A friend of mind forwarded me this article
from the National Review because he though it was an interesting take on Gen. Wesley Clark. It might be, but by the time I got through the first section on journalistic standards, I couldn't really bear to read the rest.
Here's what Jay Nordlinger, managing editor of the National Review, had to say:
May I begin with a brief comment on journalism? Won't be too boring, I promise. A Reuters report out of Washington yesterday began, "Looking to draw more Hispanics behind his re-election bid, President Bush on Wednesday will propose a temporary worker program to help millions of immigrants work legally in the United States, officials said."
Notice that the very first words of this news report are commentary: "Looking to draw more Hispanics behind his re-election bid . . ." That is sheer speculation, or analysis, if you like. It may be perfectly correct. But it is the lead in a news item.
The next sentence begins, "Facing a possibly close election next November, Bush is reviving an issue put on hold . . ."
More commentary ? in the news story of a wire service! Journalism is becoming badly degraded, when we can hardly tell the difference between straight newsies and opinionists (like me). There should be a great, great, great gulf between Reuters and Impromptus. But there is much less of one than there should be.
Up to this point I agree--there should be a line between those who report the news and those who comment on it. Of course, one could argue that even in reporting so-called "straight facts," there is an element of editorializing as well by virtue, for instance, of the choice of facts that one chooses to report. Regardless, though, blatent editorializing should not start off articles that purport to report the news.
But then Nordlinger finishes his commentary this way (with my emphasis added):
And does this commentary-within-reporting ever slant the conservative way? Not ever, that I can tell. It's a one-way street. But whether it's one- or two-, it's still wrong, and dismaying. As someone who loves the world of media, I lament the crumbling of the wall 'tween news and opinion.
Ah, the old bugaboo of the liberal press! First off, I doubt the factual assertion that "commentary-within-reporting" never slants "the conservative way." After all, there is Fox News. Let's be real. But more interesting, I think, is the implication that the two examples Nordlinger cites are slanted in a non-conservative, or liberal, way.
The first sentence of the offending news report reads, "Looking to draw more Hispanics behind his re-election bid . . .," and refers to Bush. In other words, the reporter is saying that Bush is looking to get more Hispanics behind his re-election campaign. Is this a liberal opinion? Can't a conservative agree?
The next offending sentence begins, "Facing a possibly close election next November . . . ." In other words, the reporter is implying that the 2004 election might be close and that this possibility influenced Bush's policymaking. Once again, is this a liberal viewpoint? Must a conservative believe that Bush's policies are not driven by his desire to be re-elected?
According to Nordlinger, the answer to these questions is, "Yes!" But this editorializing doesn't advocate anything that's traditionally "liberal" or "conservative," it's merely cynical, implying that Bush institutes his policies with an eye towards pleasing various constituencies. And correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's fair to say that cynicism can be found on either the left or the right (as I'm sure a review of news stories from the Clinton administration would make clear).
So, why does Nordlinger start crying wolf about the liberal press? I imagine it's for a number of reasons. First off, it's easy. It's a Republican trope that always bears repeating. Second, it's another Republican trope to imply that liberals are the only cynics. In Nordlinger's world, conservatives (who I think are probably synonymous with Republicans according to Nordlinger) are the party of ideas and bold initiatives, while liberals (read: Democrats) are merely contrarians and cynics who enact programs because they're popular and convenient. Third, it's a theme of Republicans that Bush is the archetypal ideologically driven conservative who cares nothing for polls or specific constituencies, but does things because they are right and proper.
The implication that Bush may be acting out of some sort of survival instinct or Rove-driven political strategy, rather than overarching concept of what is "good," apparently is antithetical to Nordlinger's view of "conservativism."
In other words, under Nordlinger's logic, the article's cynicism is anti-Bush, which equals anti-Republican, which equals anti-conservative, and which is therefore "liberal."
Personally, I think Nordlinger is full of shit.