This Jurassic journalist is tired of all the bitching and moaning by denizens of the blogosphere about the deficiencies of the Mainstream Media (MSM in the snarky parlance of blognoscenti). Out of touch, corrupted by proximity to power, dinosaur media, inside gasbaggery of the Beltway -- these are some of the kinder descriptions of those of us who believe that traditional journalism is still a necessary and honorable trade, like garbage collection or undertaking.
Well, let me refer you to the Washington Post's recent exposure of the inhuman conditions that many wounded veterans of our misadventure in Iraq are enduring at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the nation's capital. In a magnificent example of what journalism does best, two Post reporters, Dana Priest and Anne Hull, exposed bureaucratic incompetence and official malfeasance in treating wounded veterans in dramatic fashion.
On Sunday and Monday, in a series that has Pulitzer Prize written all over it, they wrote about the problems plaguing more than 700 wounded Iraq veterans undergoing outpatient care at Walter Reed, including some 80 recovering soldiers consigned to a moldy, decrepit former hotel.
This, at a facility where President Bush, former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and other top administration and Pentagon officials have made well-publicized visits in recent months to demonstrate their concern about the veterans' treatment. But the two Post reporters ripped the facade off the scandalous treatment of the wounded veterans and forced corrective action.
On Tuesday, the secretaries of the Army and Navy announced that an independent review group will investigate outpatient care and administrative processes at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Medical Center, even as they prepare for the likelihood of more casualties from the troop surge in Iraq. Army Secretary Francis Harvey and Army Vice Chief of Staff Richard Cody visited Walter Reed and promised thet they'll rectify the situation.
At the same time, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said Bush, after learning of the problems at Walter Reed from the Post stories, "is deeply concerned and wants any problems identified and fixed." He said he didn't know why the president had not heard about these problems during his many visits to Walter Reed in recent years.
Meanwhile, members of Congress, responding to public outrage, kicked into action. Speaker Nancy Pelosi's spokesperson called the allegations raised in the Post series "disgraceful," while Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, the ranking Republican on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, called the neglectful treatment of wounded service members "outrageous." He added, "The Defense Department is never shy about asking for supplemental funds for operations and equipment. I cannot imagine why housing for recuperating wounded would not be a similarly high priority."
Rep. Bob Filner of California, chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, put it more succinctly and forcefully. "We need to ask the Army people in and say, 'What the hell is going on?'"
Citizen journalism is fine, and it's great that vigilant readers are keeping journalist, and politicians, on their toes. But when's the last time it prodded the bureaucracy into action to fix a problem or correct an injustice? That's what watchdog journalism, with the veteran reporters and vast resources like that of the Washington Post, does so well. And that's why the Mainstream Media is still an essential part of the brave new world of journalism in the Internet age.