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Monday, June 06, 2005

Nobody Ever Died Covering Don Rumsfeld but What If They Were About to Expose Bin Laden?

One of the MSM's most maddening foibles is pack journalism, which has been so vividly demonstrated repeatedly during the War on Terrorism. The most recent illustration is the aftermath of Newsweek's repudiation of its story about the Koran being flushed down a toilet in Guantanamo Bay by U.S. interrogators. The MSM has been obsessed with "proving" the Newsweek story was right after all.

Revelations about former FBI man Mark Felt being the Deep Throat of Watergate fame have fed those flames, if only because seeing Woodstein bloviating on the boob tube about the glories of bringing down Richard Nixon revives all the old juices.

But there are other views out there. Kevin Meyers is a Brit journo who has some penetrating observations about this and much else concerning the MSM here and throughout the West. Arthur Chrenkoff uses Meyers' comments as a starting point for additional observations that probably won't be very popular among MSM diehards, including this one:

"The government and its agencies, such as the military, are constantly targeted because they are, in effect, sitting ducks: they will take accusations and will answer them in a civil manner. Yes, there will be some stalling and cover-ups from time to time, but more often than not the authorities will respond and accommodate criticism.
"There is preciously little personal and physical risk for a journalist in attacking the powers that be - they won't kill, imprison, or intimidate in return - and the rewards, in terms of public adulation, work recognition, and professional advancement, are virtually unlimited."

I've known more than a few MSMers who certainly have the courage to go after a story that involves the potential of great personal harm or even death. Mike Hedges of The Houston Chronicle comes immediately to mind. And there are others, perhaps quite a few others.

But Chrenkoff's point deserves pondering even so. It is a myth that Joe Blow Journo ever risks losing life, job or family by taking on the local cops, the NEA or Enron. What is always risked, however, is the opprobrium of colleagues and superiors in the newsroom whenever a reporter or editor has the guts to stand against the pack's (typically liberal) instincts. We're not merely talking about nasty looks or the silence treatment, either, because promotions and awards may well become scarce.

Put another way, Don Rumsfeld - or the president of the local public schools union, the powerful mayor or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company - can get grouchy, he might even cut you off and not recognize you for questions for six months, maybe even more if you ask a really tough question.

But can you imagine how Osama Bin Laden would react, assuming he would ever consent to a news conference? Tragically, Daniel Pearl found out. The aftermath of Pearl's brutal murder has been quite unlike the reaction in 1976 to the blowing up of the Arizona Republic's Don Boiles. Journalists from all over the country converged and in a concentrated cooperative campaign without precedent in American journalism history, produced an investigative series that led to the eventual conviction of Boiles murderers.

We didn't see teams of MSMers headed to Pakistan to find Pearl's killers.