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Step off, old man!
Monday, 21 June 2004
The death of journalism
The coverage of Ronald Reagan's death may indeed have been the death knell for legitimate journalism. There are a number of factors that have contributed to the decline of journalism -- the 24-hour news channels, the rise of interest groups willing to lie about their opponents, the laziness of reporters -- but the single biggest factor may be the unwillingness of reporters to question a popular concept.

The Iraq war was one case of that. Any reporter who dared to question the rationale for going to war was blasted as unpatriotic or denied access by the Administration. Again, don't underestimate the laziness of today's reporter. There's an old joke that a current headline would probably read: "Politician claims Earth is flat: opponents disagree." That's the case today; almost everything is: he said, she said.

Reagan's death, funeral, and legacy deserved widespread coverage. It also deserved honest coverage. But that's not the way it happened.

One of the best things to come out of rap music is the term "hater." The political equivalant of a "hater" was anyone who dared to say anything negative about Reagan. All you needed was Sean Hannity saying, "Don't be hatin'."

Reagan was not a perfect man, and I'm sure he'd be the first to acknowledge. His first marriage failed, at a time when many outside of Hollywood didn't just casually dump one wife for another. He wasn't a perfect father, as evidenced by the estrangement of two of his children. He wasn't a perfect leader, either, but heaven forbid anyone dare utter even a single negative phrase about it.

Reagan was an important figure at an important time in history. At the time of his death, he should have been analyzed respectfully, but honestly. The fact that so many reporters were afraid to do so does not bode well for the future of journalism.

Posted by brettdavey at 8:27 AM EDT
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