Monday, January 24, 2005

Partisan News Media I

I wonder if anyone else remembers when the ombudsman of the Washington Post said that the news media was partisan and had been the whole time he had worked in the industry. He said it on C-SPAN in 1993 or 1994.

After Clinton had won the presidency in 1992, several former GOP White House aides showed up on cable news programs as commentators. David Broder wrote a column expressing his grave concern that the public would see these political partisans as journalists. This, he feared, would harm the reputation of journalists for objective, balanced reporting.

C-SPAN had a panel to discuss the issue. Panelists included Hodding Carter and others (I think Mona Charen or Linda Chavez. I don't remember if Tony Snow was there). Among the others was the soon-to-retire Ombudsman of the Washington Post. After several others had given their opinion that they didn't see much of a problem, he completely rejected Broder's thesis of the nonpartisan press. I wish I could remember his name, but I'll never forget what he said.

He said that the press had been partisan throughout his newspaper career. His very first assignment in journalism had been to write a political speech for a political candidate. His first job, in the '50s, was with the Nashville Tennessean (since I grew up in Nashville, this really got my attention). He wrote the speech for a Democrat named Cecil Branstetter. (Cecil's son Dewey was a classmate of mine at Vandy Law School).

His second assignment for the paper was to cover the event where Branstetter gave the speech. He noted with a little humor that he found the speech to be very impressive. And his third assignment for the newspaper was to write the editorial endorsing Branstetter's candidacy for office (I think it was a legislative seat).

He chose not to reveal any more recent examples from his career, but he made it clear that partisan efforts by the press in election campaigns had been around for a long time.

Anyone remember his name? He had a son who was also a journalist who was also working at the Wash Post.


Blogger robthered said...

in 1992 the post ombudsman was Richard Harwood

8:26 PM, January 24, 2005  
Blogger robthered said...

Richard Harwood was the ombudsman in 1992 , bio fits

8:35 PM, January 24, 2005  

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