Why America Hates the Press – Frontline Oct 22 1996

FRONTLINE Show #1503 Air Date: October 22, 1996 [b]Why America Hates the Press[/b] … Excerpts: [b]STEPHEN TALBOT:[/b] In a provocative book, Fallows argues that the Sunday talk shows are just a symptom of the problem, that the Washington press corps has grown too rich, too famous and too incestuous, hopelessly out of touch with ordinary Americans. And that, says Fallows, is why America now hates the press. [b]JAMES FALLOWS:[/b] I wrote it because I felt that people in my business were at a kind of crisis point. You do have historically low levels of public trust and esteem for us. You have market pressure. You know, you go to a newspaper convention and people are saying, “Why is everybody not reading our product anymore?” You have people recognizing that_ that feeling uncomfortable 10 or 20 years after they got into the business about what they’re actually doing day by day. So it seemed to me like this was an institution that has reached a certain critical point and I wanted to try to make my case both to people inside and outside about what was wrong.

[b]DAVID BRODER:[/b] I mean, what bothers me is the notion that journalists believe, or some journalists believe, that they can have their cake and eat it too, that you can have all of the special privileges, access and extraordinary freedom that you have because you are a journalist operating in a society which protects journalism to a greater degree than any other country in the world, and at the same time you can be a policy advocate. You can be a public performer on the lecture circuit or television. I think that’s greedy.

[b]STEPHEN TALBOT:[/b] More than 20 years ago Bob Woodward set the standard for what a Washington reporter should be when he and Carl Bernstein cracked the Watergate case. Today he is a man contemptuous of his colleagues who pontificate on the Sunday talk shows and pad their pockets on the lecture circuit. [i][interviewing] [/i]Do you think that the Washington press corps has gotten out of touch with, you know, what Pat Buchanan might call “the common man”? I mean, are we reporting now too much on the same class? [b]BOB WOODWARD: [/b]I think that’s really a good point and Clinton makes that point in my book, that he believes that the Washington press corps and the press corps has_ is so out of touch that it is absolutely inconceivable that reporters will understand the issues that people are really dealing with in their lives and Clinton feels a profound alienation from the Washington culture here and I happen to agree with him. [b]STEPHEN TALBOT:[/b] Woodward may feel alienated, but he is an integral part of the Washington culture. In a series of insider books _ eight consecutive best-sellers _ he has become the preeminent chronicler of official Washington. But most reviewers saw in his latest, The Choice, evidence that even Woodward has finally lost his edge. The New York Times, for example, said the book had no vision, no ideas, just lots of inside baseball embroidered with a filigree of insider gossip. And that insider gossip is exactly what attracted attention. Read full transcript: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/press/other/script.html