This week, in honor of President's day, they released a 30th aniversary DVD edition of "All the President's Men." That Watergatge was one of the highpoints of liberalism, that it pulled a mask of the republican party and showed Nixon to be every bit as evil as he had been portrayed in the so called "liberal press," (and by that I don't mean main stream press--I mean the alternative weeklies and leftist magazines--well, and Doonsbury: "Guilty, guilty, guilty!"). What I find interesting about All the President's Men in this context is what it says about journalism. 1976 (like 2005) was one of the best years ever for movies. Great directors tackled serious issues and great, serious films were nominated for academy awards. It is important, I think, that "All the President's Men" came out the same year as "Network." "All the President's Men" showed journalism at its absolute finest: dedicated reporters going after a story of national importance against dificult obstacles and uncovering coruption at the highest level of government. "Network" showed where we were headed, accurately predicting the rise of tabloid TV journalism and news as entertainment.
"All the President's Men" is worth looking at again, because of how weak and ineffectual the news media has been since the Iraq war started. The President has never been seriously challenged in an interview, and with the exception of Abu Grahib, stories about the Iraq war have mostly been slow pitch soft ball coverage. That began to change during the campaign, but really only took off after Bush won election--which is strange in itself. But now it's different. The administration has been hammered over an admittedly stupid story about Cheney shooting someone accidentally while bird hunting. That's a side show, really. But with this story about a company from the United Arab Emerites buying control of several of America's biggest ports, the news media seems to be having some effect on President Bush. Coverage of this is a disaster for the president, and members of his own party are feeling the heat. Even Sean Hanity--among the stupidest and most strident talking heads at Fox, who is allways pro Bush in his fair and ballanced way, has siad this is a disasterous mistake. Journalism is rising to the task and asking important questions on an important issue. Who'd have thought in this day and age?
On the other side of the scale you have KGO 7 in San Francisco, my favorite news cast in my favorite city--the one which reflects my own political views most closely, the city where I feel most at home--going after an activity I support, open field coursing. Yes, it's just a bunch of liberal city folks going after a rural tradition, just like when Fox hunting went down in England. But that always is a difficult mixture of liberal arogance (to please my mother I'll throw that in) uninformed knee jerking and a real clash of basic core values. City dwellers who call hunting--even coursing--"inhumane" don't know anything about hunting, coursing, life or death. To say they are squeamish is only part of the problem. They are ignorant as well. The story on KGO was obviously meant as a hit piece. Yes, they interviewed a number of greyhound owners who support open field coursing, but every time one of them said something they showed a rebutal interview, framing the argument in support of open field coursing as misguided and the people as cruel. They never once discussed its history as one of the oldest forms of hunting, or of the greyhound as the oldest domesticated dog breed, which existed strictly to hunt by sight. They don'tmention at all St. Thomas Moore, Queen Elizabeth I, or any of the other figures in history who loved coursing. They've likely never even heard of Gaston Phoebus. They ignore completely the traditions of coursing in America, and that the greatest American conservationist, Teddy Roosevelt, loved to course greyhounds. It would be easy to reply to the counter arguments they showed with just a bit of knowledge, but that wasn't KGO's purpose. You see, they are muckrakers. They see it as their job to be "crusading journalists" in the mold of Woodward and Bernstein, and they had a clear agenda--as clear an agenda as Sean Hanity (and more of one then Woodward and Bernstein, who it still seems after all these years just wanted to get the story out). So it raises the problem of advocacy in journalism yet again. When does someone cross the line into advocacy? Hanity lives on the far side of the line, trumpets the fact and makes no appologies. Woodward and Bernstein were after a story that was devestating to the president. And KGO? They are tabloid on the back side, I guess. Liberal tabloid, a kind of anti-Fox (or pro Fox, once they go after fox hunting, which ahs got to be next). Judging from the outsry it is likely that once again the city folk will be allowed to piss upon country living, and that open field coursing will be banned (then falconry, fox hunting, and gun huniting I'm sure). Sometimes my own people (liberals) really piss me off. But in the end I can only say the same thing I always say:
Fucking PETA Nazis.