- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 13, 2005

End of a monopoly

“The Rathergate Report is a watershed event in American journalism not because it changes things on its own but because it makes unavoidably clear a change that has already occurred. And that is that the mainstream media’s monopoly on information is over,” Peggy Noonan writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“That is, the monopoly enjoyed by three big networks, a half-dozen big newspapers and a handful of weekly magazines from roughly 1950 to 2000 is done and gone, and something else is taking its place. That would be a media cacophony. But a cacophony in which the truth has a greater chance of making itself clearly heard,” Mrs. Noonan said.

“Is it annoying that the panel that issued the report did not find liberal bias in the preparation and airing of the Bush National Guard story? Yes, but only that. It’s not as if anyone has to be told. I hate to be cynical, and this is cynical, but the panel that produced the report was not being paid by CBS to find liberal bias. It was being paid to do the anatomy of a failure with emphasis on who did what wrong.

“It found fault with the anchorman, the producer and their overseers, a conclusion CBS likely welcomed because CBS has wanted to remove Dan Rather for a long time because of low ratings. Rathergate weakened his position, and CBS moved. Firing the producers and overseers allows them to say: We’ve turned the page, paid a price and put the story behind us. Also, if the report was to be taken seriously by the rest of the mainstream media, it could not allege liberal bias. The MSM [mainstream media] were not going to do headlines saying, ‘We’ve been busted!’

“Finally, one somehow gets the impression the writers of the report thought proof of bias would be found in memos saying, ‘Comrades, we move against the imperialistic Bush Regime at 0800.’ Which is not exactly how it works. In any case those memos were not found. But maybe the writers of the report thought someone else would write about the whole sticky issue of bias. Like bloggers, who the report tells us have ‘a conservative agenda.’ That will surprise Duncan ‘Atrios’ Black and Josh Marshall, but let it go.”

CBS’ black eye

“What’s the big problem at CBS News?” asks Van Gordon Sauter, former president of CBS News.

“Well, for one thing, it has no credibility. And no audience, no morale, no long-term emblematic anchorperson and no cohesive management structure. Outside of those annoyances, it shouldn’t be that hard to fix,” Mr. Sauter said in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.

“Personally, I have a great affection for CBS News, even though I was unceremoniously shown to the door there nearly 20 years ago in a tumultuous change of corporate management.

“But I stopped watching it some time ago. The unremitting liberal orientation finally became too much for me. I still check in, but less and less frequently. I increasingly drift to NBC News and Fox and MSNBC.

“This week, when CBS News announced that four employees would lose their jobs in connection with the George Bush National Guard story, I was struck by how the network had become representative of a far larger, far more troubling problem: A large swath of the society doesn’t trust the news media. And for many, it’s even stronger than that: They abhor the media and perceive it as an escalating threat to the society.

“If it’s not stopped, the erosion of a centrist organizing principle for the media will soon become a commercial issue. Partisans will increasingly seek their news from blogs and Web sites and advocacy publications. And the majority — those readers and viewers most comfortable in the center — will try to find something … in the center.”

New slogan

“Here’s the new Democratic Party slogan: We stand for nothing but victory,” Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi writes.

“Or, as Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the new chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the New York Times: ‘Some people argue about old Democrats and new Democrats. I’m a Vince Lombardi Democrat. Winning is everything.’

“Inspirational, isn’t it? That should lure those Red State voters to the Democrats’ side,” the columnist said.

“Emanuel, a former senior adviser in the Clinton administration, was chosen to direct the Democrats’ effort to recapture the House in the 2006 midterm elections by the House minority leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California.

“Pelosi is also encouraging former Rep. Tim Roemer of Indiana to seek to replace Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. Roemer, who is Catholic and anti-abortion, has a 94 percent rating from the national Right to Life Committee. Pelosi has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record, as rated by NARAL, a national organization devoted to a woman’s right to choose abortion.”

The columnist added: “Roemer as head of the DNC sounds like a desperate effort to figure out which way the wind is blowing, long after the 2004 wind blew the Democrats away.”

Shrum moves on

Democrat Bob Shrum, who for 30 years has been one of his party’s most influential strategists, is quitting politics.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Mr. Shrum, who is moving to New York to be a senior fellow at New York University, was through with political consulting.

“I wanted to reflect on what I’ve done, not just keep doing it,” he said.

Mr. Shrum played key roles in eight losing Democratic presidential campaigns and two dozen winning Senate races. In his last job, as a top adviser to Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, he was criticized for failing to help Mr. Kerry develop a clear, consistent message.

Mr. Shrum made his reputation in 1980 by drafting the widely praised speech Sen. Edward M. Kennedy gave to the Democratic National Convention after he failed to wrest the presidential nomination from Jimmy Carter, United Press International reports.

Mr. Shrum said he still intended to dispense political advice, but on his own time.

Tale of two parties

“They say it ain’t so, but it sure looks like there’s a wee bit of one-upmanship about the Bush inauguration going on between two New Yorkers who may harbor presidential dreams of their own — Rudy Giuliani and Gov. [George] Pataki,” the New York Post’s Deborah Orin writes.

“Pataki aides say they’ve already gotten 1,300 RSVPs to his inaugural parade-watching party at an ESPN Zone in Washington next week.

“Team Pataki says a few senators — Norm Coleman (Minnesota) and Lamar Alexander (Tennessee) — plus at least four governors and a few administration officials are stopping by.

“Giuliani’s party is smaller — or if you prefer, more exclusive — with just 70 people due at the Hotel Washington.

“On the other hand, Giuliani’s party is right on the parade route, just around the corner from the reviewing stands in front of the White House. Pataki’s isn’t on the parade route at all — it’s a block away.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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