Friday, February 18, 2005

There's A Place For Them 

Journalists. And no, this has nothing to do with global warming or previously extremely warm places freezing over.

We need a free press, in every permutation you can think of for that word "free." Free to be...you and me, and most of all, itself. We need a press free not merely of government constraints, but also establishment constraints, and free of the most fatal of constraints, those of conventional wisdom. The tricky part of all this is that the voices of the American right would probably insist that they believe exactly the same thing, and would locate conventional wisdom way way over on that center left axis where sit all those old radical Democrats and their voters.

Here's the difference between the two political sides; the American right is deeply committed to a two-prong strategy; deepen the mistrust of ordinary Americans in the press, encourage skepticism about even the possibility of a genuinly free, and independent press, and in the ensuing vacumn, set up an alternate Rube Goldenboy contraption, a Potemkin Village faux media to take the place of a free press. That, of course, is the most important aspect of the L'affaire Gannon/Guckhert.

Since it can be a despairing task to find oneself defending someone as powerful, and as consistently disappointing as Dan Rather, or the war coverage of CNN, which could hardly have been less critical of Bush policy, or more credulous about the Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation if they'd been...well, trying very hard to be credulous, I wanted to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to read a real journalist at work.

Cursor brings our attention to an amazing transcript that David Holiday had the moxie to notice and assemble for publication on his blog, "Central America and beyond;" it's a transcript of Rod Norland, a Newsweek correspondant in Baghdad, handling a live session of readers' questions. Norland is funny, knowledgable, wise and startingly honest. Even before I read this, I thought that he and Christopher Dickey were doing important work getting the story of Iraq back to us. But when you read a transcript like this, you remember that journalism is both a profession and a craft, that journalists do something real and important, that has its differences from what a blogger, or a citizen journalist might do.

We lefties want more free press, not less. Let's never forget that.

You can find Holiday's post about Norland here.

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