These days the media is often used as the whipping boy for whatever problems are facing the nation or society. War coverage, political bias, celebrity obsession, violence in society-regardless of the individual's position, all are inevitably linked by Americans to the media. The result of this relationship being that many associate the news they receive with those whom are providing it.
The current war in Iraq provides the most obvious example of this desire to shoot the messenger. Those supporting the administration's war effort feel that the press is providing undue criticism of the continuing struggle to bring democracy to the Middle East. These critics routinely complain that the American and international medias are focusing only on soldiers deaths and the terrorist insurgencies while ignoring the progress that is being made within Iraq.
Conversely, the anti-war, anti-bush crowd feel that much of the war is to blame on the gatekeepers of information. These people argue that the American media got caught up in the patriotic wave following 9/11 and gave the administration a slide on the reasons for going to war in the first place.
Objectively speaking, both sides have a relevant if not somewhat diluted case. That the media focuses more on the atrocities of war than it does the benefits of the invasion is obvious. There is no doubt progress being made in certain parts of Iraq, but it would be irresponsible to turn the tables and ignore the ever-increasing deaths of Americans and Iraqi's. The media also gave the Bush administration a pass on the reasoning behind the invasion, but apparently so has the Democratic Party and nation as a whole.
The disturbing trend resulting from this ongoing divide of our nation has been an ever-growing backlash against those trying to bring the stories into our homes. Bill O'Reilly, Al Franken, Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher all represent and speak to audiences on the extreme ends of the political and social spectrums. Instead of being recognized as entertainers who appeal to a certain constituency, they are given the title of "journalists" and put on display as representatives of their profession.
The reality of journalists and their ideals lies far from these extremes. Attending a conference this weekend of top editors from the major daily college publications, I came face-to-face with the future of the occupation. While viewpoints and ideals were as varied as the places they came from, the common desire among us was that of serving the readers.
Journalists within the media strive to bring the news to the public in as prompt and accurate manner as possible. While this sometimes leads to conflicts and errors, it would be hard to substantiate a true desire to sway the public's opinion of the issues. While Dan Rather, Newsweek and others have made mistakes, some monumental, judging an entire profession by individuals' actions would be equally wrong.