There’s an indelicate old newspaper axiom that summarizes succinctly the way the industry traditionally viewed the issue of personal views and journalistic conflicts of interest.

The curmudgeonly city editor would say to his reporter: “Hey, I don’t care if you sleep with elephants, just don’t cover the circus.”

That was the American journalistic standard for a long time – right up until the 1970s. Today, I’m sorry to say, the circus is being covered by people sleeping in the elephant tent, the hyena cage, the sheep exhibit and the gerbil display.

We have witnessed in the last quarter century the transition of American journalism from a profession of disinterested chroniclers to one more akin to a band of lobbyists using the press to support activist causes.

At no time does this phenomenon become more apparent that in a presidential election year.

Maybe I can see it more clearly than most because, unlike most of my colleagues, I don’t have a dog in this hunt.

How would you expect the news media to respond when serious character questions are raised about a presidential candidate who has been in the public eye for more than 30 years?

You might expect the establishment press to start trying to get answers to questions it should have been asking for the previous three decades.

Instead, in this year’s presidential election, faced with just such a scenario, the media elite are devoting most of their energy and resources to investigating those who have blown the whistle on the man who seeks to be president.

The Washington Post filed a Freedom Of Information Act request not to see John Kerry’s medical and military service records, but rather it filed one to get the records of one of his accusers.

When one swiftboat veteran emerged last weekend to support a small part of Kerry’s version of reality, the press made it seem that he was offering definitive proof that accusations by 254 others had been undermined.

The fundamental problem is this: The press has taken John Kerry at his word for 33 years. Now, to admit Kerry’s deceptions would, by default, be an admission of the press’ own negligence for more than three decades.

It seems the press is not even paying attention to the charges of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, though they are well-documented and well-supported by multiple eyewitnesses.

For instance, the Associated Press reported last weekend that William Rood had countered arguments by the swiftboat vets about the incident for which Kerry won the Bronze Star. In fact, Rood, an editor with the Chicago Tribune, wrote only about an incident for which Kerry was awarded the Silver Star.

Incredibly, because the elite media are so out of touch with consumers, the story went uncorrected.

Reuters stated Rood’s account “said the tales told by Kerry’s detractors are untrue.” In fact, Rood was emphatic in his essay that he only knew about one incident involving Kerry – one representing only a very small part of the case against the presidential candidate.

Reuters’ report also attributed the Swift Boat Veterans’ criticism of Kerry to “Republicans.” In fact, the vets have said repeatedly many in their ranks are Democrats and independents.

Having spent 30 years in the daily news business, I can assure you these are not mere oversights. There is a fundamental problem with the establishment media. If I make a mistake in WorldNetDaily – a factual error – I will be corrected by readers within minutes of its appearance. The big media don’t have that benefit. They are insulated from their readers and viewers. They don’t have a two-way relationship.

But, there’s a much deeper institutional problem in the media. It’s the institutional problem that drove me out. It’s the institutional problem that led me to create alternatives. It’s the institutional problem that led to the news service you are reading right now.

That institutional problem is that the media now trust the very people they are supposed to be watchdogging. In this case, the press may not be sleeping with the elephants, but they sure are sleeping with the donkeys.

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