One thing is certain; the press will always be accused of slanting, ignoring, pandering and plagiarizing. Depending on who’s side you are on, it can be blatant or it can be seemingly innocuous. It’s been that way ever since we had a press, ever since there was such a thing as passing on information from one person to another.
In recent years the Press has been accused of being a hotbed of radical left-wing thought – pundits and alarmists spit out the mantra “Liberal Press” as a blanket denunciation of all things informative. The press has been branded as Fake, a hotbed of lies, a dynasty of smears. A caution to “not believe what you read or hear” has become a buzzword to some, particularly in Washington and to those in high places who should know better but sadly, don’t.
If only it actually were fake news – if only those news gathering organizations labeled as fake actually conspired to misinform, to dumb-down, to deceive – it would all be so easy to quietly ignore the falsehoods, celebrate the trivial and pay homage to the hysterics. But we live in a world where debunking and fact-checking have become the norm and we are blinded by click-bait and fooled by come-ons, and we sometimes just feel overwhelmed and tune out.
But keep in mind – it’s always been this way. As is evidenced by this episode of the NPR series Options from 1977. Then presenter for All Things Considered and Morning Edition Bob Edwards interviews two figures in the press; CBS’ Daniel Schorr and Washington Post correspondent Chalmers Roberts on where the press was in 1977.
The Washington Post began life in 1877, and is the longest surviving newspaper in Washington D.C. – having weathered numerous scandals, political upheavals and financial nightmares. It withstood numerous Presidential blunders throughout that entire time; it’s most recent was Watergate. The question was how to maintain integrity in an atmosphere prone to spin and fabrication – sometimes it was harrowing.
Same with broadcasting, as was evidenced by the interview with Daniel Schorr from CBS News. Schorr was a correspondent who was in the middle of numerous big events – not the least being his boss, William S. Paley a staunch Republican who sought to gain credibility via his media empire and in turn use his status to try and become a major player in the politics of Washington.
It’s a fascinating account of how the Media, as we know it, is not necessarily the Media as it is in reality. Certainly not now. I’m not so sure we would be willing to look back at the Watergate era with the degree of nostalgic fondness that we have cultivated in recent months for the Bush or Clinton or Reagan years. In some ways it seems almost idyllic that newspaper reporters and broadcast anchors would actively engage in exposing a corrupt Presidency as it had for Richard Nixon and were willing to make all kinds of sacrifices in order to achieve that end result. Maybe we’ve become too jaded to care now – too overwhelmed with constantly changing breaking stories to actually notice.
I don’t think there’s any doubt in anyone’s mind that The Fourth Estate is in grave danger – how the Press have been ridiculed and de-fanged over the years; more so recently.
But to get an idea of where the Press were in 1977, here is that episode of Options as it was broadcast on November 25, 1977 featuring interviews with Chalmers Roberts Of The Washington Post and Daniel Schorr, formerly of CBS News.