08/25/2008 12:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Journalism With Conscience

In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charles Schultz scripted a line for Chuck's little sister Sally about a big syndicate back east that controlled the holiday. Well, if by "syndicate" we mean the "affiliation of millionaires and billionaires" (as in Paul Simon's "Boy In The Bubble"), replace "back east" with "Washington," and "Christmas" with "everything," then that was one pretty prophetic Peanuts. The merger of power and wealth's ability to influence political events in our nation through its traditional media outlets is all but a given, its presence mostly felt during major governmental policy pushes, presidential elections, and practically any event whose outcome affects the bottom line. Historically, the alleged "liberal media" at least used to keep those efforts visible, but that became more difficult with the emergence of mega-corporations such as communications giant Clear Channel and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp who cemented the marriage of news and state. Add infotainment replacing informed discussion and what's left is a very muddy playing field where, regardless of how well-intentioned journalists are in revealing true facts, particularly in the last eight years, Lucy has pulled the football away from these Charlie Browns most of the time.

It seems that with traditional media's surrender of solid and responsible journalism to the well-oiled, right wing political machine came years of unfettered propaganda. It should be no surprise that nowadays, the public's ability to discern fact from fiction has been diluted so effectively that even the simplest of facts becomes open to monumental debate (i.e. global warming or Barack Obama's religion). Traditional media outlets have allowed, unchallenged, deliberate distortions that were masked by charm or celebrity; and as everyone knows, some of those outlets (especially Fox) paraded disseminated RNC talking points as factual news for years.

Now, to those paying attention, the sudden Bush-McCain drive towards reigniting a cold war with Russia is a transparent attempt at switching-out the old "terrorist" goblin for a new scarecrow. With traditional media continuing to allow political marketing to replace real balance in its reporting, will the public see through the G.O.P.'s latest attempt at fear-mongering? Not if stories as significant as the Georgian invasion can be marginalized into how decisive a leader the saber-rattling McCain was during the initial phase of the crisis. You've got to wonder if a Woodward & Bernstein 2.0 would stand a chance in today's mainstream news delivery apparatus--the same one that brought us Katie Couric's interview with McCain, edited to omit potentially damaging flubs. She and her producers and its network effectively insulated (if not officially endorsed) that candidate. The irony of this occurring on CBS, the home of Edward R. Murrow, makes this particular twisting of the truth even more outrageous.

A couple weeks ago, the Huffington Post printed Moby's blog that begged Obama to fight back against McCain, to "start breaking some eggs." Since the presidential election stakes are so high and with the nation on the verge of making its most important decision in decades, it is imperative that real journalists also break some eggs and take on everyone who stands in the way of this country being given absolutely all of the truth--all spinners, right and left, including employers and the megacorps--so voters truly can make an informed decision. With the political pendulum swinging back towards the middle, now is a great time for the mainstream news media to act again from conscience.