Friday, September 29, 2006

Media: Quo Vadis David Broder?

Will Bunch and I have a lot in common. While Will has more hair than me and his desk is messier, the maestro of Attytood, one of the best newspaper blogs anywhere, and I share a quaintly old-fashioned work journalistic ethic: We research before we write, attempt to get all sides of a story, and when we're ready to put pen to paper, we write with, well . . . an attytood, as they say in Philadelphia.

Will, who sat near me in the Philadelphia Daily News newsroom before I got a brass parachute and took an early retirement, and I have something else in common:

We believe that David Broder, the so-called dean of American journalists and a man we both once admired, has lost his marbles and the quackery he's engaged in these days is all too typical of what passes for journalism in Washington.

This prompted Will to write an open letter to Broder. Herewith excerpts:
I am writing in response to your recent columns in The Washington Post embracing the make-believe "independence party" of an American political center that doesn't really much exist anymore -- except in your mind and the fantasies of a few like-minded D.C. pundit types . In one column, olumn, you managed to dismiss the ideas of millions of Americans who share little except great alarm at where America and its values have been heading the last six years, lumping them – us, actually – all together as simply "the vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers on the left."

I know you’ve heard back from a few of them. But you haven’t heard yet from someone like me. Like you, I am a newspaper reporter, and I share some of your core values, including a commitment to journalistic digging and hard work, and an unwillingness to accept the pat and partisan answers at face value.

And yet, I am also a blogger – professionally, and I guess by temperament. And when I see what is coming out of your hometown in 2006 -- ugly politics driven by fear, the chucking of the constitution and our deep-seated judicial principles such as the writ of habeas corpus – it can indeed make me very angry, so angry that there are times when, yes, I must sound “vituperative” on occasion.

I am writing to you to explain why that is.

Mad? Often. "Vituperative"? . . . sometimes, but "foul mouthed" never. . . .

[W]hat we used to call "a healthy dose of cynicism" eventually became toxic, for you and for so many of your "gang of 500" inside the Beltway. Somehow, exposing the lies of the system during the Watergate era, when you won a deserved Pulitzer, grew into benign acceptance that politics is pretty much a sport – a sport where, well, everybody lies.

And while you and your new lunch pals at the Palm knew you still had to expose the occasional lie, or at least get worked up about it, to maintain your journalistic credibility, you only went for the low-hanging fruit, the “objective lie,“ the DNA test on a blue dress from the Gap, not the elusive but ultimately false premises that would kill tens of thousands on a bloody war far from most Americans’ sight. Monica Lewinsky allowed you and your friends to prove that journalism was still about exposing . . . well, exposing something or other. . . .

[Y]our cynicism is degenerative disease, and it leads to paralysis. You were the dean overseeing the Great Game of American politics, and then some bad guys came along and changed all the rules, and you tried so very hard not to notice. Now that the unlawful nature of this presidency is becoming recognized by a majority, you are praying for a deus ex machina, this fictional “independence party” that will not just save America but most importantly save you, save you from having to make a choice.
More here.

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