WSJ readers mock an Op-Ed defending the MSM

David Paulin
It's shocking to see how out of touch some members of the old media are about their loss of credibility -- their declining influence. For example, consider a recent Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, "Counting the Costs of the New-News Chaos" by Edward Kosner. A former editor at Newsweek and the New York Daily News, Kosner belittled today's media landscape -- and longed for the days when the old media had a monopoly on information.

"The essence of old-school journalism is making order out of a chaotic world," he wrote. "The reporters and broadcast correspondents are out trying to find out what's going on and what it might mean. Then their editors and news directors take this material and help refine it into an orderly presentation. These stories tend to be reasonably coherent and internally consistent, if far from perfect."

Well, as you might have expected, his Op-Ed provoked a number of biting replies in both The Journal's online comments section and print edition. Perhaps the most interesting rejoinders came from readers who decried the mainstream media's abject failure in covering the Vietnam War. Reader George McKenna wrote that "the price for the old orderliness was a series of distorted narratives shaped by liberal ideology. For example, as Peter Braestrup and others have shown, Walter Cronkite presented the Tet Offensive as a victory for the Viet Cong when the truth was that Tet destroyed the VC as a fighting force. If sanity implies a reasonable degree of congruence between perception and reality, it's not clear that the old media were reliable guardians of our mental health."

And on Wednesday, former Vietnam War correspondent Uwe Siemon-Netto -- who covered the war for West German magazine Der Stern -- wrote in response to McKenna's letter:

"I was with Peter Braestrup in Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Like Braestrup, I stood at a mass grave filled with the bodies of civilians slaughtered by the Viet Cong; like Braestrup, I also witnessed the destruction of the VC as a fighting force. Like Braestrup, too, I was enraged when Cronkite declared the war unwinnable, thus prompting President Lyndon B. Johnson to remark, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

"With that Cronkite betrayed the very principle of journalism he had once stood for, namely, that a reporter should report and not opine. Once an honorable war reporter himself, he thus placed himself at the head of the new narcissistic media movement dominated by self-important pundits. This was both Cronkite's personal tragedy and a catastrophe for journalism as an indispensable pillar of democracy-all democracies, not only America's."

This isn't news, of course, to most readers here -- yet it's apparently news to Edward Kosner and his head-in-the-sand cohorts in the mainstream media. Speaking of Vietnam, it's interesting to consider how that war might have turned out -- and how Walter Cronkite's famous broadcast might have gone down -- had the old media back then not had a monopoly on information.

It's shocking to see how out of touch some members of the old media are about their loss of credibility -- their declining influence. For example, consider a recent Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, "Counting the Costs of the New-News Chaos" by Edward Kosner. A former editor at Newsweek and the New York Daily News, Kosner belittled today's media landscape -- and longed for the days when the old media had a monopoly on information.

"The essence of old-school journalism is making order out of a chaotic world," he wrote. "The reporters and broadcast correspondents are out trying to find out what's going on and what it might mean. Then their editors and news directors take this material and help refine it into an orderly presentation. These stories tend to be reasonably coherent and internally consistent, if far from perfect."

Well, as you might have expected, his Op-Ed provoked a number of biting replies in both The Journal's online comments section and print edition. Perhaps the most interesting rejoinders came from readers who decried the mainstream media's abject failure in covering the Vietnam War. Reader George McKenna wrote that "the price for the old orderliness was a series of distorted narratives shaped by liberal ideology. For example, as Peter Braestrup and others have shown, Walter Cronkite presented the Tet Offensive as a victory for the Viet Cong when the truth was that Tet destroyed the VC as a fighting force. If sanity implies a reasonable degree of congruence between perception and reality, it's not clear that the old media were reliable guardians of our mental health."

And on Wednesday, former Vietnam War correspondent Uwe Siemon-Netto -- who covered the war for West German magazine Der Stern -- wrote in response to McKenna's letter:

"I was with Peter Braestrup in Hue during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Like Braestrup, I stood at a mass grave filled with the bodies of civilians slaughtered by the Viet Cong; like Braestrup, I also witnessed the destruction of the VC as a fighting force. Like Braestrup, too, I was enraged when Cronkite declared the war unwinnable, thus prompting President Lyndon B. Johnson to remark, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

"With that Cronkite betrayed the very principle of journalism he had once stood for, namely, that a reporter should report and not opine. Once an honorable war reporter himself, he thus placed himself at the head of the new narcissistic media movement dominated by self-important pundits. This was both Cronkite's personal tragedy and a catastrophe for journalism as an indispensable pillar of democracy-all democracies, not only America's."

This isn't news, of course, to most readers here -- yet it's apparently news to Edward Kosner and his head-in-the-sand cohorts in the mainstream media. Speaking of Vietnam, it's interesting to consider how that war might have turned out -- and how Walter Cronkite's famous broadcast might have gone down -- had the old media back then not had a monopoly on information.