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Transcript: Excerpts from Producer Kathleen Hughes' interview with Kristina Borjesson

(Kristina Borjesson is a journalist and editor of INTO THE BUZZSAW: LEADING JOURNALISTS EXPOSE THE MYTH OF A FREE PRESS (2002))FEET TO THE FIRE: The Media After 9/11, Top Journalists Speak Out

KRISTINA BORJESSON: You know, I am ashamed to say that before I started doing the book, I didn't know any of those guys. And it was after talking to Paul Krugman of the NEW YORK TIMES, David Martin of CBS, Helen Thomas, all of a sudden, I just kept hearing Night Ridder. They did the best job. Night Ridder. They did the best job.

I was like, "Oh, my god. - I never heard of Jonathan Landay, Warren Shorgel, and John Wolcott." Andboy, when I met them, all of a sudden, it was absolutely clear. And it was also appalling to me that this group of reporters, whose reporting went out to five to seven million people in this country.

That's bigger, you know, Fox is only 1.8 million. And they weren't on the radar. They didn't get on-- their reporting did not get on the radar. And I find that profound. And the reason why they were doing the reporting that they were doing, asking the critical questions, was because their newspapers are in the towns and cities across this country where the young men live, men and women lived, who were gonna go and fight in this war.

And so they did their job. And they did it in spades. And- it's only now that people have discovered Night Ridder. And, of course, Night Ridder is no longer. It's McClatchy. They were bought out. They were bought by McClatchy Newspapers. And I hope McClatchy is gonna let them continue...

KRISTINA BORJESSON: There are two things that marked the reporting of the Night Ridder reporters. One was that because they didn't have access to the "champagne interviews," as they put it-- they didn't have access to, you know, Vice-President Cheney or Condoleezza Rice, although later on they did. But at this point they did not.

And so the people they were talking to were the mid-level CIA analysts who were actually writing the reports, who were actually receiving the raw intelligence and writing the reports from that and sending those reports to the White House. And those analysts who were writing the reports were saying there's no evidence of this. And, of course, this information was just twisted and changed or ignored after it went up to the top of the ladder. The other thing that they did was they said to themselves: Well, if Saddam Hussein has WMDs-- what is it that would be visible? How-- what evidence would there be of that?

And Jonathan Landay went into this whole explanation of what you would have to look for as proof that these WMDs existed. And beyond that Jim Bamford, who's to me the premier national security intelligence reporter in this country, he was saying, "Well, the other thing you have to have is a delivery system."

And that you can see from the sky. You can pick that up on satellite. And the-- it just wasn't there. And so they went through this whole logical process, which was again, the same kind of process that initiated the book for me. And-- it just wasn't there. The evidence wasn't there. And that's what you have to report. If the evidence isn't there, it doesn't matter what your official source tells you. You still have to report that the evidence is not there. And you have to explain what you did to look for that evidence.

That's reporting. Just saying what the official source says, that's coverage. As a matter of fact, you know, I have this fantasy of some news channel finally coming up with the idea of when the president or anybody in our leadership gets up to make a speech — you know those blurbs on the MTV music videos that pop up? You know, they're singing and then where it says, "Oh, you know-- he did this in 1995. Oh, you know"--

I would love to have that blurb come up every time they speak, having somebody say, "Well-- you know, that's not true, because X, Y, Z. Oh, you know, that's questionable because"-- the same kind of thing. Because the problem is when you're, again, covering something, it's not reporting. It's not. And the American public doesn't realize that what they're seeing is coverage. They're not seeing reporting...

KRISTINA BORJESSON: Television has its limitations obviously because when you're-- when you're doing a new-- you know, news packages are what? Two minutes. You know, what can you cover, except again, if you do your job and your report, you can at least get one piece of information right.

You can at least report: "Today the president said X. This-- it's true because of this. Or it's not true because of that." Okay? But nowadays-- there's none of that. It's just: "Here. The president said this. It's on the one hand." And sometimes you have "on the other hand" reporting. But what's interesting, too, is "on the other hand" reporting is there's a limit to the debate.

The debate is limited because, for example, the right/left debates that go on. The right can be sort of extreme. You can have the neocon right. But the left will be a very moderate left. So the oppositions, the-- the opposing factors are not equal. So-- there are all these reasons.

Obviously, and people have said it before, television represents television is the voice of power. I mean, it's a business. And it has actually a right to do that. It has a right to do that. And so in a sense, too, the American public has to assume responsibility for reporting. You know, they have to-- instead of just saying, "Oh, yeah, we know our politicians lie," they have to get upset about it. They have to demand, you know, they have to send the emails into the news executives and say, "You know what? I wanna know whether this is true or not. I don't want 'on the one hand and the other hand.' I wanna know if it's true. I wanna know the context. I wanna know a little bit of history. Please, make this make sense."

Because that's another thing that's wrong with television is there's never any context or history. And if you don't place things in context, they have no meaning. They have no meaning. Or you can construe whatever meaning you want because you insert your own context.

So it's problematic, particularly since it's such a powerful medium. Although, it's-- that's changing a little bit because of internet, you know, podcasting. There's-- some breakout stuff going on now. And I'm so thrilled, and I'm so excited about it. But still right now in this time of extreme crisis, it hasn't hit what I call the hundredth monkey phase. It really hasn't hit the critical mass phase. So, you know, we're still in dangerous waters here.

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