Modern Journalism: We Report, We Decide

Peeling back the curtain hiding the incestuous relationship between the mainstream media and the White House, Arizona reporter Catherine Anaya revealed that “President Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, receives questions from the press in advance of his daily press briefing.”  She found it very interesting that Mr. Carney “knows what he's going to be answering and sometimes those correspondents and reporters also have those answers printed in front of them, because of course it helps when they're producing their reports for later on.”

This is not surprising.  NY Times reporter Peter Baker wrote in 2009, “Here is the dirty little secret about White House news conferences: The president almost always knows the questions in advance.”

What is interesting is that the Arizona reporter within hours retracted her story, saying, “My mistake and I own up to it” – like Frank Pentangeli in The Godfather 2 recanting his Senate testimony after Michael Corleone subtly reminded him of the mafia’s "Omertà" code.

Modern journalists don’t need a mafia kingpin to enforce their “rules of the game.”  They have, or at least had, the JournoList, founded by Washington Post reporter Ezra Klein, a group that “would encourage journalists, policy experts and assorted other observers to share their insights with one another.”  Sounds great – the free flow of ideas and differences of opinion.  Except for one of the foundational attributes of JournoList: “The membership would range from nonpartisan to liberal, center to left.”

It is no wonder news organization credibility continues to decline.  Rather than objectively analyzing and reporting the news, most major media organizations have become one large editorial page.  And when they tire of attempting to report the actual news, they turn to the sensational.

The missing Malaysian plane episode provides great examples.  Almost two weeks after the plane went missing, theories abound.  Each network displays panels of “experts” who boost their own respective theories about the fate of Flight 370.  When CNN anchor Don Lemon sincerely asks if a black hole could explain the missing plane, journalism has entered the realm of comedy.

How much comparable time has been devoted to other unexplained mysteries?  Fast and Furious, IRS political targeting, Benghazi, global warming assertions, false claims about Obamacare, or the Obama life story, just to name a few?  Few news outlets have shown anywhere near the curiosity about these stories compared to the missing Malaysian plane.

Television news pioneer Edward R. Murrow, describing the goal of journalists, declared, “To be persuasive, We must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful.”  Selective, censored, or clownish news stories make it hard for the viewer or reader to discern how much, if any, of the reporting is truthful.  As truth is sacrificed on the altar of political agendas, credibility is lost, as the opinion polls reflect.  Eventually news broadcasts become a comedy or reality show – hardly believable.  And that leaves the consumers of news to cancel their subscriptions...or hit the off switch.

Brian C Joondeph, M.D., MPS, a Denver-based physician, is an advocate of smaller, more efficient government.  Twitter @retinaldoctor.

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