News Shouldn't Be 'Tricky'

It is becoming increasingly difficult to defend members of my own profession.  Though only a freelancer, I have always had a certain pride in my craft and felt a congenial camaraderie with the wordsmiths and reporters who can distill the stories of the day into finely crafted works of a thousand words or a pithy sound-byte on the evening news.  I also admit to more than a little envy of those who have taken those gifts and propelled them into a career that actually pays the mortgage every month.

But that warm and fuzzy feeling is rapidly being replaced by disappointment and shame.  Increasingly, after the weekly talking heads shows, I need a hot shower and lye soap.  Fifteen minutes of watching Chris Matthews and even my parish priest can not Hail Mary me enough to get rid of the ooze that coats my psyche.

Reporting no longer appears to be the thing to aspire to.  Spin is king. The mainstream media, overwhelming leftist despite the weak and foolish protestations of “right-wing control”, is becoming less concerned with even the slightest attempts at impartiality.  They seem almost proud of their attempts to manipulate the American public.  They are shameless.

On CNN’s "Reliable Sources," this past Sunday, host Howard Kurtz questioned fellow reporters Robin Wright of the Washington Post and Barbara Starr of CNN on the lack of mainstream coverage of good news coming from Iraq and the successes of the surge.
Kurtz’s question was straightforward, “Robin Wright, should that decline in Iraq casualties have gotten more media attention?"

“Not necessarily.”  Wright asserts with the hint of a smug and Cheshire cat smile….after all, she is the expert.  As she shifts in her chair to adopt the most convincing reporterette posture, we glean this bit of wisdom, “The fact is we’re at the beginning of a trend — and it’s not even sure that it is a trend yet. There is also an enormous dispute over how to count the numbers. There are different kinds of deaths in Iraq…. the numbers themselves are tricky.”

This is tricky?  The surge is working and fewer American men and women are dying.   Quantum physics is tricky.  String theory is tricky.  Dealing with my husband’s ex-wife is tricky.  Less dead American heroes is not a concept that most Americans would find tricky to process. 

And “it is” not even sure it is a trend yet?  Who or what is this mysterious “it” that she refers to?  Howard Dean? An it if I have ever seen one.  The DNC?  The magic eight-ball she consults in her office?

Oh, and thanks for protecting us from ourselves Robin, and our simplistic little flyover country minds.  What would we do without you interpreting the news and deciding what we need to hear?  Thank God we have the mainstreamers like you to boil down all of these tricky concepts.  And are you free for coffee and advice next week?   I’ve got teenagers in my house, talk about tricky!

And can we ask Barbara Starr to join us?  After all, she seems to be equally enraptured by the tricky.  When asked the same question, Starr posits, “We don’t know whether it is a trend about specifically the decline in the number of U.S. troops being killed in Iraq. This is not enduring progress. This is a very positive step on that potential road to progress.”
Uh-oh….Starr admitted it was a positive step.  Hooray!  Not so tricky after all.  Then it should be reportable news, right? Like Kurtz, I can’t help but wonder if a one month rise in U.S. deaths would be reportable.

“Oh, I think inevitably it would have. I mean, that’s certainly — that, by any definition, is news, “ Starr told us, serious reporter expression in tact.  And then in the next breath, “Forgive me for being skeptical, I need to see a little bit more than one month before I get too excited about all of this.”

Oh….now I get it!  It is tricky to report on one month of a positive trend in news, but not tricky to report on a one month trend in negative news. So the tricky part is not figuring out what to report about after all, it is about how to convert the good news that might help the administration or the GOP, into bad news or, even better, no news.  Tricky indeed.
What happened to simply reporting the news and letting average Americans process it?  Do we have to have the likes of Ms. Starr and Ms. Wright decide for us what constitutes good or bad news?  Do they carry extra tissues with them to wipe random snotty noses too?

Perhaps we should encourage journalism schools to add “tricky 101” to the syllabus.  Better still, require a class that reminds reporters that they are there to REPORT the news, not interpret or manufacture it.

On the heels of the embarrassing posturing of Media Matters, Starr and Wright are even harder to take seriously.  Media Matters, like that embarrassing relative that shows up at family gatherings drunk and spreading outlandish gossip over deviled eggs and stuffing, proved with their recent attack on Rush Limbaugh that truth is not the goal.  Reporting is not the goal.  Accuracy is certainly not the goal.  Taking down ideological opponents and manipulating average Americans is the goal.  Spin is the goal.  Control of the story is the goal, not the story itself.

Years ago, when contemplating my own career goals, I read a study about students entering journalism school.  The number one reason for choosing that vocation was, “I want to change the world.”  

Robin and Barbara, if you want to change the world, start a philanthropic foundation, run for office, teach in an inner-city school.  But for goodness sake, spare me and mine from your sanctimonious approach to your endeavors.  You are reporters, not diplomats or policy analysts.  You job is about as tricky as collecting tolls.  News happens, you report it.  Done.