MEDIA
11/12/2012 12:41 pm ET Updated Jan 12, 2013

David Petraeus Affair Causes Media Soul-Searching

With David Petraeus' career suddenly at an end, some journalists are wondering whether the former CIA chief was really deserving of the veneration he received from many in the media.

The news that Petraeus was stepping down after having an affair was greeted with an almost grief-stricken tone by many in the press. Andrea Mitchell, who broke the story, described it as a "very painful" one to have to tell her viewers.

Wired reporter Spencer Ackerman wrote a long mea culpa on Sunday titled "How I Was Drawn Into The Cult Of David Petraeus."

"Like many in the press, nearly every national politician, and lots of members of Petraeus' brain trust over the years, I played a role in the creation of the legend around David Petraeus," he wrote.

Ackerman recounted how Petraeus and his staff had charmed him with access and attention, and how he began questioning himself if he wrote something negative about the general. He added that, though he'd never written anything he didn't think he could back up, he had given Petraeus a pass too many times.

"That's not something you should fault Petraeus for," he wrote. "It's something you should fault reporters like me for. Another irony that Petraeus' downfall reveals is that some of us who egotistically thought our coverage of Petraeus and counterinsurgency was so sophisticated were perpetuating myths without fully realizing it."

The relationship between the press and the military is always a controversial one. In the past, reporters who wrote critically about the Pentagon have sometimes come under fire themselves. In 2010, for instance, CBS' Lara Logan condemned Rolling Stone's Michael Hastings for his no-holds-barred profile of then-Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Saying that Hastings had broken the "trust" between reporters and soldiers, she added, "Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has."

On Sunday, Hastings wrote a piece for BuzzFeed accusing the media of helping to perpetuate a series of myths about his record.

"How did Petraeus get away with all this for so long?" he said. "Well, his first affair -- and one that matters so much more than the fact that he was sleeping with a female or two -- was with the media."

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