On the EDge: In defense of the ink-stained wretches

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION – The discussion, as it so often goes these days, turned to the media, from fake news to the good old days when reporters were reporters, facts were facts and there was a healthy respect for both.

That was, of course, way before social media, Russian cyber interference and an intractable divide of the American public that only promises to run deeper.

The discussion was wistfully nostalgic, really, in that place in the mind that insists that the good ol’ days were far superior to what our aging eyes take in today.

Truth is, our memories embellish our yesterdays more than we would like to admit.

Don’t think so?

Go back to the old house you were raised in. Odds are it is much smaller than you remember. That old car your family used to take the Sunday drive in? It may have been good, solid American chrome and steel, but let’s remember that even though those motors were magnificent in their power and speed, they died about 90,000 miles in, averaged less than 10 miles per gallon and fouled the air with pollutants. And, you certainly could not use that old rotary dial phone to take photos, play games or access the Internet.

The same holds true for the media for the most part.

For every Breitbart, Daily Caller, Infowars, Newsmax, Blaze, Washington Times, Townhall, Wall Street News and National Review website delivering propaganda from the right, you have a Reuters, Associated Press or NPR issuing objective reports.

For every HuffPost, Slate, Politico, Intercept, The Atlantic and Salon attacking you from the liberal side you have BBC, Al-Jazeera, Bloomberg, PBS, The Guardian, ABC News and, yes, contrary to the propagandizing, CNN that offer objectivity.

Old-timers from both sides of the political spectrum and those with just a passing knowledge of the media will hearken for the days of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.

But the thing is, Murrow may have been a stand-up guy when he toppled Joe McCarthy, but his reporting from London during World War II was often anything but credible. In fact, he drew the wrath of his bosses at CBS for playing audio recordings of German aerial attacks in the background while broadcasting his reports and Cronkite, who was once dubbed the Most Trusted Man in America, had a very obvious liberal bent.

In fact, through the Ozzie and Harriet soaked ‘50s and ‘60s, news reporting was fairly friendly. They went easy on Ike, played dumb to the indiscretions of JFK and masked the racism of LBJ.

A former colleague of mine, James Bacon, was a wire reporter during the time of JFK’s term. Normally a Hollywood reporter, Jim would cover the young president when he came west because Kennedy would often spend time with Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby or hang out at Peter Lawford’s beach house where many of his dalliances with Marilyn Monroe took place.

Jim, who ran with Sinatra and the Rat Pack, took delight in telling the story of how JFK would dupe him every time they went to Sunday mass in Palm Springs.

As part of the press entourage, Bacon would always take a seat in a pew directly behind the president.

When the basket came around Kennedy would drop what appeared to be a $100 bill into the collection, which Jim duly noted in his stories, until one day when the monsignor at the church took him aside and, rather gingerly, advised him that there were no $100 bills in the collection.

Jim, in a private moment with the president, asked him about it.

Kennedy laughed, reached into his pocket and took out a $10 bill, which he then folded so an extra 0 appeared on the front, making it look like a $100 bill.

Kennedy handed him the bill, squeezed his shoulder and chuckled.

“I knew you were watching, Jim,” he said. “But I was counting on the priest to apply the seal of the confessional to my little ruse.”

It all changed shortly thereafter and we had a resurgence of the muckraking when the Watergate scandal broke that originated in the late 1800s.

Now, the term muckraker has taken on negative connotations, but originally, it referred to those who practiced investigative journalism to expose government corruption, the plight of the workingman and woman and injustice.

It disappeared in the fervor of the jingoistic reporting that flourished during World War I and World War II and held over for several decades after the troops were removed from harm’s way.

But, the lies that led us into Vietnam became grist for the news mill as a new breed of reporters began to ask important questions about our involvement in the war. There was governmental and military shuck and jive that fueled deeper probing by the news media.

By the time Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein stumbled upon the nascent Watergate story the mood had changed and other reporters were inspired to rake muck during the era of lies.

The reporting sold a lot of papers and drew massive television viewers.

But it was honest, solid.

There were columnists and analysts employed to add the depth and meaning of those historical times, giving layering and explanation to the complexity of those issues. While they often take the field with an admitted bias, they also pound the keyboard with earnest. In the past, they were appreciated for their insight and many years of studying the issues and their ability to explain the nuances. Their job was not to propagandize, but to start the conversation.

But out on the fringe sat the advocacy crew, baptized in sensationalism and weaned on innuendo. And, the public ate it up.

Believing that there is no such thing as too much of a good thing, the suits encouraged more and more advocacy reporting, a technique that is transparently subjective. It took a deft hand to craft, but was almost never equated to the standard objective missives that filled the morning newspaper or nightly news broadcast.

Now, however, the broadcasts and written reports – whether print or online – are almost growing exponentially in that vein with the intent to inflame rather than inform and that’s where the problem lies.

Much of it is cheap theater with few of the participants schooled in news reporting.

Rachel Maddow studied politics.

Sean Hannity is a former house painter.

Ann Coulter’s background is in law. She makes no bones about not having a news background. “I don’t pretend to be impartial or balanced, as broadcasters do,” she has said.

Jon Stewart studied psychology and applied it to a career as a comedian. He has become an icon of the left, even though his reputation, as he agrees, rests on the mantel of satire and cynicism rather than journalistic experience.

Stephen Colbert was a theater major.

Rush Limbaugh was a Top 40 music disc jockey.

None of them ever covered the cops beat, reported on the local city council or sat in the newsroom on election night. Not a one of them worked their way through the ranks to become a columnist, a shaper of opinion, a position the veterans of this business once held in high regard because if you were allowed to do a column it meant you knew your stuff and had worked long and hard in the trenches for that coveted job.

The journalistic air has been fouled by these marquee names whose voices dominate the discussion.

There are a number of able, credible reporters out there, doing their jobs honorably, who go unheralded, unappreciated for their steady work.

But these carpetbaggers who slide in through the back door have become the standard while the dedicated and hard-working ink-stained wretches of the Fourth Estate continue their quest for truth.

And, there are, thankfully, many of them still raking the muck.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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  • bikeandfish January 22, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    This is bound to get ugly.

    I agree with the overall thesis. Our country has plenty of great journalist. And their profession is acting well within professional and historic norms.

    One caveat, throwing CNN in your list of “objectivity” is likely to immediately undermine your argument. I say this as you used them generically and wholesale instead of highlighting the difference between their factual news reporting and their programming that relies heavily on liberal bias, spin and sadly sometimes misinformation by pundits. For every reporter getting coverage on CNN we also have a talking head like Anderson Cooper (also a poli sci student) getting a ton of airtime. There is actually good reason to believe that CNN helped lead the charge on conflating journalism with infotainment as much as any Rush Limbaugh did. I would argue its possibly worse what CNN did as they coalesced the two in a way the average citizen no longer distinguishes. They have become noticeably skilled at profiting from false dichotomies and infiltrating our national politics with a fallacious demand for hearing out “both sides”.

    Whatever the case our country continues to need the fourth estate and its plethora of journalist.

    • Comment January 22, 2019 at 5:06 pm

      Yep, cnn is the worst kind of filth. Sometimes Anderson Cooper behaves like nothing but a talking preprogrammed droid. If he is human he’s either very well trained or brainwashed or a typical example of the psychopathic elite. He brings the novel 1984 to life; that’s for sure.

      • bikeandfish January 22, 2019 at 6:37 pm

        I don’t share your venom and animus.

        • Comment January 22, 2019 at 7:19 pm

          LOL b+f, you caught me, I’m actually a poisonous talking snake. A king cobra maybe? ahahahaha.

          you call it venom and animus whatever. I’d call it impassioned.

          on a side note, Ed Kociela often comes off as really clueless and naive, and so do you, b+f. and that there is the truth w/o any “venom and animus”.

          • bikeandfish January 22, 2019 at 8:48 pm

            Your statement of “truth” there is personal opinion. Which doesn’t affect me at all. Though I would say calling Ed clueless about journalism is beyond ironic.

            Venom: (noun) extreme malice and bitterness shown in someone’s attitudes, speech, or actions

          • Comment January 22, 2019 at 9:15 pm

            anyone who believes cnn is objective, nonbiased journalism, or really, even journalism or news is clueless and naive AT BEST.

            That’s correct, b+f, I’m proud to know you’re able to look up words. Now you realize that snakes can’t talk, as venomous as they may be. lol 😉

          • KR567 January 22, 2019 at 10:12 pm

            the King Cobra is a respected snake therefore you will never be a King Cobra ..

          • bikeandfish January 23, 2019 at 1:59 pm

            CNN is an organization with plenty of respected, professional journalist who fall within historic norms of “unbiased”. Writing them all off because of the left-leaning bias and provocative nature of a few is it’s own form of naiveté.

            The more we let demagogues like Trump wantonly attack the press and define the conversation the less chance we have at maintaining a free press in any form. Skepticism is one thing, wholesale dismissal is an entirely different ball of wax.

          • Comment January 23, 2019 at 4:54 pm

            Then press need to learn to behave in an ethical way, don’t they, especially the likes of cnn and similar. Is it a big mystery why people don’t trust them? Not to me it isn’t. It’s a shame that old Slick Willy dismantled a lot of media ownership rules/laws back in the 90s. It’s caused and continues to cause many problems.

          • bikeandfish January 23, 2019 at 6:39 pm


            I think there are definitely talking heads and even journalist that need to show greater restraint. The viral video debacle this past weekend is a great example. So would be the cross posting/discussions about the Buzzfeed article without actual access to the sources.

            That said, I think news media and journalist in general are acting within historical American norms. There is just more of it in our faces to filter given our 24 news cycle. Even “fake news” is largely found on social media platforms from non-traditional sources, which should raise red flags with informed citizens.

    • Happy Commenter January 22, 2019 at 5:52 pm

      One would expect the “special” one to believe CNN is objective. That’s why he is always laughed at so regularly.

      • Real Life January 23, 2019 at 6:38 am

        You are correct. CNN has been flat out caught.

  • Comment January 22, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    I don’t agree with Ed here. I really don’t trust the media, except small local media. MSM is all agenda reporting anymore.

    I’m not a huge fan, but the journalist Sharyl Attkisson has done a good job in the past describing how msm has become so corrupt and agenda driven.

    • KR567 January 22, 2019 at 10:18 pm

      actually you just told a lie ..because of your hate filled existence you dont like or trust anybody..

      • Happy Commenter January 23, 2019 at 3:47 pm

        HAHAha! Good One!

  • Craig January 22, 2019 at 7:33 pm

    You lost credibility claiming CNN is unbiased. You also lost credibility thinking there is objective reporting.

    When I grew up, yes we did have real journalists who offered facts, allowing us to decide for ourselves our opinion.

    Today, claimed journalists present opinion pieces like this with their clear biases obvious.

    • bikeandfish January 22, 2019 at 8:52 pm

      “Today, claimed journalists present opinion pieces like this with their clear biases obvious”

      Ugh, this is an opinion piece. Are you being ironic? Granted, reading comments to these pieces on FB makes me realize many people don’t know the difference.

      I think many people would benefit from reading up on journalism’s history. Its not what most people claim it was. Our current era is pretty status quo for the profession. Especially print journalism (which includes online articles).

    • Happy Commenter January 23, 2019 at 3:48 pm

      The “special one” lost all credibility long ago.

  • KR567 January 22, 2019 at 10:19 pm

    St George news you can delete that r …sorry about that

  • jaltair January 23, 2019 at 1:28 am

    To be a free, open, an unbiased press means always looking for the truth to report, even if that truth makes one feel uneasy, or even if the truth doesn’t fit within their personal narrative. When a reporter decides the story needs to fit a particular narrative in order to promulgate a cause, justified or unjustified, the story becomes less than truth. It becomes “yellow” journalism and its’ veracity is brought to question. The yellow stain may never come off, as in the case of Dan Rather.

    • bikeandfish January 23, 2019 at 2:25 pm

      I get your sentiment and general idea. I doubt I’ll change your mind on much.

      Just one caveat, “yellow journalism” was historically defined by sensationalism to drive up sales. Nonetheless, much of the journalism itself was solid and respected “fact-based” reporting. It was just used in a specific, marketing driven way. Ironically many features we took for granted in the 20th century as “unbiased press” were derived from that strategy: banner headlines, emphasis on large photographs or images, etc.

      Per Rather….that blunder has been accounted for. He stepped down and the producer was fired. If anything, what CBS did in the aftermath was above and beyond the standard and noticeably transparent. News organizations make mistakes. CBS not only owned that but formed a committee that researched the issue and released its damning findings. But Dan Rather’s entire career isn’t in question because of a rush to air one story that couldn’t be authenticated.

      • Comment January 23, 2019 at 5:06 pm

        why do you feel the need to defend them? they’ve lost much of the public’s trust for good reason. Do you not see this?

        • bikeandfish January 23, 2019 at 5:38 pm

          Whose them?

          And I think I just constructively criticized CBS and Rather. I put his unethical choice in context and offered a nuanced take on why one, even big, choice doesn’t erase an entire career.

          But if you are asking me to uncritically condemn the media (insert MSM, legacy media, etc) wholesale than you are barking up the wrong tree. I don’t believe judging an entire group for the mistakes of individuals.

        • Happy Commenter January 23, 2019 at 5:57 pm

          B&F is the noisy queen of the lost cause.

          • bikeandfish January 23, 2019 at 6:27 pm

            Thanks, John. I have greatly appreciated your kind donations to my fan club. It means a lot to us.

  • Carpe Diem January 24, 2019 at 6:05 am

    “CNN is an organization with plenty of respected, professional journalist”

    Good GOD what hogwash!

    • bikeandfish January 24, 2019 at 10:17 am

      Cute. Want to show me how I’m wrong?

  • Carpe Diem January 24, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    Yeah… CNN took the lying narrative, along with the rest of the lying #FakeNews LWL MSM, that the Covington Catholic children were the provocateurs in racist attacks, while in truth, the Black Hebrew Israelites were the ones to start it, and Nathan Phillips’ joined in with them in harassing the children. The kids simply stood their ground, sung school songs to drown out the hate speech directed at them… and once again, this fiasco proves CNN and the MSM and many many ignorant celebrities as racist dividers. Such a shame. The blame sits on their shoulders. Accept it. BTW so many death threats on those children… due to the lying MSM including CNN carrying water for these haters. WOW….

    Some have apologized, some doubling down on the insanity. (including the SLTrib – heaping the sins of Catholic fathers of 100-200 years ago on the kids)


    TIMCAST: CNN Analyst DELETES Twitter, Faces Lawsuit For Covington FAKE NEWS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmDWa2imsGk

    PJW take on it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uG5GqMJ4-6E

    • bikeandfish January 24, 2019 at 5:48 pm

      That doesn’t disprove my statement. It just is a rightful criticism of the specific journalists that ran those stories.

      Want to try again? With some actual nuance that exposes how the bulk of the journalist employed by CNN are not professional. And I’ll even give you an example of nuance; you won’t see me call Fox News “faux” news because I apply the same standard to them. There are plenty of quality journalist there that are thrown under the bus because of the behavior of folks like Tucker Carlson, Lara Ingraham, or previously Bill O’Reilly.

      • Carpe Diem January 24, 2019 at 7:57 pm

        Are you asleep at the wheel b+f?? Nuance this, CNN and all their fake news phonies have been breathlessly breathing fake Russia nonsense down your neck for over two years now. All of them. It’s what they do … with nothing to show for it but two years of wasted bandwidth, airtime and headspace. “BREAKING NEWS TONITE!” (For two years, REALLY?) Not professional at all! They are all phonies. Cuomo, Stelter, Lemon, Acosta, et al … a big bunch of phonies who tarnish the track record CNN had under Ted Turner.

        In the meantime, Hillary sold Russian companies a good portion of USA uranium for 150 million, and they act like they never saw a thing. Same thing with Haiti, nothing but a complete fraud, and they pretend it didn’t happen. This bias starts at the top with Zucker and marinates all the way down. CNN as a “news” organization ceased to exist long ago. I’m just thankful Hillary wasn’t elected, and now the clowns at CNN just make fools of themselves on a weekly basis.

        This week being a real humdinger, but yet again you shrug off the proof of their fakeness from the top blaming it on “specific journalists”. BTW it wasn’t a “Rightful criticism of the specific journalists that ran those stories” it ‘s CNN from the TOP DOWN spewing the same mean spirited, divisive lies. More than one of their journalists were breathing the lies, and CNN has yet to issue retractions. A lot of time was spent spinning and producing those hateful segments, and zero time vetting what really happened.

        They figured you would buy it hook, line and sinker, and many did… some sad people on Twitter followed up the CNN reports with death threats against the kids.

        Funny though, CNN has it’s own Wiki page detailing (some) of their “controversies”. HA! This one will be added before long, no doubt.


        • bikeandfish January 24, 2019 at 9:55 pm

          Nope, not alseep at the wheel.

          Per your lie that “They figured you would buy it hook, line and sinker, and many did”. Not only didn’t I buy it but I spent doing hours of video watching Saturday night and Sunday trying to figure the situation out. In fact, I highlighted that reality earlier in a response to Comment. I said “I think there are definitely talking heads and even journalist that need to show greater restraint. The viral video debacle this past weekend is a great example. So would be the cross posting/discussions about the Buzzfeed article without actual access to the sources.”

          I value in holding individuals accountable for their action. I don’t value holding groups accountable for the actions of individuals. In this case, I would also highlight the difference in consumers losing trust in specific media like CNN and holding their many journalist responsible for the actions of show runners and producers. Those are important nuances, especially if you truly care about correcting, what I previously highlighted, “abuses” in the media. We don’t get to a better place by throwing the baby out with the bath water.

          And you unrelated rant in the middle highlights part of the problem. “Both sides” get involved in this type of whataboutism that never leads to accountability. This is especially true in this cultural battle represented by Fox v CNN.

          So you want to tell me you don’t personally trust CNN? Fine. I’ve admitted I don’t consume them either because I find their showrunners part of the problem in a national division (the unneeded, hyperpartisan component). But I’m also aware of the in-house journalist, and the ones the outsource for stories, that have no responsibility for the choices made by talking heads, pundits and producers. In comparison, its also how I can trust an organization’s employees despite the problems in corporate management.

          If our country doesn’t start to deal with greater nuance in critiquing media than more demagouges like Trump will manipulate citizens to their benefit. And make no mistake, that pendulum can and likely swing to the left.

  • Carpe Diem January 24, 2019 at 8:14 pm

    AAaannnd I guess I’m not the only one who finds CNN’s incompetence and unprofessionalism entertaining.
    This video on their 2018 goofball antics has almost 300K views.


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