Of pedestals and prostitutes

A grey-haired editor once told me, “Journalism is a whore riding a black horse.” The black horse, he explained, is newspaper ink. I was a college senior, a journalism major, caught up in the nobility of the Fourth Estate, and I suppose he intended to tamp down my enthusiasm. Now, almost 30 years later, I still want to believe in my chosen profession and the noble pedestal on which it perches.

So, when it comes to journalism, there’s nothing like a little hypocrisy to get my hackles up. Saturday morning MSNBC’s Amy Robach asked guest Armstrong Williams about “the center-right myth” - the latest conservative mantra.

When Robach suggested this was a way to keep the word “right” in the electoral equation after an Obama victory, Williams explained that America is at “center-right,” because Americans still cherish “moral values.” (The implication, of course, is that Americans on the left have no moral values.)

I almost fell out of my chair! Armstrong Williams talking about moral values is more than I can stomach. This from a man, a professional broadcast journalist, who prostituted himself by taking money to promote one of George W. Bush’s pet projects.

In 2004 Williams, an African-American, signed a $240,000 contract with the Department of Education to promote Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program among black Americans – to peddle propaganda masked as straight news. He was subsequently issued a citation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and stiff fines were imposed against his employers, Sonshine Family Television and the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

Funny how persons who have made Faustian deals end up on cable news. Fox News’ lineup is full of them. And, now comes word that CNN has hired Stephen Hayes as “Part of the Best Political Team on Television.” Neocon Hayes has for the last eight years been a trumpeter for Bush’s “war on terror,” continuously lying about a Saddam Hussein-al Qaeda connection.

Perhaps that grey-haired editor was right, after all.


bbj said...

Another good one, BJ. You give me so much to think about . . . Thanks!

eowyn said...

I think this may be a new time when we can get back to moving on and doing, as we were before GW. I kind of look to what's going to go on in the new administration, and I hope there is a time when there's working and building. Changes rather than stymied.

B.J. said...

Eowyn: First, I think you and BBJ are the only two people who saw my blog today, and I love you for checking it! I get what you are saying. I really do. But, from time to time I do need to publish a post that has something to do with my blog description (see top left of blog). It is not “stymied” to point out ills in society: they are not going away. At the same time, I am thrilled over, as I wrote earlier, "The promise of tomorrow." I have a post written for Monday, and I promise it is one you will like. ;-) BJ

Eowyn said...

I liked what you brought up. I think I'm just explaining a lack of substantive commenting energy in that I'm in some kind of transition from frantically hoping this election works out right, and not even worse than what we had, and being intriqued with what this guy can do. Truman Capote pointed out in a dedication something Andre Gide said to him (about critics, and I would say it about the powers that were), "The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on." I hope we're on that caravan again.

B.J. said...

E- I followed that Armstrong Williams story so closely when it happened. (There were several other journalisst taking pay or "payola" from the Bushies at the same time.) That's why I was stunned to hear him talking about moral values and how the Republicans owned them. Harumph! We really did have an emotional upheaval, worried silly one minute and joyously victorious the next. My plan now is to pray for Obama to have the wisdom and courage to turn this country around before it collapses financially. Come back tomorrow - fun personal story! :-) BJ