Wednesday, November 5

"Gotcha" Journalism

So Barack Obama is President-elect of the United State of America. "We the People", millions of us, made it happen.

How about

Interesting that "the meed-ya" is/are being credited/blamed with influencing the outcome of the election.

It cracks me up, though, that the Republicans
as usualhave spent weeks demonizing the media. It's a tactic that goes back at least to "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy, was perfected by Richard Nixon, and updated by Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. The game plan is to demonize anyone who asks anything approaching a hard question. How Dare You Ask Such a Question? You're trying to practice 'Gotcha Journalism'." Picture Ronald Reagan walking towards the "Marine One" helicopter with a hand cupped behind an ear trying (but not very hard) to hear the shouted questions. And how many news conferences did George W. Bush hold?

Here's my take on it. If you're in a windowless room and look up at the digital clock on the wall and it says "3:00"
and if the Republicans say it's 3:00 a.m.—while the Democrats say it's 3:00's a reporter's job to go outside and see if it's dark or light!

A Republican like Karl Rove or Dick Cheney would say, "How
dare you question what I just said?"

(A conservative Republican would say, "The light will trickle down and dispel the darkness," but that's a different discussion.)

I first rubbed up against the "How Dare You" scenario in my first job in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a Mayor by the name of Bob Boelens. WOOD-TV had a city hall reporter back then (early 70s) by the name of Doris Jarrell. Doris believed she served the public best
exactly by practicing "gotcha." She figured she served best by pointing out contradictions (although I called them "lies") in what officials had to say. Hold 'em accountable!

Poor Bob Boelens. I don't remember the exact issue, but I
do remember that it was controversial and he had taken a seemingly off-the-wall approach to it. In an interview with Doris he said that he wasn't flying blind, that he had obtained advice from several experts before making up his mind.

A couple of weeks later, in front of city council (and TV cameras!) he went off on a bit of a rant that went something like this: "There are those in the media who want you to believe that I had outside advice on this issue. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and I resent the implication."

Doris played the sound bites that night,

Gotcha, Bob Boelens. Good job, Doris Jarrell.

And as the producer of the newscast it fell to me to answer viewer calls, like the one from the infuriated lady who said, "You're trying to make our beloved Mayor out to be a liar."

Being a smart-assed young kid my answer was, "Not
trying, ma'am, not trying!"

Seems to me we need more Doris Jarrells. Heck, I'll bet Doris would have asked for better evidence about weapons of mass destruction before America went to war against Iraq! In 2008 she would have asked more about the financial bailout before it was approved.

So we get a $700 billion war and a $700 billion bailout. You know, before too long that sort of spending could add up to real money!!!!!!!!!

Come to think of it, maybe we should stop asking tough questions: we'll only learn things we don't want to know!

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