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Lapham and the Debate Over Tim Russert

Posted by Matthew Gilbert  August 15, 2008 06:28 AM

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When journalist Tim Russert died in June, the media expressed buckets of emotion about and reverence toward one of its own. Inevitably, coverage of the coverage emerged, as a few people were willing to voice their distaste for what they saw as unduly hagiographic treatment.

Lewis Lapham (above), former Harper's editor and founder of the newish Lapham's Quarterly, was one of the naysayers. "There was a time in America when the press and the government were on opposite sides of the field," he said in July. "The press was supposed to speak on behalf of the people. The new tradition is that the press speaks on behalf of the government. ... Tim Russert was a spokesman for power, wealth, and privilege. That’s why 1,000 people came to his memorial service. Because essentially he was a shill for the government. It didn’t matter whether it was Democratic or Republican. It was for the status quo.” Fittingly, Lapham delivered the quote at a premiere for a movie about Hunter S. Thompson.

Today, Gawker is reporting on a Lapham column that will appear in the new September issue of Harper's (it's not available online yet, except to paying Harper's subscribers). Called "Elegy for a Rubber Stamp," the piece pays respect to Russert as a good father and friend and then goes on to refer to him as a "pet canary" and as a reporter with "the on-air persona of an attentive and accommodating headwaiter."

Gawker passes on a couple of passages from the piece, including this one:

To an important personage Russert asked one or two faintly impertinent questions, usually about a subject of little or no concern to anybody outside the rope lines around official Washington; sometimes he discovered a contradiction between a recently issued press release and one that was distributed by the same politician some months or years previously. No matter with which spoon Russert stirred the butter, the reply was of no interest to him, not worth his notice or further comment. He had sprinkled his trademark salt, his work was done. The important personage was free to choose from a menu offering three forms of response—silence, spin, rancid lie. If silence, Russert moved on to another topic; if spin, he nodded wisely; if rancid lie, he swallowed it.

Lapham also says this about journalism: "Long ago in the days before journalists became celebrities, their enterprise was reviled and poorly paid, and it was understood by working newspapermen that the presence of more than two people at their funeral could be taken as a sign that they had disgraced the profession."

Whether or not you agree with Lapham, there's no denying his own willingness to go against the grain, and maybe reduce the number of attendees at his own funeral. What do you think? Are his view too purist?

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40 comments so far...
  1. No, his views, sadly, are a much needed corrective to the disgraceful state of what passes for journalism today in the corporate media. We saw how the press and TV swallowed the Bush administration's lies about Iraq unquestioningly and served as cheerleader for an illegal and disastrous war; how they focused relentlessly on Bill Clinton's personal pecadilloes and do their very best to ignore the crimes against the Constitution and humanity committed by the fraudulently elected Bush administration; and how they continue to clean up after John McCain's relentless blunders, gaffes, and demonstration of utter ignorance about every policy issue before the country.

    And

    Posted by Bart Laws August 15, 08 08:10 AM
  1. While I agree that Tim Russert seemed to be a great dad, husband and son. I did find "Meet the Press" to become very much about one topic only under his reign - the presidential or congressional political races. "Meet the Press" used to cover much more...international crises, domestic woes as well as politics.

    I miss those days and hope the show finds its way back there.

    I think it is a tragedy that the goings on in Darfur and the politics of why the US Gov't isn't doing more there (just one example) have been glossed over for far too long.

    Posted by Leanne Chase August 15, 08 08:26 AM
  1. Three cheers for Lapham! His commentary will be condemned for speaking ill of the dead, but that is not his purpose. The investigative journalist's job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. It is hard and thankless work, but when the fourth estate turns its back on its unique role, we are all the worse for it. I mourn the loss of a young and vital father and reporter, but I also mourn the loss of the days when Lapham's contrarian sensibilities animated the news room.

    Posted by Boston August 15, 08 08:35 AM
  1. He speaks with clarity about the time of "long ago", which is an acknolwedgement that so many things have changed about journalism, journalists, and the people who are required for a journalist to be successful: an audience who cares to hear what the journailst has to say and in what manner he has to say it.

    People today select television newsprograms, even straight up "the news", rather than a news "magazine", to which "meet the press" may be more appropriately compared, based only a few factors: Do they disagree with an overall bent to reporting (a la FoxNews is often rumored to suffer)? Do they prefer one PERSON delivering the news and commentary over someone else, understanding that the news itself may be identical to that other channel, and, quite frankly, what channel a person was watching just prior to the news. It HAS developed a celebrity status, tied into viewership, influence, advertising, personal integrity on and off the screen, and, at it's core, TRUST.

    TRUST is where Tim Russert succeeded, and i don't think anyone would say that he had the trust of all people, all demographics, etc. I think he had the trust of those people for whom "Meet the press" and NBC news from washington spoke to the access, tone and quality of information that they wanted to have. They all had other options, and chose repeatedly to invite Tim into their home. I never got the impression from either Tim or his friends and colleagues who discussed him in mourning that he deluded himself into believeing he was anything more than that.

    People spoke of a man who they loved, respected, and trusted. They also spoke about how successful he was in his career. I expect the same would be done for any other public figure, regardless of the purpose or intent of their job. Further, they spoke of a man who they felt did it better and with more integrity than many other colleagues, which is to say that, as the entire journalism industry has shifted over time in Lapham's life, not all have done it as soundly and successfully or as likeably as Russert.

    And, again, if you don't care to read or view those opinions, something's probably playing on another channel.

    Posted by Kathryn Gallo August 15, 08 08:57 AM
  1. agree Russert was an overrated play it safe don not step on toes croney==way overrated =did the country harm by enabling the wrongs done to america by not asking the tough questions==I guess he loved going to those high end parties

    Posted by harry n August 15, 08 09:24 AM
  1. Yes Russert was a celebrity but that was more a consequence of the evolution of the
    Information age than anything else. After all there are plenty of people that are celebrities today for no more reason than they are dumb, back stabbers, geeks,
    ect…besides wasn’t Morrow to name one pretty famous in his time? Actually Thompson was a pretty big celebrity in his prime to. Also he
    writes the press is supposed to speak on behalf of the people, I always thought the press
    was supposed to speak on behalf of the truth. I don’t see what is wrong with a reporter
    asking a question and waiting for a response, pointing out a contradiction and asking
    a follow up, which I watched Russert do many times.

    Posted by joe mac August 15, 08 09:30 AM
  1. While I agree that Tim Russert seemed to be a great dad, husband and son. I did find "Meet the Press" to become very much about one topic only under his reign - the presidential or congressional political races. "Meet the Press" used to cover much more...international crises, domestic woes as well as politics.

    I miss those days and hope the show finds its way back there.

    I think it is a tragedy that the goings on in Darfur and the politics of why the US Gov't isn't doing more there (just one example) have been glossed over for far too long.

    Posted by Leanne Chase August 15, 08 09:59 AM
  1. He speaks with clarity about the time of "long ago", which is an acknolwedgement that so many things have changed about journalism, journalists, and the people who are required for a journalist to be successful: an audience who cares to hear what the journailst has to say and in what manner he has to say it.

    People today select television newsprograms, even straight up "the news", rather than a news "magazine", to which "meet the press" may be more appropriately compared, based only a few factors: Do they disagree with an overall bent to reporting (a la FoxNews is often rumored to suffer)? Do they prefer one PERSON delivering the news and commentary over someone else, understanding that the news itself may be identical to that other channel, and, quite frankly, what channel a person was watching just prior to the news. It HAS developed a celebrity status, tied into viewership, influence, advertising, personal integrity on and off the screen, and, at it's core, TRUST.

    TRUST is where Tim Russert succeeded, and i don't think anyone would say that he had the trust of all people, all demographics, etc. I think he had the trust of those people for whom "Meet the press" and NBC news from washington spoke to the access, tone and quality of information that they wanted to have. They all had other options, and chose repeatedly to invite Tim into their home. I never got the impression from either Tim or his friends and colleagues who discussed him in mourning that he deluded himself into believeing he was anything more than that.

    People spoke of a man who they loved, respected, and trusted. They also spoke about how successful he was in his career. I expect the same would be done for any other public figure, regardless of the purpose or intent of their job. Further, they spoke of a man who they felt did it better and with more integrity than many other colleagues, which is to say that, as the entire journalism industry has shifted over time in Lapham's life, not all have done it as soundly and successfully or as likeably as Russert.

    And, again, if you don't care to read or view those opinions, something's probably playing on another channel.

    Posted by Kathryn Gallo August 15, 08 10:33 AM
  1. One cannot fault Tim Russert because presidential politics became a year round sport, starting literally before President Bush's 2nd inauguration. There was a time when the show could devote airtime to other issues. But the 2008 election was being talked about in 2004 and he couldn't ignore it. He was a professional, dedicated man who touched the lives of those around him.

    Lapham is a petty man for deigning to sully a man's funeral. The pomp, pageantry and media coverage for Russert's funeral stemmed from his influential role in our society. Failure to appreciate that is a wholesale indictment and denial of the world today.

    Posted by Rick August 15, 08 12:25 PM
  1. Did this guy ever see Tim Russert on Meet the Press? A politician appearing on his program could expect to be raked over the coals, usually being skewered by their own words- and regardless of which side of the aisle they came from. That Lapham views politicians attending Russert's funeral as a sign of collusion rather than of the respect that I'm certain was intended is very disturbing- Lapham seems like just another member of his lost generation that never leaned to cooperate with anyone that wasn't from their circle of college friends. To them everything is just another manifestation of the 'old campus grudges' that Obama spoke of. We could use a little more Tip & Ronnie and less of the campus battles of the Vietnam era...

    Posted by PS Johnson August 15, 08 01:30 PM
  1. Finally, someone to echo my sentiments about the coverage of Russert's unfortunate and untimely death. You would have thought that this guy was a head of state or Pope, what with the 24/7 wall-to-wall coverage and hosannas. It was unseemly at best.

    And Lapham was also spot on with regard to the line being erased between the reporters and the reported. When "journalists" invite politicians to their weddings, have them over for dinner at their houses, belong to the same private clubs and their kids go to the same schools, it is impossible to be the voice of the people. As Lapham so correctly points out, these media personalities become the mouthpiece of power, not its questioner.

    Posted by rsb August 15, 08 10:58 PM
  1. I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Lapham. Tim Russert was a likeable, seemingly friendly guy with a positive attitude. What any of that has to do with honest hard-hitting journalism is a mystery to me. He loved baseball, he loved his parents -- yeah for him. Our current complex problems coupled with the greed and narcissism of Bush and other elected officials is a recipe for disaster. Unless we have people willing to confront the ugly lies we are told and risk not getting invited to parties, things will continue to get worse. Tim Russert didn't seem to have any enemies -- how can that be? If he was really trying to get at the unvarnished, unspun truth -- which should be the job of journalists -- how could he not have enemies? Also -- I would be happy to attend Mr. L's funeral. ;o)

    Posted by Mary W. August 16, 08 06:07 AM
  1. Russert was selective about who "he raked across the coals". If it was a Howard Dean who was challenging the status quo, then Russert attacked. If it was a Dick Cheney selling snake oil on the Iraq War then he got a pass. Part of Russert's charm, a boy growing up in working class Buffalo, was also his Achilles heal. He never got over being wowed by power and influence. The Cheney and Rove types knew this and manipulated him accordingly. Lapham is right.

    Posted by Ellie August 16, 08 06:23 AM
  1. I agree with Lapham's assessment. However, it doesn't stop with Russert. Tom Brokaw, his interim replacement, is doing the same thing as is George Stephanopoulas on ABC. These government officials wouldn't be caught dead on a Sunday morning show if they were actually held accountable for their actions and words.

    Posted by Larry Clark August 16, 08 10:13 AM
  1. I hardly ever watched Tim Russert, and didn't really know who he was until the press spent days talking about his death. I'm sorry that he died, but I don't think he deserved that much airtime. In fact, a lot of the dead people that Brian Williams occasionally pay respect to at the end of his nightly new are unknown, and unheard of by many Americans. It is unclear why some singers, songwriters, actors, comedians, etc. deserve so much respect. There are a lot of people who have contributed more to society than entertainers, such as scientists, doctors, professors, who deserve a lot more respect for their work. Yet the press never bothered to find out about them, and honor them. Instead they tend to focus on small time good deeds, like some kid has raised $1000 for some good cause. It says a lot about the low quality of practitioners in the press and media today.

    Posted by mk August 16, 08 11:03 AM
  1. Lapham sounds like a liberal, progressive activist who thinks that people like Sy Hersh (the reporter who broke the My Lai massacre story, Abu Ghraib, and others) are the epitome of journalistic accomplishment and who is being critical of someone who was a lot more palatable and far less annoying than the always-skeptical, hypercritical, independent wing of journalism that Lapham seems to represent. Both have their places along the journalistic spectrum but a Sy Hersh/Lapham type is not someone that mainstream America was going to watch every week or who politicians were willing to be grilled by on a regular basis. How many presidential candidates do the Laphams of the world have access to? In many ways, they're ineffective because they're way too abrasive. Perhaps we should look to people like Jane Mayer (author of "The Dark Side," which critically examines the Bush administration's anti-terror efforts) and Ron Suskind (author of "The Way of the World," which also looks at the Bush administration's failings and lies) as the most responsible and palatable role models for hard-hitting, effective journalism. While Tim Russert and his "headwaiter" approach may not have been as aggressive as some here would like, he had the access to those in power that Lapham would never get.

    Posted by Tim August 16, 08 12:16 PM
  1. Real independent investigative journalism died long before Russert. Politics has become an entity on to itself and politicians and "journalists" all clamor for the spotlight as much as Brittney and Paris. Nobody will come out and say that the reason Obama is only single digit percetage points ahead of McCain is because he is black. Nobody wants to step on the duck in the room so they all tip toe around it. Why isn't the press persuing the BS pushed on all of us by the GWB Administration? Nixon was forced to resign over a fraternity prank break in of the DNC and a half baked cover-up. GWB skates by on the crimes committed against the American People and all the press can do is salivate over the upcoming dog and pony show conventions. Journalists are slaves to their corporate and political overlords and none of them have any balls what so ever. I'm sorry to say Russert was no different.

    Posted by Old Dude August 16, 08 03:56 PM
  1. Russert was generally journalistic entertainment...He was no edgar R murrow that is a fact, and to treat his death as the death of some conquering hero is what one would expect in this non-journalistic crowd of wannabees. Objective points of view, not opinions should be the rule, but like Fox, and other news channels that offer nothing but talking heads and opinions seem to spring eternal.
    Look at Geraldo, a guy who used to champion news and causes, and sold out to be Ruperts butt buddy. I prefer Lehrer report, NPR, even Link TV, to all the flotsom and jetsom "called news" today. Todays Newscaster needs to be flushed well with Draino to unclogged the sludged we now have that impedes objectivity, and reporting the news, not opinion. I approve the comments Lapham made and think its about time that someone said "it is what it is" . Glad someone has found his huevos and put it out there for what it is

    Posted by ted schofield August 16, 08 04:12 PM
  1. I believe Tim Russet became a iconic personality through his books and sycophantic persona.

    Unfortunately, the parade of unchallenged administrative neo-con spokepersons week after week on his show was a true national disgrace. Although not the only TV show host do to so, he did not challenged the inane pre-emptive policy of the Bush administration promulgated every Sunday and swallowed without question by the American public.

    Did we not learn anything about the damage from unchallenged diatribes from Government officials duing Goebels times ? Shame on us.

    Simply stated the US Congress alone is vested with the authority to declare War. Passing that authority without limits over to the President is unconstitutional. That is why Bush/ Cheney will go unchallenged. Congress was just as complicit as the Bush administration in creating the mess we now find ourselves in.

    Just as ordinary people can do extraordinary things (Bus in Harlem), seemingly good people of power can do extreme damage when left unchallenged.

    Posted by John A August 16, 08 05:22 PM
  1. I wonder how many articles Mr. Lapham wrote about Mr. Russert or about Meet the Press before Tim's untimely death. To disagree with the way a man did his job is one thing but to question the way people paid tribute to his life after his passing is an entirely differnet thing. I disagree with not only the words of Mr. Lapham but with his entire reasoning behind the article. Like or love Tim Russert and/or the work he did, you have to admire the passion he brought each and every Sunday morning. Maybe you didnt agree with the questions he asked or the way you carried out his work, but you have to respect and admire someone how puts their heart into their profression. If this piece was truely about how media has changed and how in the "old days" the media and the goverment were on two differnent sides, then why not base the entire article about that rather than making it into one that disrespects a man who is no longer here to defend himself. Mr. Lapham is wrong in this....many people outside of the world of politics and outside of the Washington elite loved Tim Russert and admired him as a person and as a professional....I know because I am one of them.

    Posted by Troy August 16, 08 05:29 PM
  1. It sounds great to say that the press should be the voice of the people. But if you really think about it, that is a ridiculous idea. The press needs to report to the people what the government is up to, not the other way around. And nobody pried information out of people of power as well as Tim Russert did.

    Posted by Joe August 16, 08 05:36 PM
  1. I couldn't agree more with Lapham's assessment. Russert and his media brethren speak for and protect the megacorporations and the politicians that serve them. The Reagan administration's destruction of the Fairness Doctrine was the trigger to this brand of "journalism". Until we have TV and radio that once again strive to keep the citizenry informed, democracy is dead.

    Posted by JayNH August 16, 08 06:26 PM
  1. I tend to agree with Lapham. What occurred in the late 90's on was kind of like the Northern Irish peace accord. Politicans, celebrities took on Rodney King's question and decided that they would all get along. Every cable news station is the "place for Politics" with every idiot imaginable taking on politics at a level akin to the difference between Folger's French Roast and Trader Joe's French Roast. Corporate America always makes a version for the little guy, keeping them thinking that they are doing it for the average Joe. In any event, it is unfortunate that Tim Russert is in the press again. Tim Russert is the epitomy of the White Irish Catholic cronyism in America still existing today. His funeral reinforced that argument. Now they've given his son a cushy job covering the conventions.

    Posted by Annie August 17, 08 12:10 AM
  1. I think I lost my previous comment, but I tend to agree with Lapham. In the late 90's the press, celebrities and politicians negotiated a peace pact akin to the Northern Irish peace accord, and taking on Rodney King's philosophical question decided that they would all get along. Now every cable media outlet is the place for politics, or America's election headquarters. Trader Joe's makes a great french roast, and when it became popular well corporate America made their own brands of french roast (Folgers and Maxwell House) which bear no resemblance in taste to actual french roast, but out of the goodness of their hearts they wanted to make their own for the little guy. News is kind of like that french roast with absolutely no resemblance to it for the little guy. Tim Russert was the epitomy of White Irish Catholic male cronyism. His "memorial service" proved it. Now just when we thought we'd get a rest from it Tim's son will be covering the conventions for the youth of America.

    Posted by Annie August 17, 08 12:17 AM
  1. Lewis Lapham is completely right. Tim Russert was a disgrace for his profession. It's people like him who contributed heavily to enabling the lies of this administration. The world as a whole is a better place without him (obviously, his family and the elite he was dancing for will miss him).

    Posted by John Kovacs August 17, 08 02:32 AM
  1. I've read Lapham's piece in its entirety. Notwithstanding the standard injunction not to speak ill of the dead, I did view it as a necessary corrective to an eulogy nearly as overstated as that for the late President Reagan. Tim Russert was loudly trumpeted after his death as hard-nosed and fair-minded and thus irreplaceable in an era in which most journalists are sycophantic partisans. Lapham exposes Russert as sparing with followup questions and shamefully deferential to power. Washington is good at covering its rear, and Russert was useful for politicians who wished to look as though they were undergoing close scrutiny without incurring actual political risk. Russert may indeed have been irreplaceable to his powerful mourners.

    Lapham himself is proof that Lapham-style journalism is not quite dead. It is undeniably in eclipse, though. Our emperors in their new clothes have lately excelled in avoiding truly hard-nosed and fair-minded comment.

    Posted by TCD August 17, 08 05:22 AM
  1. Russert was NOT a journalist. Granted he was bureau chief, but administrator is still not journalist. He was a HOST or MODERATOR, and more accurately a celebrity interviewer. He was great at what he did, and I'm sure his rollodex was the envy of all reporters. But in his veins flowed the blood of a political operative, lawyer, and company man. He worked for Cuomo, Monahan, and was one of the corporate suits at NBC. He was not alone as an ill-fitted journalist.
    Brokaw was a journalist, but never with the jugular intensity of Dan Rather. Let's look at some other so-called journalists. Chris Matthews was a poitical operative. Keith Oberman was a sports anchor. Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs were journalists dying to be editorialists. Katie Couric was a personality journalist akin to Barbara Walters. So, the fault lies in the companies that hire non-journalists and those without the guts and DNA required to rock the boat. Just look at the owners of our media today. BIG corporations with almost no restrictions on buying out the competition, no fairness doctrine, no desire to work for the public good unless its for their own good profit. It's time to break up the media monopolies, require programming in the public interest, bring back the fairness doctrine, restore a panel of journalists to Meet The Press, get rid of the celebrity cutsey hosts, and bring in journalists whose heroes are Jack Anderson, Cronkite, Murrow, Jennings, Woodward, IF Stone, Mike Wallace, etc.

    Posted by SJ August 17, 08 06:08 AM
  1. Looks like a great article.

    I'm going to start reading Harpers.

    Posted by Mrs. P. August 17, 08 06:38 AM
  1. The media, MSM or fringe, can't even report anymore. Instead, the press is used as a convenient outlet for competing campaigns to issue talking points on wedge issues, or lies about the competition to the masses. The job of the media should not be allowing an unreasonably sized percentage of Americans to continue believing Obama is a Muslim, or that if he was a Muslim, this would be a bad thing for the country. Likewise, the media should not be duped into trumpeting the obviously absurd concept that McCain would deliberately seek to park an army in the deserts of Iraq for 100 years. There is far too much traffic through the revolving door of Capitol Hill to "news", and this benefits those who seek to maintain power at the expense of the ideals of our Republic by disinforming the citizenry.

    Posted by G August 17, 08 12:45 PM
  1. George Carlin added more to our lives/culture than Tim Russert ever did, right?

    Posted by Nick Savage August 17, 08 02:27 PM
  1. As far as big media and it's way over the top left leaning "reporters" Russert played it down the middle better then anyone. To bad Mr. Lapham doesn't show the same concern for far left organization like, abc news, cbs news, nbc news,
    cnn, pbs, msnbc and every big city newspaper in the country.

    Posted by rob August 17, 08 03:54 PM
  1. Let's move on people.

    If you had something to say about Mr. Russert, the time to have said it was while he was alive.

    Now it is time to let the man rest in peace.

    Posted by jlk3 August 17, 08 09:46 PM
  1. Someone needs to take a laxative...

    Posted by Mike C August 17, 08 09:59 PM
  1. Lewis Lapham's comments are, by far, the wisest comments ever to grace the pages of this pitiful paper.

    More please.

    Posted by TomT August 17, 08 10:06 PM
  1. Granted Tim Russert was not the type of journalist that conjured up images of the chain smoking scribe pounding at a type writer. However, the last time we saw that type of journalism was over 30 years ago and their names were Woodward and Bernstein. Today the corporate media spends more capital on chasing Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan than trying to learn if a presidentail candidate has carried on an affair with a campaign aide.

    Russert was the best in his business given today's rules. To hold him to a standard that simply doesn't exist anymore is unfair and a cheap shot.

    Posted by Tim Downing August 17, 08 11:25 PM
  1. Mr. Lapham is exactly correct. Russert was a Washington celebrity, part of the "village" where government is the industry. He never reported anything and, with the help of a large staff, did nothing but interview headline makers. As a lifelong newspaperman, I can say without qualification that Mr. Lapham's view that newspapermen, in the historical sense, are a reviled lot and more than two (outside of family) at their family is a bad sign. Russert's obsequies, on the other hand, took on the aspect of a Roman holiday and lasted for what? two weeks? Shameful!

    Posted by Leo Coughlin August 18, 08 04:47 AM
  1. Mr. Lapham makes many good points here, a welcome corrective to the media hype of Russert's funeral, as if it were the passing of a head of state, rather than a mere pundit who kowtowed to those in power, helping them maintain that status.
    I saw Dick Cheney on Russert's TVs how many times; and not once did I ever see Russert challenge or confront Cheney with the lies our Vice President was propagating. Instead, Russert's response was always docile, accommading in the extreme, a far cry from the truth-seeking Edward R. Morrow of another generation. Russert, in essence, was a patsy for the administration, which is why media-disdaining Cheney appeared on the show so often-- it was free publicity and enfranchisement for a cabal of vile traitors to our country.

    Posted by MickVet August 18, 08 07:16 AM
  1. Was it collusion in "the good old days" when journalists gave politicians like FDR and JFK a pass on extramarital affairs? (And I'm saying that as a socially liberal democrat that admires both of those presidents). Not that I think that is valid in terms of who leads the best, but there was a sense of "cooperation" between journalists/pols, wasn't there?? And what about the general atmosphere in times like WWII? Wasn't alot of reporting done on behalf of the U.S. Government (again, maybe you don't need too much "spin" when being anti-Nazi, but still, isn't it example that news is far more confrontational now?)

    Yes, news has a generally more "corporate"/"for profit" bend to it today, because business is always looking for ways to make money. Viewers/readers DO need to demand more from news. However, a reporter like Russert does the best he can in the current climate. We do need both the Russerts and the Hunter S. Thompsons in the world (though, to be fair, Thompson he was a bit more entertainment at times than "journalism")

    Actually, come to think of it, how about a little more Edward R. Murrow??

    Posted by Dave Camell August 18, 08 09:13 AM
  1. Journalists back in the day didn't let their own personal politics get in the way of their reporting. Journalists today do. The reason why Russert was successful and revered was because he didn't let his personal political believes get in the way of his reporting. He was a democrat but you wouldn't know it. He treated Democrats and Republicans alike. You want to say that he was a spokesman for the government then go ahead. But at least he didn't play favorites to one party or the other. Favoritism is so blatant these days.
    Journalists need to go back to reporting. They need to be non political in their reporting. People are leaving the mainstream media in droves because they don't believe and trust most of the reporting. Why are ratings and circulations down? The media loves to blame the internet. That is true but its because they have so many other sources of information they can turn to.
    I love how the "intellectual" journalists out there (Mr Lapham appears to be one) love to say that Americans are ill informed. I say they are more informed than ever. Just because they aren't buying the crap that is beeing sold to them by these "intellectuals" doesn't mean they aren't informed.

    I would like to respond to how Reagan undermined the Fairness Doctrine that someone pointed out a few posts back. I love how liberals are crying about the proliferation of conservative talk shows on radio and want to censor it because no one wants to listen to liberal talk shows. Every liberal talk show that goes on the air eventually gets cancelled because no one is listening to them. Look at what happened to Al Franken's Air America or whatever it was called. That had lots of financial backing by the wealthy liberal (thats an oxymoron as the wealthy in this country are mostly liberal) like Soros and the Hollywood establishment. It was a flop. Liberal talk shows don't provide anything that people don't already get from the mainstream media every day. Why should a radio station have to carry a show that is a money drain over a show that brings in profits. The cry babies need to figure out why no one listens to them and change their presentation so they can attract and keep listeners. Unfortunately, I don't think they can or want to thus the need to censor.

    Posted by Jerry August 18, 08 09:28 AM
  1. Let's not stop with Russert. If we were honest, broadcast news has become a cesspool of mis-guided hype, scant responsibility beyond the latest "he said, she said" metrics, and has generally been drowning in mediocrity. Expecting to get quality and informed information from TV news has always been a fool's game. In Tim Russert's defense, his middle-of-the-road interview tactics might have defended the government position, but, at least we got what passes for an unvarnished (OK, totally varnished, but that has become the domain of all politicos it seems) take on individual positions. He could have delved further, this is true, but, GE would probably have replaced him with someone as equally tepid for that responsible, corporate middle-of-the-road domain which is committed to bland, digestible, modestly edgy PR spin. The days of Edward R. Murrow are long gone. And, newspapers with the resources to invest in intelligent journalism, are waning in these days of the internet and blog news. The idea of hard-hitting journalism exists, but, one needs to be more selective and careful as one selects and digests the information. Sourcing is still important. Russert was a nice guy. What he did, he did well. But, we should never confuse TV news with rich, resourceful, intelligent and in-depth reporting. At the end of the day, TV is great for one thing the written word can never replace: good videographic images.

    Posted by Mark September 14, 08 09:33 AM
 

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