Take the Old Gray Lady herself, the one that boasts about having all the news that's fit to print.
Here are the headline and first paragraph of the lead article in her Sunday national edition:
While Warning About Fat,
U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales
U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales
When sales of Domino’s Pizza were lagging, a government agency stepped in with
advice: more cheese. This is the same government that, for health reasons, is advising
Is this the weightiest issue you could find for Page One? The next couple of paragraphs read like a commercial for the pizza chain.
* * *The other big flap in the media for the last couple of days is the suspension, without pay, of Keith Olbermann by MSNBC. The suspension was imposed ostensibly because, by contributing to the campaign funds of three Democratic candidates in the recent election, Olbermann violated a policy of NBC News. I never for a moment believed that what Keith Olbermann does (or Rachel Maddow, or that matter, even though I am a fan of both) is "news." What they do is provide an antidote to what Fox News does --which isn't "news" either. All of these people are entertainers with propagandist agendas. Contemporary events provide a framework for their entertainments. It's all in good fun and some of the opinions expressed by Olbermann and Maddow, in particular, have merit intellectually and ethically.
But it strikes me as unrealistic to try to hold propagandists to the same standards as journalists. When I was reporting or editing news, I made it a point of pride in my craft not to donate to politicians, political parties, or special interests. I honestly don't recall if such donations were prohibited by the organizations I worked for.
Some of my colleagues went so far as to refuse to register by party affiliation; some even refused to vote. But we were doing our best to do real journalism, which virtually nobody on television even attempts any more. So what's the fuss? Are we supposed to be surprised and shocked to learn that Keith supports Democrats? Or that what Fox offers as "news" is pure Republican propaganda?
* * *The news columns of the Wall Street Journal once contained some of the best print journalism around, as if to compensate for the distortions and dishonesty of the paper's editorial and op-ed pages. But in the days before this election, the Journal's news department joined those of the New York Times and other media in serious treatments of the Tea Party as a spontaneous grassroots movement. Unlimited funding by the Koch Brothers (big oil), and a blueprint drawn up by Frank Luntz and Fred Malek (big lies) -- this is grassroots?
* * *One of the Sunday talk shows featured a discussion, presented as "journalism," with Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, author of what the GOP calls "tax reform." Under this plan, the taxes of the 20 per cent of Americans with the lowest incomes would increase 12.3%. The 20% of Americans with the next-lowest incomes would increase by 7.7%. The next 20%, in ascending order, of American incomes would be taxed at a 4.5% higher rate. The next 20% would see see their tax rates rise by 2% (people in roughly the $50,000 to $90,000 a year bracket). Got that? The eight out of ten Americans with incomes under $100,000 would have their taxes increased. But the next wealthiest 5% of Americans, who average $148,000 per year income, would have their tax rate cut by 1.6%. The four per cent of Americans who earn between $178,000 and $400,000 per year, would get a 4.2 per cent tax cut. And the wealthiest one per cent of Americans, whose average income is $1.4 million per year, would receive a 15% tax cut. Nobody on the panel of "journalists" talking with Mr. Ryan found anything exceptional in all of this.