It was only a few years ago, that President George W. Bush was heralded as a leader among leaders. He had responded to the crisis of 9/11 with, what appeared to be decisiveness and honor. That was the immediate perception, until the country learned the rest of the story. The “rest of the story” came to light through news stories, newspapers, and the like, which provided information that the President not only didn’t respond appropriately, but in fact, at times didn’t seem to respond at all. The Bush Administration has undergone a transformation in the media that has not been positive.
Until recently, the polls have continued to show a decline in the popularity of the President. However, with a recent burst in media stories, proclaiming the President’s positive efforts, Bush has, for the moment, reclaimed some of his followers. The question remains, does Bush influence the media beyond what is reasonable, or does the media own Bush? As Alterman & Tomasky state, in their article entitled Wake Up Time, the press which covers the Presidential Administration and a multitude of other factions, are among the most powerful people in the world.
“If journalists demonstrated the kind of tenacity in going after key political stories that they did during that brief shining moment, well, America will have an election worthy of the world’s oldest democracy, and reporters and editors alike will be able to speak proudly of the charge given to them by its oldest written constitution: to protect and defend the public’s right to know its leaders–and to choose them wisely. ” (Alterman & Tomasky, 2004) Yet, if among the most powerful people in the world, why is the Administration not responding in kind?
One would expect, in a democratic society, that the media would have an impact on not only the public, but the Administration and its policies. Public opinion of the President and how his administration have performed are, in large part, formed by the media and their presentation. The media has been scorned by the public for their soft coverage of actions, and by the Administration for their lack of “truth-telling. ” So which is it? Is the administration performing poorly or is the press reporting poorly?
It is this writer’s belief that the press has fallen short of providing the public with the truth. When presented with the Iraq war, the country rallied in support of the President. The case had been presented successfully, at the time. The President assured the United States that this was not only a worthy battle, but a necessary one, and the country concurred. The media initially covered the story as one of our greatest challenges of all time. But, the questions were few and far between. It appeared to be more of an opportunity for the media to be part of the war than to question its occurrence.
“Any objective person would say that in some ways Clinton was covered too aggressively in some areas, and Bush is not covered aggressively enough,’ says ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin. Among stories receiving insufficient attention in his view: the growing deficit, the lack of transparency regarding energy policy formation and, at least initially, the rationale for committing troops to the war in Iraq. ” (Smolkin, 2003) The press, often accused of a liberal slant, may have simply responded to the lack of news conferences held by the President. “President George W.
Bush has been in office for more than two years, and he’s held exactly eight news conferences. At the same point in his presidency, George Bush the elder had held 58 news conferences. Of the current President’s eight news conferences, only two have been in prime time. ” (Edwards, 2003) Many of his press conferences have only included those the President invited, including only those questions which have been pre-planned asked. The media must be allowed to ask those questions that are based on immediate circumstances that are occurring across the country and otherwise, not only those that the president plans to respond to.
Helen Thomas has long been a critic of President Bush and a critic of the press during his administration. Thomas has been frustrated at the lack of response by the media to a country which appears to be in crisis. “A journalist is professionally dedicated to truth-seeking, not just anybody, anybody who enters the profession makes a core commitment to do his or her best to determine and tell the truth. ” (Thomas, 2005) Based on media critics and the Administration, one must conclude that perhaps there are a multitude of factors affecting the media and their work.
While it is important that the media respond to the immediate situations that are occurring, certainly they are concerned with the affect their reporting has on the public. Their success, along with the President, is affected by public’s perception. Their polls exist in the public’s decision to watch or read their press, versus the reporting of someone else. Their desire to report the truth, is in fact, affected by the impact that report has on the public and the public’s perception of their report. If the public does not particularly care for their report, will they watch and/or read their report next time.
Media is not only about what is occurring nation and world wide, but what is selling papers or television news shows. The media, if liberal, then would desire to expose the Administration for its faults, and yet the majority of the country voted for this President. If they turn off the majority of the country to their reports, then who do they sell too? “Firm in the belief that the press can be gored for easy political gain, the Bush Administration has set about reducing the status of the media (specifically, what it sees as the left-wing, Eastern-establishment media) to that of a pesky yet manageable interest group, nothing more.
. . They—the media—don’t represent the public any more than other people do. In our democracy, the people who represent the public stood for election. . . . I don’t believe you have a check-and-balance function. ” (Remnick, 2006) As stated, by Frank Rich in the New York Times, we do have more than enough to worry about. (Rich, 2006) The country is bombarded with bad news. We allegedly went to war for the wrong reason. We allegedly abused Iraqui prisoners of war. We allegedly killed innocent civilians. At some point the people of the United States have to sit back and assume that the government knows what it is doing.
After all, we elected them to worry about these things, and based on a small amount of information given by a source that may or may not be biased, we need to assume that they are doing the right thing. The New York Times has been accused of a compromise of national security and treason. (Rich, 2006) “The Times’s offense was to publish a front-page article about a comprehensive American effort to track terrorists with the aid of a Belgian consortium, Swift, which serves as a clearinghouse for some 7,800 financial institutions in 200 countries.
” (Rich, 2006) Snow, press secretary for the White House, denied allegations that the Times had done anything illegal. In fact, Snow said the article was “fair and balanced. ” (Rich, 2006) The focus of the Times story was that this program was conducted with no oversight. The overall effect was what the public was left with, the Times had made a decision that our sacrificed the safety of lives over the safety of the public’s right to know. (Rich, 2006) This has been an overriding factor in the Bush Administration, the media, and the general public.
Whenever challenged by the media, the Bush Administration challenges that the media cares more about selling stories than they do the military or government that is fighting to protect our rights. There is no clear cut division at this point in time to decide who is telling the truth, the media or the government. What is clear, is that the citizens of the United States cannot take anything at face value. We are in fact a country in crisis and we need to take the time to assess what the media is telling us, and corroborate those facts with what is occurring.
Bush accuses those of reporting the facts of falsifying information in order to interfere with the war on terror. Bush protects his information on the basis that it is unjust to reveal a “classified program. ” (Babington & Abramowitz, 2006) It is time for the American people to educate themselves on the practices of government and the practices of the media, in order that they may be able to discern the difference between the two. The media, while responsive to the country’s needs, will indeed report what they believe the country wants to hear at times.
Respectively, the government will challenge the media on issues that the public may not be able to understand due to classified information. The country may never have a definitive answer to many questions that have been put forth by the media. But, it will be up to the American people to search out the truth to those questions, utilizing both the media and the government. Works Cited Alterman, E. , & Tomasky, M. (2004, March). Wake-Up Time: Yes, Bush Has Bullied the National Media. but Are They Really Powerless? Only If They Play along. Herewith, Five Suggestions for How the Fourth Estate Can Stop the Charade. The American Prospect, 15, 20+.
Retrieved August 2, 2006, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=5002100381 Babington, Charles and Michael Abramowitz. Bush Seeks to Use Media Leaks to His Advantage; Attack on Newspapers Continues as Some Democrats Accuse White House of Trying to Divert Attention. The Washington Post. June 29, 2006. Edwards, Bob. The press and freedom: a radio journalist spots disturbing trends in how the White House press corps reports on the Bush administration. (Watchdog). Nieman Reports. June 22, 2003. Rich, Frank. All the News That’s Fit to Bully. The New York Times. July 9, 2006. Smolkin, R. (2003, October/November).
Are the News Media Soft on Bush? That Much-Ballyhooed “Liberal Press” Hasn’t Been Nearly as Tough on President Bush as It Was on His Predecessor. One Key Reason: Bush’s Controversies Have Involved Policy Rather Than Personal Peccadilloes, and the Media Have a Much Bigger Appetite for the Latter. but Does the Weapons of Mass Destruction Flap Presage a Shift?. American Journalism Review, 25, 16+. Retrieved August 2, 2006, from Questia database: http://www. questia. com/PM. qst? a=o&d=5002024378 Thomas, H. (2005, October). The press in a time of Bush: intimidation and the sense of fear in the collective mind of the profession. The Quill.