To the surprise of her fans and admirers – but not, evidently, to anyone familiar with the behind-the-scenes drama at CBS News – reporter Sharyl Attkisson resigned her position on Monday. Attkisson is one of the few journalists who has done real investigative work that makes the government uncomfortable over the past few years. Beginning in 2009, most of her peers suddenly deciding that what the Administration says should be taken at face value and repeated uncritically, for reasons that remain utterly mysterious. Perhaps future historians will use the awesome power of their super-advanced computers to sift through contemporaneous records and figure out what, exactly, might have changed in 2009 that put investigative journalism on ice.
Another thing that changed in 2009 was the amount of air time Attkisson enjoyed at CBS News. Before that, she was a top-20 network correspondent with 145 to 160 minutes of air time per year. By last year she was barely top-100 with 54 minutes of airtime, and even that was a slight uptick from the mere 36 minutes she received in 2012.
While analysts debate whether this decline in airtime was a matter of liberal ideological bias at CBS, Attkisson herself certainly seems to think it played a role. From a report on her departure at Politico:
Attkisson, who has been with CBS News for two decades, had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network???s liberal bias, an outsize influence by the network???s corporate partners and a lack of dedication to investigative reporting, several sources said. She increasingly felt that her work was no longer supported and that it was a struggle to get her reporting on air.
At the same time, Attkisson???s reporting on the Obama administration, which some staffers characterized as agenda-driven, had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting. She is currently at work on a book ??? tentatively titled ???Stonewalled: One Reporter???s Fight for Truth in Obama???s Washington??? ??? that addresses the challenges of reporting critically on the administration.
Feeling increasingly stymied and marginalized at the network, Attkisson began talking to CBS News President David Rhodes as early as last April about getting out of her contract. Those negotiations intensified in recent weeks, and her request was finally honored on Monday.
I’m sure this has absolutely nothing to do with the situation whatsoever – just an astonishing coincidence for those future historians to marvel over – but CBS News President David Rhodes is the brother of Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, who just happens to have been involved in preparing the bogus Benghazi talking points that Sharyl Attkisson was so justifiably skeptical of. The Democrat-media axis is so very cozy, isn’t it? But I’m sure those family ties and revolving doors between Big Media and Even Bigger Government do not influence editorial decisions in any way.
Attkisson evidently is not the only person at CBS who sees partisan politics and media bias behind her exit, although some of them think she’s the one who has a bias:
Attkisson had become a polarizing figure at the network, sources there said. While some championed her relentless dedication to investigations ??? ranging from defective Firestone tires to the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal ??? others saw evidence of a political agenda, particularly against President Barack Obama. (The bulk of Attkisson???s work since 2009 has focused on the failures or perceived failures of the Obama administration, including its failed green-energy investments and the attack in Benghazi, though she has reported on several Republican failures as well.)
Others have suggested that CBS News itself was politically biased: ???It???s no secret that Sharyl has been unhappy about CBS???s lack of interest in investigative reporting, especially when it comes to stories about the Obama administration,??? a source close to Attkisson said.
Attkisson???s frustrations aside, the network maintains a dedicated investigative unit, which produces packages that appear across CBS News programming.
Great, but the issue here is not the existence of an investigative unit, but the things they quietly decide not to investigate. In a monolithic media culture that just about popped a hernia carrying Barack Obama over the finish line twice, why not have one person who declares skepticism of the Administration? There’s really no room at CBS News for anybody like that? And then the same jokers want to tell us the media isn’t biased – or, even more hilariously, try to claim it has some kind of conservative bias?
Media bias has always been largely about what the press decides to leave unsaid, the stories left untold, the claims that go unchallenged. Look at the simply absurd lengths Big Media goes to, in order to avoid seriously challenging anything this Administration says about ObamaCare. Every step of the way, the most ridiculous Administration claims have been relayed uncritically, or with only the most mild criticism; a few news cycles later, we get something vaguely resembling the truth as it existed weeks ago, even as a fresh load of fertilizer is dumped on the public. Where’s the real-time skepticism, the kind of instant B.S. alert a Republican administration would get?
I would submit real-time skepticism is a product of attitude. Even the sharpest journalistic instincts and most extensive news-gathering networks are of little use if the reporter is not predisposed toward doubting everything she hears. It takes time to prepare big investigative reports, which means they must be designed and launched quickly. Knowing that such instantaneous hard-hitting investigation will not come their way, this Administration is able to survive disasters one news cycle at a time – for example, spinning an absolutely fraudulent story about “spontaneous video protests” in Benghazi that kept the Obama campaign alive for a few crucial weeks. No Republican administration could get away with that, because they would face a media filled with Sharyl Attkissons, ready and eager to investigate the heck out of every claim they made.
Is it really so much to ask that everyone in the media have a constant “political agenda” against everyone in power? They love to posture as adversaries to power, ever ready with notepads full of tough questions in one hand, sledgehammers for stonewall smashing in the other. Their nominal adversaries in the government have tons of money to hire media consultants, image makers, and spokespeople to meet the media on a perpetual field of battle.
But instead, we’ve had years of the press serving as willing adjuncts to the White House media machine, working on the assumption that this Administration is synonymous with the American people, and they serve the latter by flattering the former. That’s not true at all, and our nation has suffered for it. Adversary journalism requires adversaries. When they all end up working for one network, something is very wrong with the other networks.