Thursday, May 3, 2007

Dinner exposes press coziness Thomas blasts

New York Times columnist Frank Rich last weekend effectively linked the tragic death of Pulitzer Prize-winning newsman David Halberstam, the embarrassing White House Correspondents' Association dinner, and recent press criticism about the shameful inside-the-beltway coziness between the Washington press corps and the federal government.

Long-time White House journalist Helen Thomas two weeks ago at her WIU appearance spoke about that insider status and how it fails the American people.

Rich begins his April 29 piece, titled "All The President's Press"--
"Somehow it's hard to imagine David Halberstam yukking it up with Alberto Gonzales, Paul Wolfowitz and two discarded American Idol contestants at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Before there was a Woodward and Bernstein, there was Halberstam, still not yet 30 in the early 1960s, calling those in power to account for lying about our 'progress' in Vietnam. He did so even though J.F.K. told the publisher of The Times, 'I wish like hell that you'd get Halberstam out of there.' He did so despite public ridicule from the dean of that era's Georgetown punditocracy, the now forgotten columnist (and Vietnam War cheerleader) Joseph Alsop.
"It was Alsop's spirit, not Halberstam's, that could be seen in C-Span's live broadcast of the correspondents' dinner last Saturday, two days before Halberstam's death in a car crash in California. This fete is a crystallization of the press's failures in the post-9/11 era: it illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows. Such is literally the case at the annual dinner, where journalists serve as a supporting cast, but it has been figuratively true year-round. The press has enabled stunts from the manufactured threat of imminent 'mushroom clouds' to Saving Private Lynch to Mission Accomplished, whose fourth anniversary arrives on Tuesday. For all the recrimination, self-flagellation and reforms that followed these journalistic failures, it's far from clear that the entire profession yet understands why it has lost the public's faith."

For his complete and insightful column, via, go here:

Rich also mentions journalist Bill Moyers' PBS-TV special about the breakdown of most of the national press between 9/11 and the invasion and occupation of Iraq (for details on Moyers' sobering show, go here: ) and W. Lance Bennett's When the Press Fails (for details, go here: ).

Thomas' own incisive criticism also is exceptional. (For details, go here: ).

Maybe together with public demands for good journalism, the Washington press corps will improve. And do its job.