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Helen Thomas: A symbol of what is wrong with the media today

She was in 2002, when she made this speech. [And yes, she's still with us.]

From MIT:

Veteran journalist Helen Thomas brought the grit and whir of a White House press conference to Bartos Theater on Monday evening, speaking with passion about the media's role in a democracy whose leaders seem eager for war.

Actually, the 82-year-old former United Press International reporter didn't just speak: she surged into her topic, giving everyone present an immediate sense of the grumpy wit and fierce precision that gave her reporting on American presidents Kennedy through Bush II such a competitive and lasting edge.

"I censored myself for 50 years when I was a reporter," said Thomas, who is now a columnist for Hearst News Service. "Now I wake up and ask myself, 'Who do I hate today?'"

I'm not a reporter, just a blogger, but I don't go in search of a story based on "hate". I don't even hate Cindy Sheehan. Or Bill Clinton. Or Paul Martin. Or Jack Layton.

If I had to admit to hating something, it's sloppy thinking, and my observation (probably slanted) is that the left has more than its fair share of sloppy thinkers than the right. I think that makes sense, because the left is about goals, while the right is about process. For instance, the right is about the process of capitalism, and if some people get rich, and some don't, well, that's the way it works. The left is about the goal of economic equitability, so if capitalism doesn't result in the equitable distribution of wealth (by someone's personal standards), then start arbitrarily moving money around with taxes and social programs.

But that's logic. It's not hate. Helen Thomas is all about hate.

And she wants to teach that hate to the next generation:

Asked to advise young journalists, Thomas pounced. "Remind the politicians you interview that you pay them, that they are public servants. Remember every question is legitimate. And don't give up. There's always a leak. There's always someone who's trying to save the country," she said.

Implicit in her statement is that whoever you are interviewing, whoever is willing to speak on camera, is at odds with the person "trying to save the country".

That person, the one your are interviewing, should be hated as well.

What Helen Thomas and her kind don't get is that if I was a government official, elected or otherwise, and I knew that she hated me, why would I want to talk to her? If I was compelled to give an interview, why would I provide anything but the most bland answers possible?

And why, for heaven's sake, would I want to help her out with a story? She hates me. Well, I guess I should hate her too.

The Canadian press has the same problem. I wrote about that in July:

CTV political reporter Mike Duffy shares this anecdote:

But Duffy admits a Liberal bias at some media outlets makes it difficult for Harper and the Conservatives to get their message out.

“I’ve just been speaking to a couple of young journalists and I was shocked,” he said.

“One young journalist in New Brunswick said to me, ‘when I see Stephen Harper I see the enemy.’ It’s not journalists’ place to have enemies.”

His shock is almost comical. Mike Duffy has been around. He knows of Helen Thomas. He hears what reporters on both sides of the border say when they are not in front of a microphone. The media, and in particular, the press corps, hates conservatism.

They don't disagree with it.

They don't have concerns about how it is implemented.

They don't have misgivings or doubts.

They hate it. And anyone who supports it. And anyone who helps implement it.

They will use whatever means they can to telegraph that hate into their reporting, being subtle since many editors don't think the way they do, and certainly far fewer publishers. Not to mention the readership.

So they are crafty and secretive, and it only rarely do we see the true motivations behind them, like with the speech by Helen Thomas.

The press is often called the fourth estate. When I read things like this, I wonder if they are better refered to as the fifth column.

Ironically, the term "fifth column", first used by General Emilio Mola during the Spanish Civil War to refer to sympathizers inside Madrid who were aiding the four columns of troops attacking the city from the outside, was popularized by a member of the fourth estate, Ernest Hemingway.

[Captain Ed has an example of reporters for a major media source that "don't like objective data for their news reporting on recruitment". I can only surmise they hate the military.]

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