Adnan Hajj, Katie Couric And The Anchoress
August 8, 2006
What do Adnan Hajj and Katie Couric have in common?
Adnan Hajj manipulates photos to press a certain agenda. Katie Couric manipulates truth so that her agenda might be brought to the fore.
They both claim to be journalists and they both have been employed by major media media companies that have made agenda, rather than news gathering and reporting as their priority. There is no other explanation for their respective transgressions.
While it remains true that Adnan Hajj used Reuters as the outlet for his agenda, CBS has in many ways, was no less guilty when it was faced with fraud. The Rather debacle would have gone away, had CBS backed away the moment the documents came into question. Instead, they assumed a fortress mentality and defended the material they had to know was phony after a few days. Both Rather and Mapes could have been told to stay quiet- instead, they eventually assumed the position that the fraud was irrelevant- it didn’t matter if the documents were lies, it didn’t matter where the documents came from. What was important was that Mr Bush was guilty. It was Mary Mapes story- and Mary Mapes wasn’t going to be denied- even if that meant fudging a bit to in an attempt to discredit the President of the United States of America. Even now, after the fact, Ms Mapes would have you believe that she is the victim, a moral waif abandoned.
In A Few Thoughts On The Eve Of Couric, The Anchoress has written a post that needs to be a part of every civics class, every year. She starts her post deliberately and methodically, recognizing and crediting much of the blogosphere and the new media. Then, with a firm grasp of reality, she notes:
However, I also recognise that broadcast news is not going to go away. Up until the moment the levees of New Orleans broke and the press completely drowned its credibility in self-indulgent hysteria I would have told you that broadcast journalists were unbeatable when it came to breaking news. They certainly handled the attacks of 9/11/01 – and the immediate aftermath – with sound professionalism that did service to the nation and justified the public’s trust in the craft of journalism and the credibility of reporters.
She goes on to think out loud if you will, and in doing so, gives voice to what many have felt but could not articulate.
Something happened after that, though, and I have often wondered if the devolution of the press in general and the mainstream broadcast media in particular didn’t have to do with the fact that a year after 9/11, President Bush’s poll numbers were still in the stratosphere. I began noticing that his more visionary speeches, such as his commencement address at West Point and this one at Whitehall went under-covered, with major networks actually cutting away from Whitehall in mid-speech, and (C-Span never replaying it), and I thought that was pretty interesting – and troubling. Broadcast media’s coverage of all things regarding Bush, the War on Terror and the issue of WMD’s underwent remarkable changes between the years 2002 and 2006, particularly re WMD, which the press suddenly seemed content to pretend no one had ever mentioned, prior to President Bush.
News delivery is now being fueled by emotionalism, which has gummed up a powerful engine. Things have gotten so far out of hand that broadcast media are now occasionally admitting that they are not even in control of some of what we’re seeing.
The great American Fifth Estate is no longer being defined by the likes of Woodward and Berstein’s outstanding- and triple verified- work . News organizations are now defined by likes of Eason Jordan, admitting that CNN coverage in Iraq was compromised and in an outright lie, the same Eason Jordan denied he made the outrageous accusation that American troops deliberately targeted journalists for death in Iraq- until he was informed the remarks were taped. News organizations today have also come to be defined as ‘deaf, dumb and blind,’ when it comes to policing their own. Is that a fair assessment? Perhaps, or perhaps not. In the eyes of the public, however, the perceptions are clear.
The ‘blue wall,’ that goes up around cops accused of misdeed is real, indeed. It is also that there is no ‘blue wall’ when the accused cop crosses a line. The cop who turns a blond eye to a free lunch at the deli will most assuredly not turn a blind eye on other cops who rape, abuse children or prey on the helpless.
In the world of journalism today, unless caught red handed manipulating or distorting the truth, media has nothing to say. That may not be perceived as truth in the newsrooms across America, but it sure is perceived as true in living rooms across America.
The Anchoress goes on to note,
So…and for God’s sake, I can’t believe I’m writing it…I am actually looking at Katie Couric and hoping that somehow she…(SHE, egad!) might be enjoined to undertake the huge and heroic task of recovering the credibility and respectability of the press, of fomenting a kind of rehabilitation of the craft. It would be a noble endeavor, and I have no reason at all to believe she’s capable of it…
I’m really hoping that somewhere inside all of the “glam and gloss of Katie” there is that quality of strength and independence (like biting on a piece of tinfoil) that works for something beyond mere “success” – something like restoration and recovery.
I have every reason to believe this will not happen. I have read more than I care to about Couric’s “listening tour” (made up of “select” opiners) and what it “taught” her and I’ve come away thinking she is spouting the most obvious sort of doublespeak, that can be taken one way on the surface and an entirely different way beneath it. I’m seeing “I went on a listening tour among select people, and they told me that they want me to explain everything to them…”
To John Q Public, Couric’s ‘tour’ was no more than a media event- and an insurance policy. Couric and her handlers will not make the same mistake Mary Mapes and Dan Rather made. Couric wants to be perceived as coming from the ranks of news consumers, as opposed to coming from the ranks of highly paid TV personalities. Nothing CBS can do will change the way Katie Couric is perceived. When the inevitably low news ratings will be published, a new haircut won’t cut it like it does on network Morning variety shows (that is after all, what they are- a place where ‘anchors’ pretend to belong in the thick of things everywhere and all the time. Sort of ‘The East Enders’ on steroids).
The Anchoress offers up the only recipe for a CBS win with Katie Couric- a return to real journalism. Katie Couric has the opportunity to join the long and illustrious list of journalists that came in through the back door, without the ‘right’ credentials. If she can push back the agendistas, hacks and Starbucked-buzzed politically correct and feeling types (walking and talking emoticons), she can light a fire.
OK, back to reality. Will that happen? Probably not. The Anchoress doesn’t think so, either.
What I am getting is that the CBS Evening News is going to commit to even more aggressively “instructing” us rather than simply giving information…
While she’s busy providing “context and perspective” is she going to review… I highly doubt it, and that’s a damn shame – because frankly THAT would provide some much needed context and clarity.
The Anchoress is tired- as well are:
I want to give Couric a chance – but I do not want her instruction. I don’t want anyone “explaining it all” to me.
Americas are – by and large – pretty well-educated and sensible. Give us the facts and we can put things together for ourselves, but give us real facts, not “frames,” “memes” or “narratives.” Give us real background, not carefully plucked and edited pieces of history. If there must be analysis (and most times there really needn’t be) make it go beyond all the favorite cocktail-party talking-heads spewing the same narrow (and stultifyingly predictable) view. Really, is Doris Kearns Goodwin ever going to say anything that surprises anyone? Is Russert? Is David Gergen? Is Andrea Mitchell? It’s all so tired and none of them stray from the script – they even use the same words, trying desperately to convince us that things need “gravitas” that things are a “quagmire” that things are “paradigms” that things are “archtypes” or whatever the new word for the week is, every stinking week - they can’t all be thinking the same damn thing, all the time, can they?
Will Katie Couric become a kind of Adnan Hajj, manipulating what we see and hear?
When Katie Couric leaves CBS News, she will be none the worse for wear and whole lot richer.
CBS News, on the other hand, will be like Reuters, in denial and nurturing the same delusions- that they are world class news organizations, dedicated to their professions.
You know, like aging whores who believe that with a bit of makeup and a push up bra, they can compete with younger girls out there.
The fountain of youth, the tonic that will forever keep CBS News and Reuters young and relevant, is journalism and honest reporting.
Read The Anchoress- and think about it.