Last week, the world watched video of President Joe Biden ordering a pie in a Michigan farm food store. An off-camera reporter asks him about “the recent hack by the Russians” (a major cyberattack), and Biden mumbles in reply, “We’re not sure it was the Russians.” Then he actually consults a note card to give the stock follow-up, “If it is … with the knowledge of … or consequence of Russia, then I told Putin we will respond.” His pathetic response kept no one at the Kremlin up at night — though it should have people at the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and every mainstream news operation because of this evidence that the president of the United States is an addled, decrepit incompetent.
But they always knew that. And they also knew that their job is not to report the news but to conceal it when it goes against their absurd left-wing narrative — that Biden’s blatant cluelessness masks the acumen of Barnaby Jones.
These pseudo-journalists covered only the text of Biden’s statement like some Solomonic pronouncement, minus the sad display accompanying it (“ ‘We’re not sure it was the Russians,’ Biden in Michigan, tells me when I asked about the latest cyber attack on US businesses,” tweeted Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News). Others promoted the “folksy charm” canard of the cringeworthy White House PR op (“I want a cherry pie. I also want an apple pie,” AP White House reporter Josh Boak quoted Biden in his tweet). Their media bosses always leaned left, but they used to hire real reporters and run any story if it was hot enough, even if the heat burned their side. This new crop can’t pretend to be reporters anymore. My editor at USA Today would have booted my butt if I turned in fluff like theirs. And I covered Hollywood.
In the spring of 1987, I sat with a friend, Tom, right behind William Hurt in an auditorium full of movie extras playing TV reporters, ostensibly listening to a speech by Holly Hunter about the decline of television journalism. I was doing a newspaper story about extra work on the James Brooks film Broadcast News. We were instructed to react with outrage at Hunter’s challenge to our trade — in visual contrast to Hurt’s total engrossment.
“Our profession is in danger,” Hunter said. “The legacy of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and Dan Rather is being squandered.”
“The legacy of Rather?” I whispered to Tom.
“Courage,” Tom said.
“All of you know what I’m talking about,” Hunter continued. “We’re all trying to act tougher than we are.”
That’s when Tom and I dramatically walked out in disgust at Hunter’s speech, as Brooks directed us. But now, looking back over 24 years, I realize the Hunter character was prescient. Reporters once had to be tough. They had to follow the truth through the minefields of war, crime, political corruption, and ideological opposition — external and internal — no matter where it led or whom it destroyed, including any politician of either party if the story was good enough. They didn’t make up bull about a Republican president (the legacy of Rather for George W. Bush, the Russia hoax for Donald Trump) or suppress reality about a Democrat (the Hunter Biden laptop story for Joe Biden).
And pre-woke Hollywood celebrated the breed with its best and brightest, creating career role models for young people like me: Clark Gable in It Happened One Night (1934), Somewhere I’ll Find You (1942), and Teacher’s Pet (1958), Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday (1940), Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story (1940) and Calling Northside 777 (1948), Spencer Tracy in Woman of the Year (1942) and Keeper of the Flame (1942), Humphrey Bogart in Deadline — U.S.A. (1952) and The Harder They Fall (1956), Rod Taylor in Sunday in New York (1963), Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in All the President’s Men (1976), Mel Gibson in The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), Sean Connery in Wrong is Right (1982), and Clint Eastwood in True Crime (1999).
Speaking of Gibson in The Year of Living Dangerously, when I was a copy-aide at the Washington Post, he was my idol and that of my peers. We actually competed to get hired by the Post as a foreign correspondent and live dangerously in some war-torn land. That’s how young and foolish we were, and how romantic our business once seemed. I even wrote a semi-autographical novel about it, Paper Tigers, only transplanted to the wild and recent Trump era, when most journalists got broken, including several at Fox News, like Chris Wallace and Neil Cavuto. But not my idealistic protagonist, Nick Jarrett, who considered himself lucky to be one in a volatile time: “He gazed proudly at the seventh-floor newsroom lights glowing through the snowfall, believing himself to be part of something fateful.”
Three short years after that novel was published, Nick would be disgusted by what androgynous ideological serfs have made of the trade. And no red-blooded American youth today would aspire to be a Jim Acosta, Don Lemon, Jake Tapper, Paula Reid, Lee Cowan, Joy Reid, Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, or any other fake newsie. They fawn over Biden spokeswoman Jen Psaki with the same energy they put into trying — and failing — to shake Trump’s Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
Even more unforgivable is that some call for outright censorship of their nonconformist colleagues. New York Times writer Sarah Jeong, for instance, asked Twitter to ban Andy Ngo, whose exemplary reporting on Antifa and BLM has inconveniently exposed those groups as violent Marxist militants. And Yahoo News’ Alexander Nazaryan demanded the same for Mollie Hemingway and Tucker Carlson. For Jeong, Nazaryan, and their embarrassing ilk, “democracy dies in darkness” is not just the Washington Post slogan but the ultimate goal.
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