For more than 38 years, I have toiled in the news business.
I began as a reporter, worked as a foreign correspondent, joined the ranks of mid-level newspaper editors, then served as editor-in-chief of major-market dailies before founding the first independent online news agency.
That’s a unique experience, by the way. No one else dead or alive can boast such a resume, so pardon me for boasting.
In that time, I developed a keen sense of newsworthiness and news judgment. I can smell a story a mile away.
So when Todd Akin approached my book-publishing company, WND Books, with his idea for “Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom,” I believed, based on my news instincts, there would be a feeding frenzy for interviews.
I had the experience of Jack Abramoff behind me. WND Books had published his “Capitol Punishment” behind me. Everyone wanted Abramoff because he had served his prison sentence for lobbying abuses and he had been silent for so long. It was a snap getting him big media. His first interview was on “60 Minutes,” and he did every network and cable show after that. That would be the model I followed in marketing Akin’s book.
Like Abramoff, Akin had suffered in silence for nearly two years as the media used him for a punching bag. His name became a punchline. Words were put in his mouth without refute. His character was assassinated. What he said was distorted and twisted in ways that would be hard to believe. Even I was stunned when I examined it in depth.
But I was surprised at the reception Akin got.
I thought ABC, CBS and NBC would be salivating to get their favorite punching bag on the air to be mauled, again, for old times’ sake. I thought they would jump at the opportunity to have this caricature they had created on live TV. After all, if he was the dope they suggested, it would be great television – good ratings.
I was wrong. Though we talked with the producers of all the big news shows on the networks, none of them were interested in having him on. Why? Because they are cowards! It wasn’t just that they didn’t want to give Todd Akin the time of day. They weren’t sure they could manage to maintain the negative image they had created for him. What if America got to see the truth about this sincere, honest, devout family man? Might they actually like him? Might they actually buy his book?
Wow! That could really backfire, couldn’t it?
So they took a powder.
Fortunately, Megyn Kelly was unafraid. I’ll give her this: She’s fearless. She’s a good interrogator. She takes the “fair and balanced” ethos seriously. And I say this as someone who has had at least one personal, negative, on-air experience with her – one in which I believed she actually endangered the life of one of my staffers. But Megyn did her thing. She was tough, but not mean.
I say all this because no one has a lower opinion of the way the journalism profession is conducted today. I don’t say it as a “conservative” frustrated by “liberal bias in the media.” I’m way past that hackneyed view of the press.
You see, I was one of them. I was a leftist in the media. I’ve seen this issue from both sides – one of the very few who has.
When I made my calculation about the newsworthiness of a Todd Akin interview – the first he offered in two years – I was using my hat as a newsman for 38 years. I was thinking like the young leftist journalist I used to be. I was thinking how I’d love to get my hands on that guy. What I learned about the big media was even more disturbing than media bias.
I found out the people who make decisions for the major networks are not just biased. They are afraid of their own shadows. They didn’t even have the courage to face a target of their incessant vilification. They were afraid of Todd Akin. That’s why they wouldn’t put him on the air.
When I launched WND.com 17 years ago as the first independent online news source, I believed in my heart that this experiment would revolutionize the media. In many ways it has. I thought competition was the way to change the media culture. I still do. But, sadly, I find the Big Media are actually far worse today than they were 20 years ago. I didn’t even think that was possible. But it was and is.
We’ve got a long, protracted struggle ahead to “fundamentally transform” the media. And that remains a worthy mission. I don’t know if it will take another 17 years or another 50 or 100. But getting the press back to its mission is a vital necessity if we are to remain a free society.
And what is that vital mission? It’s to be a watchdog on government and other powerful institutions. It’s to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. It’s to be an independent “fourth estate” to serve as a critical check and balance on government power.
Does anyone really think the establishment media are doing that?
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