Helen Thomas on lap dogs of the press
Lap Dogs of the Press
(This article is adapted from Helen Thomas's forthcoming book, Watchdogs of Democracy? The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public. Copyright © 2006 by Helen Thomas.)
Of all the unhappy trends I have witnessed--conservative swings on television networks, dwindling newspaper circulation, the jailing of reporters and "spin"--nothing is more troubling to me than the obsequious press during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. They lapped up everything the Pentagon and White House could dish out--no questions asked.
Reporters and editors like to think of themselves as watchdogs for the public good. But in recent years both individual reporters and their ever-growing corporate ownership have defaulted on that role. Ted Stannard, an academic and former UPI correspondent, put it this way: "When watchdogs, bird dogs, and bull dogs morph into lap dogs, lazy dogs, or yellow dogs, the nation is in trouble."
The naïve complicity of the press and the government was never more pronounced than in the prelude to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The media became an echo chamber for White House pronouncements. One example: At President Bush's March 6, 2003, news conference, in which he made it eminently clear that the United States was going to war, one reporter pleased the "born again" Bush when she asked him if he prayed about going to war. And so it went.