Jenna Maroney: “You’ve created two Lizzes: Regular Liz and Performer Liz. You’ve got to lie to her, coddle her, protect her from the real world.”
Jack Donaghy: “I get it — treat her like The New York Times treats its readers!”
— NBC’s “30 Rock”
Sometimes, the nation’s reporters perform their duties to the highest degree: They root out corruption, uncover scandal, speak truth to power.
But increasingly, America’s “journalists” are falling well short of what the Founders envisioned when they sought to ensure a democracy kept honest by a free and vibrant press.
It’s no surprise when outlets such as MSNBC and PBS simply toe the administration’s line (although it should be), and once-grand institutions like The New York Times are years past making any pretense that it’s not just a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party.
Yet what is ever more evident each passing year is the breadth of the press corps’ shortcomings. Now, there seem to be very few news organizations that care about that “free and vibrant press.”
Take Jana Winter. She is a Fox News reporter who broke a major story after James Holmes went on a shooting spree last summer at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, killing 12. Days after the attack, she reported that the “Joker” had sent a notebook to a psychiatrist before the shootings, “full of details about how he was going to kill people.”
Her sources: two unnamed law enforcement officials. But in recent days, as the case makes its way through the courts, lawyers for Mr. Holmes have demanded that she disclose their identities, arguing that they violated a court order restricting public access to information.
In past cases, media outlets have banded together: Often, a handful join in legal filings seeking to prevent such disclosure, understanding that losing one case in one state has a detrimental effect in all cases across America.
Miss Winter’s story was published in July. The New York Times only weighed in last week after conservative news outlets noted the paper’s silence. Former Times reporter Judith Miller, once jailed for 85 days for refusing to divulge sources, said if Miss Winter “worked for mainstream newspapers or CNN, I think the case would have been covered. There’s a certain reluctance because it’s Fox News.”
Or take the illegal bugging scandal last week of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. A group of campaign workers and aides were illegally taped during a strategy session on potential foe Ashley Judd — in which they discussed (gasp!) using the singer’s own words against her.
The Washington Post, breakers of the world’s most famous bugging story, pooh-poohed the story, calling the illegal tape “audio gold” and “a scoop.” The paper said Mother Jones reporter David Corn “unearthed the audiotape of a private meeting.” Unearthed? He did nothing but pick up the phone when a source called to offer an illegal recording.
Rush Limbaugh accurately predicted that the media would be far more interested in the tape’s contents than how the recording was obtained. Right on cue, liberal sniveler David Weigel wrote a story in Slate headlined: “Mitch McConnell Won’t Stop Saying That the Left Was ‘Bugging’ His Campaign Office.”