Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Andy Rooney and Anti-News

I was watching 60 minutes many years ago, and I saw Andy Rooney do one of his reports that has really stuck with me all my adult life. He was standing on the banks of the Mississippi River on a sunny day with the waters calmly drifting by in the background. He was trying to explain why most of the news seems to be bad news. He illustrated his point by reporting that the waters were calm, the weather was fine, and there was no indication the river would overflow its banks any time soon. He also pointed that most viewers wouldn't find that news very interesting. This is a point he still makes to this day as he did in a commencement speech at George Washington University earlier this year.

The trouble is by its very nature news is negative. It's always a change from the status quo, an aberration in the course of events, and any change is usually bad. So it's the bad news that's in the newspaper or on television and people don't like that. They blame the messenger. We don't run pictures and report on the Mississippi River on days that it does not overflow its banks and drown people.

Well, it appears there is an exceptioin to every rule. Let's examine a few breathless headlines from the last 24 hours.

Now, all these stories and more than a thousand like them would be news except for one problem. Not releasing privileged documents, especially involving attorney-client privilege , is normal and customary. This is true for all of these rediculous requests for documents, from John Roberts to John Bolton. If the requested documents are not already subject to the Freedom of Information Act or the Presidential Records Act, then no administration has any obligation to provide privileged documents to neither Congress nor journalists. Where a reluctance to hand over documents about John Roberts may have been challenged with the Presidential Records Act, the documents concerning Harriet Miers remain privileged documents. She was (is) Whitehouse Counsel for the President.

So, at the end of the day, these waters remain calm and there is no evidence to suggest they'll be over-flowing their banks any time soon. And yet, the likes of ABC and the New York Times really find this story interesting.

Why do I care? I'm not defending Bush and I certainly don't care enough about the Miers nomination to make this post. I do credit the Bush Administration with attempting to re-establish the proper and constitutional separation between the Executive and Legislative branches of government. Too much executive power had been ceded to the legislative branch, and too much executive power lies in their hands today. The entire notion of filibustering a presidential nomination for any post, by any president, is an abomination! This so-called gang of fourteen are the epitome of everything that is wrong with our government.

That is to say nothing of our national journalists, who are increasingly becoming paid agents of media corporations with their own agendas. The fact that we have ABC and the New York Times running these kinds of headlines about something that is normal and customary is itself, noteworthy. Requests for privileged documents fall into the same category as that age-old question, "When did you stop beating your wife." Of course, if you give a date, then you've beaten your wife, but if you refuse to dignify that question with a response; you refuse to say that you've stopped beating your wife.

Frankly, between the national media and congress, it's a wonder the Office of the President of the United States hasn't been stripped down to simiply a national figurehead, robotically parroting the popular opinion as reported from the latest polls.


Blogger Otto Man said...

According to Miers' letter, her main reason for withdrawing her nomination was the impasse over submitting these very records.

So, yeah, it seems like it was an important point that the press needed to report.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Fitch said...

Let's take Iraq as an example. In any given article, it will begin with how many soldiers and civillians died. Later, in the same article it will point out something of a successful nature. The problem is, most people won't read beyond the headline and first sentence. If it's not newsworthy, why is it in the article? Because it is newsworthy, but it is buried due to media bias.

4:46 PM  

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