Toothless: The watchdog press that became the government’s lapdog (Part 2)

By Walter Brasch

In May 2004, the New York Times, while claiming it was aggressive in pursuing stories about the Bush–Cheney administration, slipped in an apology for acting more as the mouthpiece for politicians than as a watchdog for society.

“Coverage was not as rigorous as it should have been,” the Times admitted. Part of the problem, the Times acknowledged, was that “Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper.” The Times concluded it wished “we had been more aggressive.”

Almost three months later, the Washington Post, one of the most hawkish papers for invading Iraq, finally acknowledged its own pre-war hysteria and lack of journalistic competence and courage.

“We were so focused on trying to figure out what the administration was doing that we were not giving the same play to people who said it wouldn’t be a good idea to go to war and were questioning the administration’s rationale,” wrote Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr.

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