Sunday, September 9, 2012

Reich Should Stick to the Economy

     I've long admired Robert Reich, the former Clinton labor secretary who is now a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. I still do, but I have some advice for him: don't teach journalism. I read his opinion piece in Sunday's Insight section of the San Francisco Chronicle in which he lambasted Republican attacks on the major league news media.
    I was with the AP when I first realized Reich was a man of integrity, a man of his word who wanted to do the right thing. I covered a labor convention in San Francisco and heard him tell the delegates that President Clinton, who spoke a day earlier, was sorry for not mentioning possible "anti-scab" laws, then the top priority of unions. I thought that took some guts because it showed that Clinton was really out of touch with the working class. My editor didn't want to use that angle It was a long time ago, but I think he might have settled for burying it. He was in a humble mumble mood the next day when a leading columnist - I think it was the late Alexander Cockburn - wrote his entire day's offering about the oversight. I note this because Reich's piece dismisses GOP assertions that the mainstream media is run bv "liberal elites." We all know that the "liberal media" is a myth, right up there with global warming. "Liberal incompetents" would be closer to the truth.
   The news media has (I use the singular for the same reason I employ it when referring to the United States) always been a liberal bastion. No harm in that. Business is a conservative field. So what? A reporter can be liberal and be unbiased, or, at least aware of bias and still write a balanced report. I think that's the way it was until around the 1970s or so when a lot of news people brought their agendas to work. 
    Reich hits particularly hard at "Rush Limbaugh and his yell-radio imitators." Believe me, folks, Rush and his bunch wouldn't have a market if the traditional news outlets had been doing their job. When Limbaugh made his debut, the news media had grown so powerful it could limit "choice" to one subject. The newspapers are no longer the only game in town and they have tons of critics on the Internet. But they still can dictate the agenda. Think not? The sheriff soap opera in San Francisco is reported to the puke point by the Chronicle - and thus everyone else in the news biz - yet five years ago the fire chief's similar troubles were kissed off in a day or so. And how did "marriage equality," a term that should cover any consenting adults, come to be limited to the debate about same sex couples?  Inquiring minds in Utah want to know. And so do a lot of cousins.
    Professor Reich, your facts just don't add up.


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