Liberal Voices Disappearing From Mainstream Media

FPF-fwd.: Helen Thomas
Liberal Voices Disappearing From Mainstream Media
Wed Jan 5, 2005 12:23

The 'Grand Old Lady' of respectable American Journalism, Helen Thomas, on one of the last 'Grand Old Gentlemen' in Journalism:

Liberal Voices Disappearing From Mainstream Media

Moyers Showed Courage Dealing With Controversy

by Helen Thomas

Bill Moyers was the last liberal voice on national television. Now he's gone into retirement.

Moyers follows the departure of other broadcasting icons who held their audiences over the years because of their integrity and their professionalism. I count Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Phil Donahue among those legends.

Moyers' recent retirement has left a large void in the lives of those Americans who regularly tuned in his magazine program, "Now > ," on PBS.

During his 30 years in public television, Moyers displayed outsized courage in tackling controversial issues. He didn't lighten up when he made his farewell broadcast on Dec. 13, lacing his parting shots with some tough observations on the state of the broadcast industry today and journalism in general.

"The biggest story of our time is how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee ... and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line," Moyers declared. "Therefore," he added, "we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people."

He ought to know, having witnessed the dumbing down of broadcast journalism, the mixing of entertainment and news and the dominance of talk shows hosted by raucous conservative commentators posing as journalists.

Moyers has received some of the highest television honors, including 30 Emmys and 10 Peabody awards. He also was targeted by his detractors as a "liberal" and a "progressive" -- badges of honor in my book.

Moyers has been on both sides of the fence, having served as White House press secretary to Lyndon B. Johnson and later as publisher of the Long Island newspaper Newsday.

In an interview with, Moyers said it is harder for reporters to get to government sources these days except when the officials "want to leak or spin."

"And a phalanx of conservative publications and right-wing radio and television talk shows has created a cavernous echo chamber for a Republican agenda, with no real-time opportunity for rebuttal of the propaganda or refutation of the lies," he declared.

Moyers also bemoaned the fact that the public is getting "so little coverage of the stories that matter to our lives and our democracy: government secrecy, the environment, health care, the state of working America, the hollowing out of the middle class, what it means to be poor in America."

He accused the megamedia conglomerates of taking over journalism. Working journalists "feel squeezed," he said.

As for coverage of the Iraqi war, Moyers said the media were "at the mercy of the official view" that Saddam Hussein was "an imminent threat without any reliable information to back it up."

U.S. officials were often thrown "softball" questions on camera but there was no time for the skeptics, Moyers complained.

He said Secretary of State Colin Powell's "discredited speech to the U.N. was hailed at the time as if it were an oration by Pericles."

Moyers said he was astonished "at the imbalance of The Washington Post -- with something like three-to-one pro-war columns on the op-ed page" in the run-up to the war.

Some people, "other than those in the establishment should have been heard," he said.

Moyers quotes Eric Alterman, media critic for The Nation magazine, that the "red meat strategy" to intimidate the mainstream press is to accuse them of "liberal bias" while other institutions, including the military, organized religion and corporate America, "all ideological bastions of influence, escape scrutiny."

In some of his more irreverent comments, Moyers ridiculed the proliferation of tiny flags in the lapels of public officials as their "trademark of a monopoly on patriotism." He said it was proof enough of his standing as a citizen by voting, paying his taxes, performing his civic duties, speaking his mind and raising his kids "to be good Americans."

I have observed that whenever a major news outlet is stung with the label "liberal" and feels the hot breath of ultra-right critics on its neck, it circles the wagons and hires yet another conservative commentator.

Take PBS, for example.

Running scared after giving Moyers the spotlight over the years, PBS made amends by hiring two conservatives: Tucker Carlson, CNN conservative commentator, and Paul Gigot, former columnist and the editor in charge of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page.

Guess that should appease the conservative critics in the wake of Moyers' departure.

Incidentally, Moyers is not going to rest on his laurels. He plans to write a book about LBJ -- another great liberal.

[andend - 2005 Hearst Newspapers]

Published on Tuesday, January 4, 2005 by the New Mexico Channel >


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