Monday, August 30, 2004

Media Moans

John Podhoretz weighs in on why the traditional media is all in a snit these days. This make for some interesting reading. - Sailor

by John Podhoretz
New York Post

August 30, 2004 -- THERE'S a lot of argle- bargle about how this election will be about who has the best plan for the future. You'll hear President Bush on Thursday lay out a detailed agenda for his second term, in part to address that argle-bargle.
And it won't matter a whit.

This election is about one thing and one thing only: Which of the two candidates is best suited to be this nation's commander in chief.

And as we speak, a 2004 election plotline is developing among those who wish to see George W. Bush defeated. The plotline is this: The efforts by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to cast doubt on John Kerry's war record may be the tipping point of this campaign in Bush's favor. And if indeed that is so, the rage that liberals and Democrats will direct toward Bush will be something terrible to see.

At a panel discussion yesterday on the press and the election at the Harvard Club, two media doyens — Joe Klein of Time and David Gergen of U.S. News — pronounced themselves frightened by this prospect and the damage it might do to our democracy.

Others on the panel — Al Hunt of the Wall Street Journal and Jill Abramson of The New York Times — fretted about the capacity of the mainstream media to play the role of fact-finding truth-teller in an age dominated by cable news and the Internet.

I was on the panel too, and I feel like I was the only one who didn't arrive at the Harvard Club riding on my pet dinosaur.

I've been listening to mainstream-media types talk about the terrible threat posed to the news business by one new phenomenon or other since I began my career 22 years ago. The complaint is invariably, and drearily, the same: Whatever is new is bad because it supposedly lowers the historically high standards of the mainstream media.

The last two years in particular have seen the explosion of a new medium — the personal Internet newspaper, or blog — that has already and will forever change the way people get their information.

This is a thrilling development — unless you are a mainstream-media Big Fish.

The success of the Swift-boat vets' ads is the tale of the triumph of the nation's alternative media. The mainstreamers didn't want to touch the story with a 10-foot pole, and they didn't. But the alternative media did. Amateur reporters and fact-gatherers offered independent substantiation for some of the charges. It turned out the criticisms of the Swifties weren't quite so easily dismissed.

Because there was new information coming out every day, there was more and more to discuss on talk radio and cable news channels. And the story just wouldn't go away, because millions of people were interested in it.

This democratization of the news is clearly a good thing, if only because it increases available sources of information in a democracy.

But it isn't a good thing if you're a proud part of an Establishment whose authority is being eroded and whose control of the marketplace is being successfully challenged.

What these Establishment-media types will never do — what they can never do — is consider the possibility that the 24-hour news cycle and the rise of talk radio and the Internet are all positive developments.

And I would argue they can't consider that possibility — not only because their platforms are slowly sliding into the quicksand, but because these alternative phenomena have been of great benefit to conservative ideas, anti-liberal attitudes and Republican politicians.

They hate the Swift-boat story. Hate it with a passion. Some of it's based in genuine conviction. Some of it's patently ideological. And some of it's based in fear. They are worried the bell is beginning to toll for them, and they're right.


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