- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2001

On Media

Many habitual Bush-bashers are mending their ways this week. Journalists and news organizations once eager to pounce upon President Bush now step to the patriotic beat, unfurling banners of approval and applause.

Seven days after the attack, print and broadcast outlets are awash in red, white and blue and are showing a healthy preoccupation with the public good. Celebrity journalists wear flag pins on camera, headlines reinforce national unity, news weeklies offer a more manageable dose of endless information.

It has not always been thus in the short, terrible life of a story that has at times showcased judgment calls or speculations that eventually proved inappropriate or premature.

In the past few days, outraged viewers railed against ABC's Peter Jennings after he said the president was "hiding behind the CIA" and questioned the legality of Mr. Bush's decision to muster troops, implying the president had not been properly elected. ABC correspondent Ann Compton also infuriated viewers when she said "you can run, but you can't hide" after Air Force One was diverted last Tuesday for security reasons.

Yesterday, readers' letters in the Los Angeles Times called for the resignation or an apology from TV critic Howard Rosenberg, who took potshots at Mr. Bush in a Sept. 14 column, calling him stiff and boyish, suggesting the president should function as a "national anchorman."

Even an LosAngeles Times editorial writer took issue, writing, "For the record, please note that I was absent Thursday, when Friday's editorial was prepared criticizing President George W. Bush's leadership last week because he had not immediately 'deigned to visit' New York City, and I had nothing to do with it. If I could credibly apologize for something I didn't do, I would."

Mr. Rosenberg's normal column did not appear yesterday; he "took the day off," according to an L.A. Times spokesman.

Last week, Newsweek's Howard Fineman wrote that Mr. Bush "has yet to find a note of eloquence in his own voice." Mr. Fineman changed his tune, noting the president had become the man voters hoped for, and that "Bush passed his first tests, but like the medieval knight, he's only begun his quest — and ours — for security and a new architecture to preserve it."

Newsweek's cover yesterday proclaimed "God bless America."

Scripps Howard op-ed writer Dan Thomasson, who also initially criticized the president, came clean all together, writing: "I was wrong. Not only has this young president gotten his legs under him, he has convinced even his harshest critics that he has the stuff to lead the nation."

Meanwhile, CNN struggled to counter Internet-based rumors that last week's repetitive video footage of Afghans celebrating the terrorist attack were actually images left over from the 1991 Persian Gulf war. CNN's Eason Jordan denied the accusations.

At the same time, MSNBC also criticized CNN for airing what they called the first "exclusive" aerial view of the New York disaster site — obtained when a CNN cameraman rode on a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter. The Coast Guard later demanded that CNN retract the exclusivity claim, and share the footage with other news organizations.

"They may have used the equivalent of a white lie to get here," said MSNBC President Eric Sorenson of his network rival, "but they were very enterprising."

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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