OVER THE YEARS, we've encountered countless assaults on the media, including the shopworn sniffy censures of a "liberal" press. That the media is primarily owned by corporate America with strong Republican tendencies seemed not to convince critics that day-to-day journalism wasn't living in the guest quarters at the Kremlin. As a survivor of a half-century in the field, I have some nasty red-baiting letters in my files to prove that I know what I am talking about.
As the reach in content of the local media declines, there can be a lot to complain about. The harsh events that seize the world have been largely marginalized in the eager commitment to "local" news - which is OK to a certain point, but is hardly inclusive at that. Meantime, huge one-day feature stories (with ample photos) that could be produced in half the size abound. But they do fill space. Except for the comics, humor is scarce - a fact that John S.Knight lamented even in his day. You can't count the artificial Romney-like ha-ha's that pass for having a Good Evening in America on the local TV news programs. Such feel-good canned cheerfulness has long been embedded in hometown TV's school- yard servings to its audiences, and is there anybody who will volunteer to tell me why?
So, even for a First Amendment guy, it seems we have at least reached a worthy new level for the state of journalism (a word that is seldom mentioned anymore) when a parliamentary committee probing the phone-hacking scandal in Britain asserted that Rupert Murdoch was "not a fit-person" to run a mammoth media empire.
Wow! The committee declared that Murdoch and his son James showed no interest in unraveling the ugly underhanded affair. When the committee's report came out, it could not have been Morning in America for Fox News, which is a prominent member of the Murdoch colossus and well documented for its perverse manner of presenting its news commentary.
As for a repentant Murdoch, he confessed: "We certainly should have acted more quickly and aggressively in uncovering wrongdoing. There is no easy way around this but I am proud to say that we have been working hard to put things right."
But conservatives being conservatives these days, Murdoch's admission of his NewsCorp's "wrongdoing" wasn't good enough for the dissenting chairman on the committee, Philip Davies, a conservative who found the report to be "ludicrous." Other conservatives accused the political opposition of cheap tricks. (Fortunately, in England, they have yet to blame President Obama for any of this. ) The Davies response, of course, leaves him little wiggle room on the nature of confessed wrongdoing with the biggest conservative gorilla in the mix, Rupert Murdoch himself.