper or television network set out its own agenda for candidates to take up? At a time when it is most needed, the media, and particularly newspapers, have lost their voices.
Read it all, and you'll realize that maybe the best solution to modern journalism's problems would be...the cloning of Walter Pincus.