The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Saturday, May 22, 2004
Objective journalism defined
Daniel Hallin's Uncensored War is, as I suspected, full of good things, and what I believe are called contemporary resonances. (I'd read the book before, but before the little exercise in autodidacticism on the media that has preoccupied the blog in recent months: the difference in understanding is striking - or, at least, appears so.)
Hallin helpfully provides (p68) a useful, concise definition of objective journalism, the governing delusion of the 'profession':
Independence Journalists should be independent of political commitments and free of "outside" pressures, including pressures from government and other political actors, advertisers and the news organization itself as an institution with political and economic interests.
Hallin illustrates  how these apparently transparently good principles were exploited by the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, to the extent that hundreds of thousands of US combat troops could be deployed on a patently dicey adventure without a public backlash.
I'll pull out one or two examples with eery parallels to the news manipulation of the Bush gang.
An illustration, to be going on with (p26): on January 15 1962, Tom Wicker of the Times asked JFK
Mr President, are American troops now in combat in Vietnam?
Kennedy looked at me - six feet away and slightly beneath his elevated lectern - as if he thought I might be crazy.
Substantially a lie, of course. Justified, Hallin says (p33), by a Clintonesque jesuitical quibble that, since US troops were not organised into combat units, they were not combat troops in the generally understood sense of the word.
And eminently successful: the question had been honed by
long and solemn deliberations around [James 'Scotty'] Reston's desk- but the bald negative ensured that the denial wasn't even a story in the Times!
The supposed exceptionalism of the contemptuous Bush attitude to the media (what one might call the Ken Auletta thesis) ought, it seems, to be taken with more than a pinch of salt...
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