MINDING THE MEDIA
By Alan Nathan
Published January 31, 2007
In February 2005, I did my fifth radio remote for the popular Annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU), at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.
In attendance on radio row were liberal host Al Franken of Air America to my left and conservative host Michael Medved of Salem Radio to my right. On the second day of this event, Mr. Medved invited Mr. Franken onto his show and the saloon fight began instantly.
On two separate occasions Mr. Franken jumped to his feet propelling the chair over to my side. I was live at the time so it was more practical to let it pass. Everyone within reach of Mr. Franken's voice understood his complaint (which on that day included the residents of Shanghai). He was raging about Mr. Medved allegedly "ambushing" him with some guest on the line. Jane Silk, a veteran broadcaster and my wife, told me during the break that Mr. Franken had knocked her out of his path when careening back to his own table.
Consequently I turned to him and said, "Mr. Franken, do you plan on returning to CPAC next year?"
"Well, yes maybe -- why?" he asked.
"If so, could you display a modicum of elevated civility?"
Confused he asked, "What do you mean?"
I answered, "Apparently you knocked my wife off-balance after your tirade with Michael."
Before a large group of onlookers he rose out of his chair (which on this occasion remained upright), walked over to her, candidly expressed his regret and apologized for the incident.
What I found most notable was his humility. Mr. Franken had been wired most of the day, but when confronted with himself under the scrutiny of a crowd, he seemed genuinely embarrassed and honestly contrite.
Thinking back on this exchange reminded me of how folks are more disciplined when there's a likelihood of being observed by those outside their own-cocooned circle. If however, they sense that they and their ilk are not to be subjected to such revelations, there's less motivation to be as responsible with their conduct, argument and agenda.
Thanks to the existing five-to-one ratio of liberals to conservatives in the news reporting media (as surveyed by the Pew Foundation in 2004), you can easily guess which side feels less accountable, as they're usually less confronted. Gone are the days when reporters demonstrated a greater allegiance to their vocation than they did their politics.
The iniquity isn't so much about party favoritism as it is about certain public charlatans becoming more dangerous. If the media's gate-keeping responsibilities are mostly swinging one way, how marginalized becomes their covenant with the public? How much less protected are we simply because culprit and correspondent belong to the same club?
Only the most anemic journalism surrounded President Clinton's former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger when he was bagged, tagged and dragged into court after stealing and destroying classified documents from the National Archives before the September 11 Commission could read them.
When voicing disapproval for Mr. Bush's 21,500 troop surge, Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy claimed on the Jan. 21 edition of NBC's "Meet the Press" that our diplomacy in the region is nonexistent and that we have a "refusal to talk to the countries that have a direct interest in this. None of this is tried."
Not once did host Tim Russert mention that the opposite had occurred just days before this interview. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had recently returned from a phenomenally successful (but absurdly under-reported) tour of the Middle East in which she was given dramatic support for the extra troops. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia all formally endorsed the plan.
Another glaring example of press bias is when the president fractures the Constitution but does so in a way that protects one of the media's own sacred cows -- immigration reform that puts protecting boarders on a par with pathways to citizenship and guest-worker programs.
Constitutional law mandates guarding our nation's boundary lines. Pathways to citizenship and guest-worker programs are proposals for pending legislative law. Implementing the greater authority that is already required cannot be contingent upon the weaker one that is not yet realized.
Most polls illustrate that Americans want neutrality in reporting. If our citizens are granted their collective wish, fewer offenders will enjoy the protective shield of hesitant reporting.