Friday, October 24, 2008

Michael S. Malone: Editing Their Way to Oblivion: Journalism Sacrificed For Power and Pensions

I first learned about Michael S. Malone last year when I was recommended his book about Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. I ended up buying the book, getting emotional while reading it and attending one of his talks about his portrayal of Bill and Dave at a Mountain View bookstore.
Since his name was new to me, I did a bit of research about him prior to attending the event; I learned that he was a household name in high tech journalism. A former HP employee like myself, although he had had the privilege to work with both Bill and Dave, he had been a journalist at the San Jose Mercury News before writing for the biggest household names in the news industry such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, ABC News. Further, from his presentation I came under the impression that he was a strong supporter of the media, especially the liberal media. I remember him defending the San Francisco Chronicle existence in the middle of the crisis that has affected newspapers main source of revenue, that is advertising, now that they have to compete with the new Internet media. That's why, I was completely shocked when I was reading this article of his today repudiating the way the media has handled this Presidential campaign.
I have been living in the United States for only eight years. Up until this past September and this, about to end, October I had an overall good impression of the US media. Not that I was convinced that all media were "fair and balanced" but at least I got the impression that when it came to reporting news, most respectable sources tried their best to present both sides of controversial topics. Not anymore. And it worries me a great deal. Nothing of what I saw in the Presidential campaign of 2004 comes close to the systematic lynching and humiliation that I have witnessed this time around regarding anybody who dares challenge, let alone criticize, "The One".
See, for those of us who come from places like Spain where all media have been behaving for years in the same way the MSM have been behaving during this Presidential campaign, it was refreshing to be able to tell the people who still live there that the New York Times mocked Spanish newspapers such as El Pais by calling them "pro-government newspaper". Is the US in the process of becoming a country like Spain?
How the hell did it came to this? While I was thinking these past days about the issue, I said to myself, well, maybe this is the way the US media were before 9/11 and I just didn't see it because of the special circumstances we lived after that horrible tragedy. That's why, reading Michael S Malone's article was so refreshing. After all, it seems that even he thinks that the media has gone too far this time. I'll reproduce some of the most interesting quotes but I really, really encourage everybody to read his article completely.

"The traditional media is playing a very, very dangerous game.
With its readers, with the Constitution, and with its own fate."

"But worst of all, for the last couple weeks, I’ve begun — for the first time in my adult life — to be embarrassed to admit what I do for a living. A few days ago, when asked by a new acquaintance what I did for a living, I replied that I was “a writer”, because I couldn’t bring myself to admit to a stranger that I’m a journalist."

"But nothing, nothing I’ve seen has matched the media bias on display in the current Presidential campaign."

"But in the last few days, even Democrats, who have been gloating over the pass - no, make that shameless support - they’ve gotten from the press, are starting to get uncomfortable as they realize that no one wins in the long run when we don’t have a free and fair press. I was one of the first people in the traditional media to call for the firing of Dan Rather - not because of his phony story, but because he refused to admit his mistake - but, bless him, even Gunga Dan thinks the media is one-sided in this election."

"I’m not one of those people who think the media has been too hard on, say, Gov. Palin, by rushing reportorial SWAT teams to Alaska to rifle through her garbage."

"No, what I object to (and I think most other Americans do as well) is the lack of equivalent hardball coverage of the other side - or worse, actively serving as attack dogs for Senators Obama and Biden. If the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as President of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (that at least will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography. That isn’t Sen. Obama’s fault: his job is to put his best face forward. No, it is the traditional media’s fault, for it alone (unlike the alternative media) has had the resources to cover this story properly, and has systematically refused to do so."

"Why, for example to quote McCain’s lawyer, haven’t we seen an interview with Sen. Obama’s grad school drug dealer - when we know all about Mrs. McCain’s addiction? Are Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko that hard to interview? All those phony voter registrations that hard to scrutinize? And why are Senator Biden’s endless gaffes almost always covered up, or rationalized, by the traditional media?"

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