Saturday, July 24, 2004

A Failure of the Press

Howard Kurtz's Media Notes for Friday the 23rd (link goes to the current day, you may need to scroll down) is a nice tie-in to Ted Turner's excellent column on media consolidation (as well as RJ Samuelson's July 14th column). Kurtz picks up on a little-noted comment from Tom Kean that there had only been one reference to terrorism in the 2000 presidential campaign. From this Kurtz concludes that in additions to failures on behalf of the Clinton and Bush administrations and various government agencies, the press also dropped the ball on terrorism. He finds one short article on this topic, but most of the major press does not appear to be covering it (which should be no surprise given Turner's comments). This drives home the seriousness of the issues brought up in Samuelson's critique of campaign news coverage. By allowing the candidates themselves to define the issues of the campaign, by not shooting down the obvious bullshit shoveled out by the campaign HQ's, by covering the election as a horse-race rather than an opportunity for political discourse, the press allows important issues to fall through the cracks. I recall that well prior to the 9/11 attacks a congressional investigation found that terrorism was clearly the greatest threat to American security in the post-Cold War era. How do we get through a presidential election without anyone asking the candidates about the most dire security threat facing our country? It is again worth noting that the media is not just another industry to be played for competitive advantage and profit margin. It plays a vital role in the healthy functioning of our system of government. Failures of the press can be just as costly as failures at the CIA.

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