Journalists in the 1940s, '50s and early '60s tended to believe they had a duty to buttress Americans' faith in their leaders and their government. Journalists since Vietnam and Watergate have tended to believe that they have a duty to undermine such faith, especially when the wrong party is in office.Thus writes U.S. News & World Report's Michael Barone (as Sylvie Kauffmann demonstrates perfectly what he is talking about).
That belief has its perils for journalism, as the Fitzgerald investigation has shown. The peril that the press may find itself in the hot seat, but even more the peril that it will get the story wrong. The visible slavering over the prospect of a Rove indictment is just another item in the list of reasons why the credibility of the "mainstream media" has been plunging. There's also a peril for the political left. Vietnam and Watergate were arguably triumphs for honest reporting. But they were also defeats for America--and for millions of freedom-loving people in the world. They ushered in an era when the political opposition and much of the press have sought not just to defeat administrations but to delegitimize them. The pursuit of Karl Rove by the left and the press has been just the latest episode in the attempted criminalization of political differences. Is there any hope that it might turn out to be the last?