Media Blog

War on the Press?

Jack Shafer watched the first installment of Frontline’s “News War” and has this to say about the notion that the Bush administration is “at war” with the press:

As Frontline accurately reports, the fuel for the journalist-subpoenaing Plame investigation came from Democrats in Congress and some members of the press. Democrats urged Ashcroft’s Justice Department to recuse itself and hire a special counsel to run the investigation. When the Justice Department picked Patrick Fitzgerald to run the case, a Dec. 31, 2003, New York Times editorial titled “The Right Thing, At Last,” endorsed the move without equivocation, urging that “true operational independence” be bestowed upon Fitzgerald, who must be given “the full powers of a special counsel.”
This may be the first time in modern history that a newspaper called for an investigation into a leak to the press. So if the Plame case is a battle in Bush’s press war, then New York Times editorialists are his shock troops.

The Bush administration had the temerity to treat the press as an interest group to be managed rather than the fourth branch of government that journalists believe themselves to be. What they perceive as a ”war on the press” is really just a challenge to the claim that they represent the public.

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