Here's your chance to send us your thoughts about "Why America Hates the Press".

click here to read what other viewers thought...

Click here to email

...and here's what the Press thought.

From The Baltimore Sun
Writer David Zurawik

".....Memo to FRONTLINE : Your report has absolutely no evidence as to what 'America' thinks of the press. What it has is one portion of the press establishment--which includes public television and FRONTLINE -- questioning actions of another portion of the press corps, mainly Washington journalists.

...One of the biggest culprits in what FRONTLINE characterizes as the lapsed ethics of the Washington press gang is not surprisingly commercial television. FRONTLINE , a product of public television, almost always points the finger of blame at its commercial brethren whenever the spirit of press criticism washes over it.

The person who most clearly and credibly criticizes the plethora of talk shows that have debased our national political debate and made celebrities of journalists is James Fallows, author of Breaking the News and new editor of U.S. News & World Report .

'The world would be better off and America would be a happier country if there were no Crossfire and no Capital Gang and no McLaughlin Group ,' Fallows says. 'They take something, which again has its own intrinsic preciousness, that is, ideas about politics, real issues, and cheapens them. That is something I would like to see done away with.

Sadly, FRONTLINE fails to go much beyond that in terms of its analysis. The hugely important issue of social class--the class of reporters vs. the class of their viewers and readers--is raised. but instead of exploring it thoughtfully, FRONTLINE relies on a sound bite quote from media reporter Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post to support its wrongheaded claim that, ' It was only a generation ago that reporters were mostly working class, sons of cops and plumbers. Today, they are more likely children of doctors and lawyers, full-fledged members of America's elite professional class.'

However, the upper strata of the Washington press corps has always come from the prep-school-Ivy-league circuit, the sons and daughters of America's ruling class. For all its talk of being more in-depth than network newsmagazines, FRONTLINE routinely makes such grand-sounding but dead-wrong sociological claims. Which brings us back to the grand claim of the title Why America Hates the Press.

Wouldn't it be nice if, as a profession, we would try to figure out what 'America' has come to mean in 1996 and then actually talked to some of those Americans instead of merely claiming to know what they hate, who they love and what they think?"

From USA Today
Writer Matt Roush

"FRONTLINE 's timely critique of the Washington press corps entertainingly chastises the punditocracy for selling out, talking only among themselves and being out of touch with the common news consumer.

One problem: FRONTLINE never talks to any of the press-hating Americans referred to in the title. At times it seems as inbred and incestuous as the journalistic stars it criticizes.

Even so, this is a treat as it asks: What good is it to be the next Woodward or Bernstein if you can't land a TV soapbox and, by extension, a lucrative spot on the lecture circuit?

Take Sam Donaldson (Please.) Is he a journalist, a performer, a pariah?

Obviously some weird hybrid, judging from footage at the Republican convention in San Diego. There he is posing with star-struck delegates. But later, on the convention podium, he's heckled by crowds chanting, 'Jump, Sam, jump!'

From The Los Angeles Times
Writer David Shaw

"Why America Hates the Press . It's an intriguing and provocative premise that the distinguished PBS series FRONTLINE proposes to explore tonight.

Unfortunately, the premise is exaggerated, and the answers to the 'why' rely more on 'inside baseball' than on genuine public concerns.

There is no doubt that many Americans are increasingly critical of, suspicious of and even, at times, hostile toward the press. But to suggest that the entire country or even the majority of its citizens 'hates' the press goes far beyond what any public opinion poll has shown."

"....Similarly, almost 25% of the 60-minute FRONTLINE is devoted to the potential conflict of interest that the top television news stars risk by going on the lecture circuit and accepting big bucks from lobbying and special interest groups. Again, there is no question that making such lucrative appearances on a regular basis is wrong. But do most Americans even know about the practice never mind 'hate' Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts and others who engage in it?

Instead of devoting most of its air time to these two relatively modest journalistic sins, FRONTLINE would have done better to examine the real reasons so many Americans are complaining about the press. The public thinks the press is too negative, too cynical, too interested in sensationalizing and trivializing the news. They think the press is biased. They thing that whenever the press covers a story that they, the readers and viewers, know something about personality, the press gets it wrong.

With the exception of a brief discussion of the 'insider gossip' about Hillary Rodham Clinton in Bob Woodward's latest book, The Choice, and one comment on press cynicism by David Broder, political columnist for the Washington Post, FRONTLINE ignores all these issues.

I don't mean to suggest that Why America Hates the Press is without value. It clearly is not. The program does examine the effects of several important changes in the nation's press corps--most notably, the shift of the Washington press corps from ink-stained wretches whose income, education and social standing were far beneath the people they covered to an elite group who are sometimes richer and more famous than their sources and subjects (with whom they routinely socialize).'

From The Washington Times
Writer Rowan Scarborough

"......the one-hour documentary attacks the mightiest media knights in the same way a special prosecutor goes after corrupt Washington officials.

Their crimes, according to FRONTLINE : blatant conflicts of interest, a coziness with government officials and a dumbing down of TV news talk shows to make policy debates more entertaining and, thus, celebrity pundits more marketable on the lucrative lecture circuit.

The city's journalistic gumshoes are increasingly well-heeled and out of touch, FRONTLINE charges.

'I really got a sense of how elite, in terms of education, class and in money, the Washington press corps itself has become,' says Steve Talbot, the documentary's producer and narrator, in an interview from FRONTLINE's Boston offices."

"...Mr. Talbot acknowledges his production is, perhaps, mistitled, taken from a similar title of a Fallows' piece in the February Atlantic Monthly, FRONTLINE offers no proof that a majority of Americans are even aware of Washington's incestuous ways, much less hate the press for that reason.

.....Why America Hates the Press also is limited because it relies almost exclusively on inside-the-Beltway reporters to criticize their friends. And nearly every on-air observer comes from a liberal viewpoint: Mr. Fallows, a former speech writer for President Carter; Vanity Fair's Christopher Hitchens; Mark Herstgaard, a writer for the Nation, and Howard Kurtz, media writer for The Washington Post .

'In the Washington press corps, there aren't that many conservatives,' Mr. Talbot explains.

But FRONTLINE skewers both liberals and conservatives, even accusing The Washington Post of 'shameless self-promotion' in splashing author Bob Woodward's book excerpts accross the front page."

From The Denver-Rocky Mountain News
Writer Dusty Saunders

"Like most FRONTLINE documentaries, this show doesn't nibble around the edges of a controversy. It bites hard, particularly in making a point that Washington's "imperial pundits" too often blur the lines among reporting, entertaining and politicking.

The result, according to FRONTLINE , is that a new hierarchy has been created within the ever-burgeoning Washington press corps, some of whom enjoy superstar status because of lucrative television contracts, speaking engagements, and book deals.

FRONTLINE raises the legitimate question: Who is this press serving...the public, the politicians, or themselves?

Such a question, of course, is not new. It has been asked before by a variety of politicians and writers. In fact, two writers--James Fallows (Breaking the News) and Howard Kurtz (Hot Air) --are part of FRONTLINE's report."

"....Overall, FRONTLINE brings to viewers an examination of a growing problem that bothers many, regardless of political persuasion."

From The New York Times
Writer Walter Goodman

"Why America Hates the Press , the title of tonight's punchy edition of FRONTLINE , is slightly misleading. The press is represented by a highly unrepresenative gabble of famous and rich television personalities. These talk-show showboats are criticized for the way they do their jobs, for their prosperity and for the company they keep; instead of being the little guys' watchdogs, it is asserted , they have become the fat cats' lap dogs.

"...It is no secret that television news is packaged entertainment and its practitioners are, willy-nilly, entertainers. Newspaper reporters have always played that dual role, too, but as emphasized tonight, commercial television, the nation's far-flung, high-stakes, nonstop extravaganza, has shifted the balance and raised the ante. Why America Hates the Press cautions that money and fame are hard to resist. If only America could stop fawning over the news stars, it might hate them less."

From The Orlando Sentinel
Writer Hal Boedeker

"A disturbing and illuminating FRONTLINE report, 'Why America Hates the Press faults some celebrity journalists for turning greedy, acting elitist; playing roles on television that demean their field and kissing up to the politicians they cover.

Why America Hates the Press derives a lot of its power from two eloquent critics of fellow journalists, James Fallows wrote a scathing look at the media in Breaking the News, and Fallows' experiences form the spine of the show. After lambasting the media, Fallows became editor at U.S. News & World Report. The program wonders if he can remain true to his reform-minded ways.

....Stephen Talbot serves as the thoughtful correspondent on this skillfully edited program, which presents a range of ethical problems.

The program reminds viewers that George Will prepared Ronald Reagan for a presidential debate, then gave Reagan a glowing review. The lines between journalism and politics have blurred as figures, such as Gergen, move back and forth between the two worlds.

Watergate icon Woodward complains about the Washington press corps, but he's a major figure in it. The program notes how The Washington Post shamelessly promoted his book The Choice . That poorly reviewed to received attention primarily for gossipy revelations about Hillary Rodham Clinton's 'conversations' with Eleanor Roosevelt.

Why America Hates the Press won't make you feel better, but it will open your eyes. Anyone who follows TV news won't want to miss it."

From The Miami Herald
Writer Robin Dougherty

"....The problem with Why America Hates the Press is that it confines itself to celebrity journalists. James Fallows, recently appointed editor of US New & World Report and a high-profile media critic, has the loudest voice. The others belong to media intelligentsia regulars such as Christopher Hitchens, Fred Barnes, Howard Kurtz and David Broder, to name a few.

If you don't recognize those names, this FRONTLINE isn't for you. If you do, then you're probably a news junkie and will find this program fascinating."

From The Boston Herald
Writer Monica Collins

"A timely and provocative FRONTLINE documentary..... ....Celebrity commentators such as ABC's Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson and George Will have their ethics challenged by the documentary. And well-known 'food fight' Washington shows such as the syndicated McLaughlin Group and CNN's Capital Gang are summarily dismissed as so much staged dreck."

.".....Documentary producer Steve Talbot--who also narrates the film--sets himself up as an Everyman in search of the media madness. In addition to Fallows and Kurtz, Talbot interviews many journalists, including Jack Germond and Clarence Page, two members of the TV punditocracy who seem to feel slimed. Alas, they can't help themselves."

"....Small wonder the press has never been so despised. Why America Hates the Press will further inflame the distrust between the public and its lazy guardians."

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

star struck | venality and the vanities | talkback | interviews | reactions | what's to be done? | a reporter who quit | polling america's views | explore frontline | pbs online | wgbh