Your show "Why America Hates the Press" was a joke. It should have been
entitled "Why James Fallows Hates the Press." The show did not really
examine what average Americans think about the press, it was merely an
elaboration of the James Fallows thesis.
There is something to be said for his critique of journalists getting paid
to before business or lobbying groups. However, I think that multimillion
dollar stars like Tom Brokaw looking down their noses at the outside work of
$50,000-100,000 journalists was pretty sleazy.
In discussing TV punditry no reference was made to their origin in print
journalism. For decades reporters aspired to become columnists. Arthur
Krock, James Reston, and Joseph Alsop traded on insider information and
disinformation for decades. That print columnists or pundits like Jack
Germond, Robert Novack, or George Will moved to TV is just not surprising or
scandalous. George Will began his TV career as a "conservative" commentator;
for someone like Christopher Hitchens to express shock at Will's partisanship
was especially hypocritical.
What is even more dishonest is that so many regular reporters of supposedly
main-stream, objective publications spout their political biases on TV and
then insist that these prejudices do not influence their reporting. The
irony is that you trashed relatively moderate and circumspect commentators
like Steve and Cokie Roberts while ignoring clear left-liberal ideologues
like Al Hunt, Margaret Carlson, and Eleanor Clift. Actually there is nothing
ironic about it, that was your intent.
In discussing whether Washington journalists are out of touch, you only
talked about money and nannies. No mention was made that poll after poll
shows that the media elite have very different social, cultural, and
political values than the rest of America. American views on homosexuality,
abortion, marriage, crime, and economics are much more diverse than the
media. Only 3% of the media elite identify themselves as conservative, while
at least 30% of Americans identify themselves as such.
This leads me to my final point. Fallows' real complaint is that the
explosion of TV punditry has exposed the political biases and predilections
of the media elite. His real purpose is to restore journalistic credibility
by once again obscuring and disguising its liberal biases behind a facade of
"objectivity" and feigned "humility." Americans hate the press because we
see, daily, dramatic differences between what is presented on TV or in the
newspaper and what we experience in our lives. We want to get facts and all
we get spin. Yes, we see the media as rich and arrogant, but we also see it
as slanted and lazy. Your show was just more spin.
I want to pay you a high compliment for your show on the hypocrisy of the press. I
searching for a long time a way of describing my feelings of loathing for the
(most anyway). I have, for a long time, been blaming the "liberal press bias" that
me so. But, (as only one example) seeing Newt and Billy boy in the same room cozying
up to the
likes of the Washington Press Corps made me re-evaluate my opinion, not to mention
to want to
gag! And I was aghast about the George Will revelation (to me at least). I have long
been a (more
or less) fan of Mr. Will, but now, it seems, I should take a more jaundiced look at
the whole lot
Being something of a political junkie, and mega-consumer of news talk shows, I admit
prey to shows like The McLaughlin Group and others, but not any longer. I
that what the press has been criticizing (namely the revolving door), they had been
that booty all along as well. What WHORES they are.
I found your piece fair, even if a bit self serving (in terms of the press becoming
YET AGAIN). I want to close by saying that I will now start watching Frontline every
it's on) instead of what I ordinarily watch on Tuesday nights at the same time,
NBC. Your show about Bill Clinton and Bob Dole got me hooked, and this week's show
reeled me in.
While I could certainly identify with the sentiments expressed in the title of your
program, I was most unpleasantly surprised by the response of many of the reporters
interviewed for the piece. While they were slightly more practaced at denial than
the average person, the members of the press did very poorly at addressing these
issues in a forthright and sober manner. Do they actually think that people will
buy their shrugging and finger pointing?
I've heard it said that freedom of the press is for those who own one and that
jounalistic self criticism is an exercise in pundits whipping their colleagues
with feathers,thus it was a surprise and pleasure to watch Frontline's " Why
America Hates the Press " which addressed issues of crassness,elitism and
class in the Media.Democracy in America is in jeopardy when debate
amoung the financial,political and cultural elite is purported to be "the voice of
the people" and this is unchallanged by a fat and contented "lap dog"
mainstream press. If the media fails in this responsibility, it is viewed as "part
of the problem" and should not be surprised that the powerless in this country
view it with mistrust and contempt.
West New York,N.J.
Just finished watching the captioned, and you have at least the start of the
answer, but you need to go much farther. Yes, we, the public, do, indeed
consider most of the mainstream press elitist, condescending, high-priced
prostitutes. However, even more so, are we tired of the talking heads
impressing their own agenda over current events. That fact is reflected in
the steadily-dropping ratings of the national news television shows. I, for
one, absolutely refuse to watch such trash as The McLaughlin Group or The
Capitol Gang or Meet the Press. I am so fed up with the left-leaning agenda
of the major network news organizations that I, along with more each day,
avoid watching them. I refuse to watch Sam Donaldson, I avoid watching Dan
Rather, and Tom Brokaw I watch with a very jaundiced eye.
More and more I am
forced to rely on the written page and radio. I read my local paper cover to
cover, and strain the news in there carefully to filter out the bias. My car
radio rarely is taken off talk radio programs anymore, and I am in the car a
lot. We acquired Fox News only recently, and there seems to be a conspiracy
to keep people from watching it. The newspaper reported that it would be
carried on our local cable, but has not listed it in the television guide,
nor is it listed among the station guide channels. Very interesting. CNN,
C-SPAN, and The Weather Channel are listed, but Fox News is not.
I found it
this week, only by channel-surfing until I located it. I have been able to
watch it for only a few hours so far, but, to date, it appears they are
simply reporting the news, without troubling to explain to us poor, benighted
heathens what the news is supposed to mean, and what the political
ramifications are. How odd! How are we supposed to know what it means
without a talking head talking down to us with his spin? My, my! If they
continue to report the news in this fashion, I might have to ignore the major
networks altogether! I think your titile was perhaps not emphatic enough.
"Why America Hates the Press" should perhaps be, instead, "Why America
Despises the Press."
Your critics of the weekend political shows missed one
key point; unlike most exclusively "print" reporters, the
insiders on these shows don't conceal or camoflage their
politics while mixing facts and opinion the to suit their
The public started to lose respect for the press long ago
when reporting of the facts was abandoned by journalists in
favor of personal crusades to convert we poor barbarians
to their viewpoints by judicious filtering of the news.
Perhaps some of us see more honesty in those who admit
they're in it for the money than we do in the elitists
like ex-Carter staffer Mr. Fallows who would have us think
he leaves his personal views at the door when he makes
Thank you for yet another courageous examination of what was, likely, a
most difficult subject. Your examination, while somewhat "directed", was a
breath of fresh air.
I would guess that most self-described "public policy junkies" (including
many of those in the community of print journalism) are forced to inoculate
themselves against the cascading cynicism of an indifferent, apathetic
constituent marketplace. The reason(s) for such are far too long and
convulted for such commonfolk as myself in an email.
Ours is simply a problem side effect of affluence, as ironic as that may
All should be so fortunate. Can anyone imagine such structural
difficulties and angst-ridden discussion occurring, in, say, China?
Your story was the first I have ever seen in the "mainstream media" that
even hints (unintentionally?) at the source of continuing voter apathy and
pervasive, ingrained, and structural cynicism and concomitant perceived
That is a story!
I'm sorry your program was only sixty minutes long: you failed to address
the print media outside of D.C., Talk Radio, the major TV broadcast
networks (BTW, Tom Brokaw made me GAG!), and the growing list of
"alternative" outlets (free local dailies, the Internet, "George", etc.)
I have a reinforced suspicion that integrity may be found wherever one
looks (not that that snippet is very helpful)...
I love "The McGlaughlin Group". I love "US News and World Report". I love
Tom Leykis. I love PBS. I love Rush Limbaugh. I love David Broder. I
love Bob Woodward...
I am the luckiest man in the world! Good Show!
Interestingly, not one commoner appeared on your program,
"Why America Hates the Press". I guess the question is, How
do you know? You are just as much an elitist as that which
you were portraying.
And, maybe that is the real problem. Whether it is the
press or the government, they "know" what we want. I am just
plain tired of the sickness that permeates the elitist, money
together with the loss of honesty and truth. The elitist
press asks the elitist politician the simple, phoney softball
questions and never question the phoney dishonest responses.
Probably because they don't know any better.
There are many good reporters, who still hunger for
the story, not for the money, but for the satisfaction.
Unfortunately they are not in Washington. How many Washington
reporters know anything about economics, math, science, physics,
law, medicine, whatever. Conducting phoney surface interviews
with politicians who probably know less isn't newsworthy.
The country is in trouble, but what the hell, let's go
to another party and we'll think of something to write or
report on tomorrow. CHEERS.
While not disapreeing with any of the points raised in your show, I think
you missed the most obvious and pertinent issue: with the possible excpetion
of Bob Woodward (and even he is suspect), every "reprter" you featured has
crossed the line from journalism to commentary. Even if they do go out of
their way to be objective in the pursuit of their daytime jobs, they have
gained celebrity status for their efforts in punditry. Small wonder, then,
that having watched them spout their opinions all weekend, the viewing
public is skeptical of both their credibility and their motives when they
return to their regular roles as "just-the-facts" journalists. They crossed
the Rubicon from the Front Page to the Editorial page, they shouldn't be
surprised that there's no going back.
The spoken and unspoken reactions of many prominent news media
personalities proves how the media has degraded to yet another
"money and power" profession. It is total hypocrisy for a profession
that constantly exposes politicians for engaging in "revolving door"
activities to make such pathetic excuses when one of their own engage
in the same practice. What clear-minded person believes a $30,000
lecture fee paid by a public interest group would not influence them
in some way? It is sad to say, but David Broder and James Fallows
are becoming a rare breed in their profession.
I thought this show would discuss things like the obvious slant that
journalists often put on stories. Your choice of focusing on high speaking
fees and the like missed the point entirely. Highly-paid speaking
engagements do not not necessarily lead to dishonest reporting. But the
manipulative tricks I see in my daily paper are an ill and a disservice.
We would like to comment on your program that was aired tonight. First of
all, we found it very interesting to see that the majority of the
journalists you examined appeared to be "on the take". How are we
supposed to believe anything that we hear or see through the media as
unbiased reporting, when they are taking large sums of money from
lobbiests and other special interest groups? Your program reaffirmed the
cynicism most American have towards the media. Because of this, we can
see why so many Americans are turning toward other sources such as talk
radio patriots like Rush Limbaugh who expose more of the shenanigans that
happen in the White House and "in the beltway".
What matters to us, is the fact that the reporters that cover the White
House cannot be objective and provide the public their constitutional
mandate to be a watchdog and protect us from tyrannical government. The
Washington media has flipped from "attack dog" towards Dan Quale during
the Bush administration, to "lap dog"--virtually rolling over for a daily
belly-rub with the Clinton administration.
We commend Frontline for its honesty and courage in its handling of this
issue. Keep up the good work.<>
A.& E. O.
I enjoy watching the Sunday press shows. Although the journalist have become
celebrities I find their viewpoints reflect a difference of opinion on many issues.
There is a certain amount of elitism and I am surprised by the amount of commercial
benefit so many have made for themselves. But they are human. If I could leverage
my own profession experience I would! Perhaps they hold positions of civic trusts
I just finished watching your show covering the way the
"Media Elite" will sell out for personal gain. I commend the
gentleman from "U.S.News" that is making an effort to change the rules within
his organization. He just gained a new reader. The hipocrasy
displayed by some of these so called "journalists" made me
nauseaus. Perhaps we should rename the "White House" to
the "Whore House" on their behalf . As always, your show is
truly outstanding. Some reporters like Sam Donaldson and
Cokie Roberts should watch it once in a while to learn what
real jounalism is all about. Keep up the good work.
I've known the press were pretty propagandists (and liars/idiots)
since I saw a New Hampshire politician leave the Iran/Contra hearings and
talk live on the steps to the news media.. He said (and I
paraphase) "It's not about charisma, it's not about good looks,
it's about the facts of the case and I am impressed with
Col. North's testimony and I believe that he beleived he was
under orders and doing the work of the United States"..
.. a few minutes later I flipped the channel to a major
network (one of the big three) and they showed a clip of that
New Hampshire politician saying "It's not about charisma,
it's not about good looks, it's about the facts of the case"
and then they cut back to the commentator (anchorman?) and
he said "The New Hampshire politician was not impressed by
Col. North".. Which was the exact oposite of the truth.
There are many similar occurances to the example given
above, but it's the one that really rammed home (to me)
how far from removed the truth the "News" is.
The news media is a large bunch of disinformationists and
they are, collectively, too stupid to realize it.
I am shocked, stunned and amazed at the stark light of truth you were willing
to put on the behind-the-scenes reality of your own business! Now, this is
some stellar journalism. Gutsy and objective. I'm speechless. Thank you.
I have been very dissapointed in the news media for many years but this election
coverage ( or non-coverage is more accurate ) takes the cake. Almost every news
story I've viewed recently has been slanted towards either the democratic or
republican parties. The all important THIRD PARTIES, and there are many, were
nearly completely ignored. I am especially ashamed of the media for not covering
much of the Perot/Choate team. These are honorable men and both have a genuine love
for America that the two existing candidates do not have. The communications in
America are so good now that it is increasingly harder for the politicians to pull
the wool over our eyes.
I am amazed that America has stood for the political BS for
so long. If you in the media had given an unbiased report on the candidates and
issues that Americans cried out for, we would have at least one third choice for a
leader. As it stands now, we have NO CHOICE! I condem your actions as media
representatives and serve notice that at least a few of
I hope this will be well read. I get tired of beating my head against a wall writing
to people that have lost all sense of reality and the way America used to be. I
mean this as an observation. I do not wish to hurt anyones feelings but only to
make you open your eyes and see what is really happening.
Nevada City, CA
Well done report! It just scratched the surface, as far as
I'm concerned (the "glitzing up" & "dumbing down" of local
TV newscasts could have been touched upon), but I think
it did a bang-up job as far as it went, especially in its
portrayal of the incredibly casual greed shown by celebrity
reporters like Cokie Roberts and the eerily-close similarity
of shows like the McLaughlin Group to professional
We do live in the information age, but there is so much of
it that it that "information" itself has become something
akin to static noise, as if we were listening to a million
radio stations all at once. It would be nice if there were
still people and organizations we could look up to and rely
on for unbiased guidance through the din, but alas it seems
that they have gone the way of unlocked churches, a thing
from a wiser, more innocent age.
I think this Frontline report missed the boat so badly that Mr. Talbot
is still hanging out on the dock days after the ship has sailed. Blaming
America's "hate affair" with the Beltway press on the McLaughlin Group and
Cokie Roberts' lecture fees is completely ludicrous.
If you really want to know why America hates the press, you should have
taken a look at the alternative news sources that America is turning to,
namely, talk radio, and the internet. And while you're at it, you should
also ask yourselves why nobody is watching PBS or Frontline, either.
And if Mr. Talbot thinks that Beltway journalists are "losing touch" with
mainstream America, why didn't he take the time to interview some
mainstream Americans instead of focusing his report solely on the inside-
the-Beltway journalists who are supposedly the source of the problem?
All in all, a disappointing effort. Please try harder next time.
I am one of the many Americans who believe that the American
media is in need of reform. I was quite shocked by the complete coverage
of both sides of the issue, especially an issue of responsible
journalism. As the influx of political shows bombards the public each
and everyday it has become difficult to interpret the differences
between political reporters and political analysts. As the information
age matures, I would like to think the major news agencies and
personalities would mature in their assimilation of information, just
as yours did. At the current rate of deterioration, the Sunday
political guru's will find themselves amongst the weekday afternoon talk
shows. Thank you, it was nice to see responsible public programming.
I raged with disgust as I viewed "Why America Hates the
Press." You affirmed what most Americans perceive the
press to be; an elitist group of hypocrites who practice
self promotion without shame. If politicians are
responsible for increasing cynicism in our nation, then the
press should be accountable for everything else that is
wrong with America.
Oak Harbor, WA
Your coverage of the Beltway Media was a step in the right direction. I
can only hope that when the inevitable challenge that your bias continues
to lean Left, you don't shrug your collective shoulders, recite this
story and say " oh yah, but we already covered that." A once a decade
introspection does translate into honest reform.
Additionally, hooray for US News. I'll finally try a copy of a rag that
many mistakenly believe is conservative. Aside from a handful of small
but loyally supported publications--Washington Times and American
Spectator to name two--are there ANY?
Your episode on public distrust and dislike of the media brought to
the fore many important issues. One that I don't think was
emphasized enough concerned the term 'journalist' itself. It was
applied rather loosely to many of the personalities that were
discussed. Robert Novak, although a writer of some skill, is hardly
a journalist. Rarely in his columns or commentaries does he back up
his conclusions or observations with thorough research. The same can
be said of any number of more liberal high-profile media
personalities. How many times have you seen round-table discussions
or newspaper or magazine columns diverge to discussions on political
personalities or political posturing of whomever is in the hotseat or
the spotlight that particular week.
The point is that the term 'journalism' doesn't apply to a majority
of this 'product'. There is little or no researched factual
information that I couldn't get from Headline News in an Airport
gate area. 'In-depth' coverage from such media personalities is
joke, and that's being kind. I cannot remember the last time I
received any information from, say, Brit Hume that actually helped me
in making decisions concerning my life, the life of my son, or my
career. I heard at least 4 mos of network news coverage of the
healthcare debate and I couldn't tell you one thing that was right or
wrong about Clinton's program in '94 because details were rarely
I am a physicist. If I were to conduct my research by talking about
how various topics were 'playing' in the scientific community or
which clique was on top that week instead of doing real research and
giving myself and my colleagues factual information on which to base
conclusions I would probably be out of a job.
The media 'elite' --a strange term to use-- seem to know very little
Despite running on PBS, I'm sure the fact that most people would
consider you part of "The Media", as well, hasn't eluded you, has it??
Maybe the current climate of hightened journalistic self-evaluation has
made the stifling of chuckles on the parts of respondents less common. A
situation where one reporter questions the ethics of the other's behavior,
pondering at the same whether they should turn the tables in their next
piece, and all the while marveling at the irony. I guess if anyone is
going to do this kind of obviously difficult evaluation, I'd like you to
do it. And if government funding cuts for PBS loom again, please let me
know, I'll gladly send you my Pell Grant.
If Cokie Roberts is an ABC Commentator, then what's the problem
with her accepting a speaking fee?
Commentator and journalist, I think, are two separate animals,
Her husband, on the otherhand, was at one time a journalist for
U.S. News and World Report. But I fail to see why the big deal
was made about Cokie Roberts accepting money from a Health
Care association when she might be asked to comment -- not report --
on health care in the future.
I found your documentary or Why America Hates Journalists interesting.
However, in all your talk about the conflict of interest of reporters
receiving money from lobby groups you failed to mention that somehow PBS
itself feels it can receive money from major companies like Archer Daniels
and still feel capable of reporting without bias. If you can do it, so
can journalists like Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts.
Also, I had to laugh during one of the interview segments with the
ombudsperson from the Washington Journal when, while she was discussing
journalists becoming celebrities, your reporter and editor decided it
would be a perfect time to get a gratuitous shot of the reporter nodding
slipped into the piece. Gotta get that reporter some exposure after all!
New York, NY
What I found surprising in your program "Why America Hates the Press"
was not the obvious symbiotic relationship between the press and political
establishments in Washington, but rather the assumption that the American
public is largely unaware of this incestuous relationship. It is no
secret the beltway journalists have very little to say that is relevant
to the day to day experiences of most Americans. It is only fitting that
they are so blind to what is completely obvious the rest of us -- final
proof as to how out of touch the Washington press is with the rest of the
As your program points out, it seems President Clinton has never become
comfortable with the Washington press elite. Perhaps it is this very
discomfort with the press that has struck a chord in the American public
and why most Americans are willing to trust the President to another four
years in the White House. Ironically, I suspect that if the President had
a more cordial relationship with the White House press corps, he would have
had a much tougher time dodging the constant attacks on his character.
Maybe it is Bob Dole, a true Washington insider, who has a credibility
problem with the American public.
Thank you for a very enlightning program.
Just finished watching "Why Americans Hate the Press" on the PBS program
Frontline. I was pleasantly surprised to see real journalism. Facts and more
Frontline made the five million dollars that Newt G. turned down for the
rights to his memoirs look like petty larceny when compared to the avarice
behavior of your senior gossips. They do not deserve to be called
journalists,...Hypocrites is more appropriate.
At least Newt turned down the money. Why do Mrs. Roberts and Sam Donaldson
complain so loudly? Are they better than Newt G.? They must remember that
they are only reporters, and bad ones at that. Do they contribute to the
gross national product, provide any jobs that are more than marginally above
Newt seems to have had the last laugh and rightly so. Your senior staff has
been caught with their arrogant hands in the proverbial cookie jar. Will you
now report on your own internal corruption or is this just reserved for
customers of yours, e.g., General Motors, etc?
In conclusion, the Russian press was known to be controlled by government
stooges and was implicitly corrupt. Now, I know that national boundaries do
not filter corruption and the concomitant prevarication's.
I just watched your show on the press in Washington, D.C. I appreciated
the show, but felt that it was far too little, far too late. People who
are outside of the Beltway, and outside of the press, are already fully
aware of the problems with the press. It reminds me of the show on one
on the so-called news magazines I saw a while back on Dr. James Dobson
and his Focus on the Family organization. This story was years old, to
me and all of the people I know out here in the real world, but to the
people on this show, it was astounding, it was news.
I think the church analogy was a good one, since most people in the U.S.
do go to church on Sunday morning, and most people in the press do not.
In my experience, we in the real world live our lives and largely ignore
those on the 'inside' of politics and the press. After all, what do
they have to do with us, or for that matter, we with them? I don't
think for one moment that the press is trying to report the news to me,
none of them can even relate to me. Their lives, and therefore, what
they consider important, as people and as members of the press, have
nothing to do with life as most of us know it. Almost nothing I see or
read from the 'mainstream' press in the country or on the Beltway speaks
to me, and as a consequence, I largely ignore it.
All of the people I know live in that part of the country that makes up
the majority of the country, that long, middle part you have to fly over
to get to either coast. And most of the people who live in the middle
part, might as well be in a whole other America from the one the press
lives in. Who do they, and you, think you are kidding? What you
reported on is not news, it is and old, old story.
Despite this, I am a long time watcher of Frontline. Usually you are
pretty on the ball, though you do occasionally jump on the news story
too late, rather than your usual timely way.
Thanks again for the story and the show. Keep up the good work.
The Frontline show was excellent, and will cause me to subscribe again to US News
& World Report, since it may be worth reading again,
with people like Steve Roberts fired.
But it seems to me somewhat hypocritical for PBS to complain about
the "stars" of the Washington Press Corps,
when these same self-promoting know-it-all snobs frequently pontificate on PBS
shows such as "Washington Week in Review", or complementing the
benign wrinkle-browed stupidity of Jim Lehrer.
How about kicking them back to their typewriters (computer keyboards?)and
the chop-suey circuit where they belong, and stop giving them "exposure".
Who knows, with enough effort at blowing wind out of one end on the
lecture circuit they might reduce the amount coming out of the other on PBS.
San Diego, CA
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