- - Sunday, February 25, 2018


Once upon a time in a land now far away, newspapermen — this was before they promoted themselves to “journalists” — relished mixing it up with their critics.

Newspaper reporters were more afraid of their editors, particularly the old guy behind the City Desk, in a green celluloid eyeshade and chewing on an unlit cigar, forever looking for nits to pick, than they were of any tormentor in Readerland. There were no snowflakes in the newsroom, and if one somehow slipped in over the transom, a single glare from under the green eyeshade would have melted him in a New York minute.

Hand-to-hand combat was the name of the game, and everybody played it. Bashing the press has always been fun, particularly for politicians, and both reporters and politicians usually gave as good as they got. If you were buying ink by the barrel, you knew you might not win every fight but everyone knew that was the way to bet. Then the gentlemen of the press (and that included the ladies) went uptown, called themselves “the media,” and the trade hasn’t been the same since.

The old guy in the green eyeshade is long gone to the great City Room in the sky (and to the seedy bar across the alley), leaving journalists free to aspire to be snowflakes, thinking themselves unique, which is bad enough, and easily melted, which is worse. Criticism hurts, and nobody wants to feel their pain.

Carl Bernstein, a hero of the Watergate epic and an authentic old-time newspaperman, knows better, but even he wants a time-out in the media wars. Carl recently told CNN, which is Snowflake Central, that by comparison to everybody else the media is pretty much perfect. Only a demagogue would say otherwise. “We are in a hot-house cold civil war atmosphere,” he said, “and the press and attacking the press is the basic element that too many demagogues in our culture have used to whip up this cold civil war, and especially to appeal to the base of the president of the United States

“The media, generally speaking, the mainstream media, makes far fewer errors than most institutions in our culture, because we indeed are in the business of trying not to make errors. And we have all kinds of procedures in place to keep us from making those errors. Compare us to Wall Street. Compare us to banking. Compare us to the Congress of the United States. Compare us to almost any institution and we make fewer errors.”

Send that man a crying towel. Sad, as a certain politician of our acquaintance might say.

The media took a beating (though not a hard one) last week in Washington at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Fox News on steroids, when its very first panel was seated to discuss “An Affair to Remember: How the Far Left and the Mainstream Media Got in Bed Together.” This was the tint and tone of the talk for the rest of the conference, and at the end of the festivities both press and media felt entitled to complain that they “can’t get no satisfaction.” Dana Loesch of the National Rifle Association told the reporters present that they “love” massacres because “crying white mothers are ratings gold.” This is unfair, because the press, like everyone else, is at the mercy of events that no one controls. But it is true that nobody wants to read about the plane that arrives on time, the trigger that goes unpulled, or the ship that doesn’t sink.

What those old-time newspapermen could tell the snowflakes of the millennial generation is that everybody has his own troubles and nobody wants to hear about the troubles of someone else, particularly someone who gets to attend wars, fires and shootings for a living. “Life is tough,” observed Ring Lardner, a sportswriter, playwright and columnist who thrived in that earlier era and looked at life as a side dish he hadn’t ordered. “Three out of three people die,” he said, “so shut up and deal.”


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