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November 24, 2005 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-11-24

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Watergate reporter takes on
the media conglomerates.

Harry Kirsba um
Staff Writer

f good journalism is defined as
the best obtainable version of
the truth, the picture of our
society as represented in
American news media is disfig-
ured, unreal and out of touch with
the truth, said Carl Bernstein, 61.
The former Washington Post
reporter spoke to a crowd of more
than 900 at Temple Israel in West
Bloomfield on Nov. 15. The
Michigan Regional Office of the
Anti-Defamation League cospon-
sored the event.
The media has been disfigured
"by celebrity worship, by gossip,
by sensationalism, by denial of
our society's real condition, by
manufactured controversy, by the
unwillingness to watch what our
leaders•do instead of what they
say," said Bernstein who, with Bob
Woodward, broke the Watergate
story in 1972 that forced President


- November 24 - 2005

Richard Nixon to resign. The two
still converse regularly.
The press and the politicians
have allowed things to "devolve
into shouting, name-calling and a
cacophony of easy answers to real-
ly tough questions."
While giving some credit to
some news organizations like the
New York Times, the Washington
Post, National Public Radio and
the Wall Street Journal, he still
brought the media to task.
"We have failed to open up our
own institutions, except under
duress, to the same kind of scruti-
ny that we demand of other pow-
erful institutions:' he said. "Our
mistake in trying to maintain the
myth and the ... self-image that
we've been doing a great job is
every bit as great a fiction as the
American Congress has been
serving the people."
He called publishing magnate
Rupert Murdoch the most influen-
tial figure in the last part of the

20th century.
Murdoch's empire negatively
affected journalism as a whole,
Bernstein said,and helped to
bring about "Idiot Culture" in
America. .
Citing one example, taken from
Murdoch's New York Daily News
and the New York Post, and the
non-Murdoch Long Island
Newsday, he said all three papers
splashed their front pages with
Donald and Ivana Trump's
breakup while relegating Nelson
Mandela's returned to Soweto after
years in a South African gulag and
the agreement on Germany's
reunification to inside sections.
Television also led with the
Trump story the next day.
ABC News correspondent
"Diane Sawyer did not go to
Soweto; she did not go to
Brandenberg Gate; she went to
Marla Maples' apartment:' said
He received loud applause when

he called local television news
everywhere "a disgrace." .
He also took shots at the Bush
White House, which "operates a
media apparatus far more sophis-
tiCated in fighting and discrediting
the presS and political opponents
than the little sop" directed by
Nixon associates H.R."Bob"
Haldemann, John Ehrlichman,
Charles Colson and Ron Ziegler.
Bernstein said the media have •
"largely ignored the most impor-
tant political story in America of
the last 25 years: the wholesale
corruption of our political system,
especially in the state legislatures
and the Congress of the United
Bernstein called the system
"broken, and we don't know how
to cover this story because the cor-
ruption is so pervasive. The sys-
tem itself is corrupt, whether con-
servative money or liberal money.
"Most of the members of the
House and Senate are millionaires,
and then some',' he said. "We have
created a plutocracy"
To keep pace, an incumbent
senator has to raise $60,000 or
$70,000 a day for every day of his
or her six-year term, Bernstein
said. `And that's what occupies so
much of the attention and time
and enthusiasm of the members
of the House and Senate — rais-
ing money for re-election."
Bernstein was pessimistic about

a solution.
"This is not about money domi-
nating politics ... our politics is
[all] about money',' he said. "I don't
know quite what the answer is."
After his talk, Bernstein called
on media conglomerates to go
back to producing journalism
instead of producing raw profits.
"We need more publishers will- -
ing to spend money on news',' he
told the Detroit Jewish News. "It
seems to me that if you can invent
Jerry Springer, you can invent
good coverage.
"Those institutions that value
raw profit without responsibility
will continue to die. It used to be
in the interest of these conglomer-
ates ... to give back something to
the culture.
But now, "because the conglom-
erates are so interested in profits,
they are subject to a kind of
blackmail,'? he said. "You find peo-
ple who say they are going to boy-
cott them or accuse them of liber-
al bias, which is not true."
Sharon Schwartz of Bloomfield
Township liked the speech and
said she wasn't suprised by
Bernstein's comments about
President George W. Bush. "It was
nothing I hadn't heard before,' she
She added: "I do definitely
respect Carl Bernstein. And I
respect what he said about keeping
high standards in journalism." ❑


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