April 1, 2003

Should the press root for victory?…

Debra Saunders says:

When mainstream journalists report both sides of racism–pro and con, with equal weight–or both sides of having a free press in America, then I’ll believe that American media don’t take sides on issues, and that there is at least a rationale for American media not rooting for U.S. troops to win in Iraq. But that day will never come.

She properly qualifies this statement by observing that there are many issues in which “thinking” Americans agree. I would add that cultural values constitute a part of this “thinking.” For example, there may be cognitive differences between racists and the rest of us, but there are certainly cultural differences. Mainstream journalists are part of a culture that repudiates racism (what to do about it is open to debate).

Can we apply this same thinking to coverage of war? Saunders makes an excellent case. But I am not persuaded because, for the most part, American journalists are not against American troops. And, from the bulk of the coverage I’ve seen/heard/read, they hardly seem against the war. They do, however, fulfill that watchdog function for which they rightly deserve praise.

I don’t want journalists to look the other way when tough situations arise just as I don’t want them to forget they are Americans. Being a good journalist often requires the ability to live with contradictions and irony.

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