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Response to Gal Friday (Reply #10)

Sun Sep 30, 2012, 04:28 PM

42. Welcome to DU, Gal Friday. I'm afraid I can't agree with you on that.

Tim Russert disappointed me greatly. As a retired broadcast journalist myself, I was acutely - and sometimes uncomfortably - aware that as the business was increasingly deregulated, the goal of presenting both sides honestly, equally, and dispassionately seemed to fade from a lot of my colleagues.

Once upon a time, no network anchor or lead correspondent would wear a campaign button favoring one party's candidate over another to a social event where many of his/her peers and newsmakers of all kinds were in attendance, and then go around flashing it sneakily to various key people. You were supposed to be objective AT ALL TIMES. Your credibility and impartiality were sacrosanct - and all you had to reinforce your own good name. You were expected to cut through the crap, not show favoritism, and make sure equal attention was paid to each side. You would not even think of loading up your talking-head panels or table of guests with a 3:1 or sometimes 4:1 ratio favoring one party over another. You would seek out the views of those who weren't getting comparable attention, and not completely suppress them. Tim Russert did all those things, and with an increasingly noticeable gleeful twinkle in his eye. As the persecution of Bill Clinton grew to a shrieking climax in the late '90's, Russert gobbled it up hungrily, using his "Meet the Press" vehicle to further the agenda and the policies and the successes of the GOP. He continued through the bush-2 years with an almost obscenely lopsided presentation favoring the bush/cheney administration, serving as one of the lead cheerleaders for the drive toward war in Iraq. There were precious few voices offered airtime or face time on "Meet the Press" AT ALL during those years. And he shilled for dubya's victories in 2000 and 2004. It was he who wore that bush/cheney campaign button into a big reception hosted by GE CEO Jack Welch, and he'd flash his jacket open to specific people to make sure they knew where his heart secretly belonged. And Jack Welch made a point of being IN the NBC Network Newsroom on Selection night and, many of us believe, did so to make sure his presence was CLEARLY felt all over the newsroom - by a room full of employees who knew painfully well which side Welch was betting on.

The way things were ramrodded through during the dubya years, and impeded during the Clinton years - was LED, at least at NBC News, by Tim Russert. He set the tone, as host and managing editor of "Meet the Press," which is still regarded as the longtime and highly-venerable news program of record on Sunday mornings. Its reputation was severely tarnished during the partisan Tim Russert years. I used to admire him, but as I watched his objectivity fade, my dislike for him and distrust of him only grew stronger.

Full disclosure, I got into the news business during the mid-70s when the FCC began to make it clear to America's radio and TV stations and networks that they better start hiring some women. I worked for some of the biggest local news stations and news departments, and at the network level at NBC News, ABC News, the RKO Radio Network, and a couple of brief bits for the Mutual Radio Network while it still existed.

Tim Russert was once a hero of mine. Unfortunately, that changed. Frankly, a LOT of those people I idolized and grew up wishing I'd someday be able to work with some of them turned out to be as guilty of bias and news malpractice as Tim Russert. Russert became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Chairman Jack Welch, of NBC's parent company, and did not do a thing that he knew would displease the big guy. Many of them were swept away into Bias-land during the Clinton years, with the pile-on and media takeover by the wrong wing and all its think tanks and propaganda campaigns and rewordings and re-meming, and the development of Pox Noise.

This was made possible by the dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine and Equal Time Provisions at the end of the reagan era, after "the Gipper" had spent his entire regime softening up America to the idea that government was something bad instead of something "of the people, by the people, and for the people" as an instrument for the common good. reagan got us all brainwashed into thinking regulations were bad and taxing the rich was worse, and that the poor were nothing but lazy moochers. His rightful heir, lo these many years later, is mitt wrongney, as we've seen. And as big business was unshackled from the frenzy of mergers and acquisitions - and the kind of slicky-boy ponzi schemes that wrongney himself pioneered at Bain Capital in the hedge fund heyday. By the time Clinton came along, the other shoe was forced to drop - with the restrictions on media ownership lifted. WHICH MEANT that any big conglomerate could own as many broadcast/media/cable/TV/radio properties in any one market as they wanted. No further restrictions. They crowded out all the mom and pop stations like the ones where I got my start, and sold eager CONservative legislators on the idea that more consolidated corporate ownership would ironically provide MORE consumer choices! What a crock of shit THAT was. We can all see the results of that crimping and pinching and "narrow-casting" as a handful of Goliaths can run the table because they own it all - and they have cluster managers now, one programmer or programming consultant overseeing maybe half-a-dozen stations (all playing pretty much the same damn thing, no personality DJ "clutter" and the same damn stale boring hits that you can hear on 20 other stations in the same town). When I was starting, it was ONE P.D. per station. ONE News Director per station. ONE Music Director per station. ONE Chief Engineer per station. There were also unions clearly delineating who did what. By the time I retired, the unions had been defanged, declawed, and skinned alive, and as stations merged, the layoffs of whole departments (for example, it might be 90% of the AM staff that got laid off and the FM staff would then have to double up on the work load - and for no additional pay).

Sorry - I could rant on about what happened - for many pages longer than this. I saw the mission of reporters and anchors and producers shift - from OBJECTIVELY covering the news, and getting to the bottom of the story, and asking follow-up questions at a press availability, and not gluing yourself to pre-determined questions during an interview - to not rocking the boat if it might piss off some sponsor or friend of the general manager. I saw people coming into the business who thought their job was merely to let Guy #A spout off his piece, and then Guy #B spout of his piece, and that was that and "well, we'll just have to leave it there..." RATHER THAN - "excuse me Guy #A but do you realize what you just said was NOT true?" No. They thought their job was just to show this side and that side, or read from their press releases, and then leave it at that. No analysis, no truth-digging, no fact-checking. I have heard, over and over, ad nauseam, versions of "it's not MY job as a journalist to sift through what they say or fact-check them..." THE HELL IT ISN'T!!!!!!! The result is, the falsehoods stay alive, unchallenged, unquestioned, and there's nothing added or inserted to check them in any way.

And as a result, we had a Presidential election completely STOLEN (some also argue with facts to back them up) that not only the 2000 election but the 2004 election was stolen as well. And we were ramrodded into an illegal, immoral war in Iraq - whose objectors and challengers and questioners were ignored and muzzled by the media. And that brings us back around to prominent news figures like Tim Russert. AND Tom Brokaw. AND Chris Wallace, AND Diane Sawyer, and George Stephanopulous, and Wolf Blitzer, and LEGIONS more who pay more attention to who's signing their massive paychecks and what those paymasters expect in exchange for those princely salaries. And they should be paying attention to THE NEWS. And even more critically important, THE TRUTH.

This is just what I saw, and the dots I connected, being neck-deep in it for quite awhile - maybe a quarter-century or so, give or take a few months.

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