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"I got my job through The Washington Post" | 102 comments | Create New Account
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"I got my job through The Washington Post"
Authored by: PJ on Sunday, June 10 2012 @ 05:30 PM EDT
Well, not everyone is courageous.

You might find it interesting to read Dan Rather's book, The Camera Never Blinks, where he talks about what he went through covering the White House during the Nixon years, and particularly the Watergate story. Keep in mind that for some time, the White House lied and said it was not involved in Watergate, and they attacked the Washington Post claiming they were biased and "liberal" and blah blah. But in the end, it turned out they were right. But imagine the courage of Ben Bradlee and Katharine Graham, to keep going under that intense pressure.

In fact, here is a small taste of what Rather wrote:

The Nixon-Agnew pitch was timeless. The problems of society were not war, corruption, the economy, racism. The real problem was the fact that the media kept publicizing all the bad news....

Having isolated television as the primary enemy, Nixon and Agnew and their people scouted tirelessly for whores among the press. They always kept an eye out for those who, by their definition, were conservative, middle-American, silent majority types. What time and Watergate proved was that they sought anywone who would slant the news in their favor. They would take advantage of their beliefs or prejudices, use them, and then do whatever was necessary to keep them as their allies. If you look hard enough, you will find a few as they did....

In one or two cases the Nixon White House played on the resentment of some newspaper columnists against the money and attention lavished on television reporters. That resentment is not unfounded. One syndicated columnist, with a record of rocklike integrity, became a target. They worked on him. Finally when they reached him it was through his belief that television is the root evil of society. To him TV was just show biz, pretty faces and animated cartoons. He could not imagine anyone in television giving a damn about journalism, in the way the newspaper people do.

The administration sold him a bill of goods about CBS faking an incident in Vietnam, staging, or recreating, a battle scene. I took it as a personal affront because I knew the people involved in the original report, among them Don Webster, one of our more experienced correspondents.

I made it a point to challege the columnist after his writeup appeared containing the charges furnished by the White House mill. I said, "I know Webster, and this guy is out there where he could get his ass blown off at any time. This is a political maneuver to discredit him and CBS, and I would have thought you'd be smart enough to see it."

But he didn't or wouldn't. He bought the whole bundle and, to his everlasting embarrassment, the story later proved to be based on outright lies.

There is little real awareness in this country of the breadth and depth of a President's public relations and propoganda apparatus. Within the White House itself if he chooses to do so -- and President Nixon did -- he has the power to mount a campaign to wipe out anyone or anything. There are tremendous resources to be summoned.

I can't think of a clearer example than what was done to Daniel Schorr....President Nixon had gone to New York and delivered a speech, before the Archbishop, in which he talked about increasing federal aid to parochial schools. Schorr promptly wrote a piece saying, in effect, that what the President proposed was unconstitutional on its face and simply was not going to happen.

Immediately a campaign began -- get something on Dan Schorr and destroy his career. The effort involved Haldeman, Fred Malek and the FBI. There is no point in dancing around that fact. Schorr's phones were tapped. The FBI grilled his friends and neighbors. They dug into his past. Once exposed, the Nixon people tried to lie their way out of it. ... If people with that degree of public trust, at that level of power, can say, "We're going to fix Dan Schorr", they can try to do the same to anyone. And that, in no small way, is what Watergate was about.

So, I guess they had smear campaigns to beat the band back then. And today, corporate interests just buy people to write stuff favorable to them. But it got worse even than that for Rather:
The pressure placed on me was felt by my family. It is a humbling, sobering experience to go through one's mail and realize there are people who despise you. No one likes to think about having enemies. But if you test life at all you will make some, even by accident.... I wondered what kind of a person would sit down and write a letter threatening to harm the family of someone they had never met.

Once a lady braced me on a flight from New York to Atlanta. She walked back from her seat to confront me at mine. She was well dressed, in some kind of fur, not mink but definitely not just a good Republican cloth coat.

She created what in polite circles is described as a scene. She let fly a string of fairly colorful names. She went on to accuse me of being a ringleader of the eastern, liberal, slanted news conspiracy.... As she turned to leave, she said, "Somewhere you are going to get yours. If I have to arrange it, I will."...

Our approach was to be ourselves and not to overreact, yet to be alert when there was a good reason. A voice on the phone says, "I'm gonna blow your ass off," click; that is a specific reason.... At the peak of Watergate I would guess there were two or three such threats a week, most of them by mail.

And three things stand out: 1) he did eventually get got, shoved off CBS with what appears to be a set up; 2) it takes real courage to be a reporter on a White House beat, if the White House is corrupt, particularly; and 3) reporters can be groomed or whore themselves out by and for the White House. When they do that, it advances their careers. And now add into the mix that today there is surveillance on a scale never before seen in man's history. Imagine the pressure that can be brought to bear today on a reporter that is making waves, and maybe you can understand a couple of things: 1) why reporters do not, or sometimes cannot, always tell what they know; 2) what's wrong with journalism nowadays; and 3) why nobody trusts the media any more.

I've been reading a lot of books and articles online about journalism, what it used to be like, because it's dying, and I'm trying to figure out why and if there is any way to keep it going. What I see is that without a solution to the problem of corruption, there can't be real journalism. Citizen journalism is good, but it's not the same thing, really. Investigative journalism matters, but only if people care enough to do something about what is dug up.

Robert Kahn wrote a column for Courthouse News the other day, and I tried to find it for you, but I got this message:

Ops...an error has occured. Please try to revisit this page by using Internet Explorer. If the error persists, please kindly contact us.
heh heh - that's another problem in this world.

But thanks to your friend Google, I was able to find it for you. Here:

The first money I ever made from writing was from investigative journalism. It was about Central America, when Ronald Reagan was president. I wrote about stuff that was lying open in the light of day that no one else would mention. I made a few hundred bucks from it, and spent my life's savings turning it up. Eventually, it got me jobs on daily newspapers: as a reporter, a correspondent, an editor. Back then, 30 years ago, the frauds, the lies, the murders, the corruption, the cowardice of Congress and the willful ignorance of my countrymen were already obvious - to me. Why so few people, and newspapers, were writing about it was a mystery - to me. It's not a mystery to me anymore.
Sorry about his language. Anyway, he says it's all so corrupt today, politics, it's not worth even writing about it. You already know all about it. So he quit writing about politics and he is writing books about Shakespeare.

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