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How About Let's Not Blame The Press

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The press is the biggest scapegoat for everything that goes wrong. I remember being in Israel at the height of the Second Intifada and one day I'm interviewing Uzi Landau, the right wing Minister of the Interior. It's just after the Sbarro's bombing and Uzi is saying to me (well, really to CNN, but I was standing next to CNN) (I'm paraphrasing here) "There is no difference between Hamas and Fatah (an obvious lie). This is all the fault of the lies in the New York Times. The media doesn't want to tell the truth about these terrorists..." etc.

The next day I'm in Ramallah, on a hill overlooking the police station. I'm standing with a Palestinian General. The General says Israel did not warn them they were going to bomb the police station (a lie). The General starts telling me about all the lies in the American media, the New York Times in particular. That's when it first occurred to me, everybody hates the media.

So today I see Richard Morse' post is one of the biggest hits on this site. What's the post about? "Blame The Press." Using the same simplistic terms (I'm sorry Richard, I know you're a cool guy) you always see. "They" did this. "They" didn't pay any attention to that.

I know there's a lot of people that think the media is operating as one big conspiracy. That the media is in fact headed by one person, one ideology. But I've spent enough time around the press, both writing a book on the 2004 election (see chapter 4 where Arianna puts her arm around me and I beg her to hide me in her home) and as a political organizer with LitPAC and Operation Ohio. (OK, I also used to work for Ralph Nader. I'm not proud of it. You want to talk to people who hate the media, you should get inside that campaign.) There is no media conspiracy. Sometimes the press drops the ball, often they pay too much attention to what the consumer wants instead of what the consumer needs. There are certainly evil journalists, like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck. And if you look you'll always be able to find something in the New York Times or Washington Post that sounds slanted, but they're still great papers.

And here's the thing. When we beat up on the press all the time, "the press" "them", the people we're helping the most are in the White House. When you say "blame the press," Dick Cheney is right there with you. And we blame the press for everything then we forget to fight for the press.

Instead of complaining about the media, let's complain about the lack of access the media has. We would all be better off if the politicians, particularly the Bush administration, was forced to give more access not less access to "the media". There should be stricter enforcement of sunshine laws. There should be more press conferences. We should be on the side of the media because the media plays an extremely important roll in our democracy.

Blogs are great too, especially Talking Points Memo. But usually the roll of the blogs is to echo important findings from the "the media" or the "msm". We need those guys, those investigative reporters, to get the ball rolling, to uncover the truth as they often do. They'll never be perfect, but let's stop taking cheap shots. Criticize specific journalists when they deserve it, (Damm you Glenn Beck) or demonstrate patterns in coverage from a specific paper. But Let's stop with the "Blame the Press." Don't blame the press, blame the president. Support your press. With circulation declining they need you more than you might think.

- Stephen Elliott