Tuesday, October 10, 2006

All the Facts that Are Fit to Stack

Why is journalism a mess, you might ask (and I'm not even taking about the News-Press this time)? It's easy to see Bob Woodward as the dean of American journalists, at least the most known name and face. Sure you or I might pick Seymour Hersh, but Hersh never had Will Ferrell, let alone Robert Redford, play him in a movie (btw, if you've never seen Dick, get your hands on it and stick it in your DVD player at once). Woodward is everywhere, and one of his books tops the bestseller list with almost too-automatic regularity, as if booksales were tabulated by Diebold, especially given how those same Woodward hardcovers end up remaindered and clogging the sale aisles post-haste.

Still, when people think journalism, they think Woodward. But when Woodward thinks journalism, he thinks, according to Alicia C. Shepard in the Chicago Tribune and soon a bio of "Woodstein":

Say what you will, but he just wants to get the facts.

"He really believes it is his job to bring to light secrets that would otherwise not be told, not give his opinion," said David Greenberg, a former Woodward assistant.

Woodward takes advantage of the access he has built up in 30 years of reporting. And he lets the reader decide what it all adds up to. He doesn't attempt to make sense of the story, to put it in context or even be analytical. It's just not who he is.

Now, even Ronald Reagan knew that facts are stupid things. Does Woodward really think ignoring context works? Is that how Bush can be the decider in one book and decidedly deluded in the next?

It strikes me as truly odd that it's the political right that accuses the left of being wishy-washy, too willing to see all sides and not believe in absolutes. Yet when it comes to the media, if they actually tell the truth and not truthiness, they are flat-out wrong. The media have to present "both" sides of every story. But true objectivity would admit there is truth--that Iraq is a mess, that people lied to get us there, that BushCo. wants more power than any White House has ever even asked for, let alone received.

In the meantime our most famous journalist stacks up facts but refuses to see what the piles mean, leaving us standing about in too many steaming piles.


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