There’s a video floating around the Internet that has also gotten airtime on some networks. It’s President George W. Bush jokingly flicking off a camera before a taping of an address when he still was governor in Texas, calling the gesture “the one-fingered victory salute.” It’s not the video that was revealing; it’s the way a network anchor responded to it that shows the media are still having problems with “objective reporting.
After the video was shown on a nightly news segment, a network anchor said the video was “purported to be President Bush making an obscene gesture.”
How obvious does something have to be before a news organization feels secure enough to point it out? The video was not “purported” to show Bush; it clearly did show Bush. For anybody who saw it, as the viewers of the segment did, this was obvious.
Even the famously objective Walter Cronkite, who arguably ushered in the TV news era as we know it today, did tell it how it was on at least two occasions. After the Tet offensive that killed hundreds of American troops in Vietnam in 1968, Cronkite asked on the air, “What the hell is going on? I thought we were winning this war.”
Stating the obvious does not mean the media are taking either side of a controversy. By simply reporting facts or airing a simple video that clearly shows our President doing something stupid while he was governor, the media inform the public.
What will it take for the American mass media to wake up and realize this? For the press to be the unofficial “fourth estate” of our governmental system, providing oversight of the three other branches, the American people will have to be able to trust them to state facts the way they are.