Michael Kelly and David Bloom deserve better from their profession

Michael Kelly and David Bloom deserve better from their profession August 26, 2004

So, there I was, two days away from news, battling the mother of all stomach flus. I will spare you the details, although none spared me, and I come back to the keyboard to find that the mainstream press has finally co-ordinated their perspectives on the Kerry/Swiftvets story.

Apparently, they’ve decided that they needn’t ask Kerry anything at all about fitness reports, after action reports, medal citations signed some years after they were issued. Nah. They aren’t even going to discuss the Kerry ADMISSIONS that the Cambodia story was a lie, the first purple heart WAS a self-inflicted wound…nah. All of that is to be roundly ignored and removed from the public record wherever possible.

They don’t even seem to be the least bit concerned that under the thousand dollar-hair John Kerry seems to be a highly disturbed, sleepwalking, nightmare-afflicted, over-conflicted walking banana.

The problem with journalism is that it is equal parts nobility and ignobility. It needs a good disaster in order to show off its own diamonds…absent a real disaster, it will create a thousand conflicts so that it may keep shining…but it’s a tinsly shine with no depth. And when it is over-run by agendas, well, it becomes nothing more than propaganda. So far, the mainstream press in America is nothing for Goebbels to write home about – they’re still taking too long to form their collective on each story – but they are getting there.

I am sad to inform you of this, readers, but all of the heroes of journalism are gone. Even those last few you might have counted on to do the right thing, including the Mighty Russert, have tarnished their halos in this brutal and vicious campaign season. Russert is the biggest disappointment, to me. I used to love watching him move those Kennedy-esque jowls in righteous indignation or Irish merriment. Now Russert, no matter how boppy his cheeks, cannot move me with his work.

As a child I loved Chet Huntley and David Brinkley and Nancy Dickenson. I was an adolescent who ate up every word Woodward and Bernstein wrote. Sadly, it seems even the best journalists are succumbing to the same virus that has created a truth-deficit within the whole news industry, and the dirty little host, or vector spreading the viral disease is nothing honorable – it’s just plain old, ignoble and ordinary hate. Political hate, which is less noble than any other sort.

When one is blessed with a gift, it is unwise to misuse it, and you folks are misusing your gifts. When a gift is misused it ends up being perverted into a grotesque parody of itself. Look at Bill Clinton, a breathtakingly gifted man who has so squandered his abilities that he now comes off, even at his most serious, like the bastard child of P.T. Barnum and Mae West. Something like that is happening to the craft of journalism.

When Sandy Berger shoved topsecret documents down his drawers, (whatever happened to that story, anyway?) I was horrified, but I was hopeful, too. I truly thought: the mainstream press can’t ignore this – this is too big, too serious an issue for them to underplay and spike…I was wrong. I’m rather heartbroken, and I have talked to enough people to know that I am not the only one grieving the state of American journalism. . I don’t think either Michael Kelly or David Bloom would much approve of the way the people in their profession have – particularly over the past year or so – completely lost the moral compass.

I believe that if Michael Kelly were alive today, the Berger matter would undergo a withering and truthful investigation by the man, and his beam of light would shine on everyone involved in the thing, for as long as it took to tell the whole tale. I know he would damn anyone trying to get in the way of the truth and, like Shane in the wonderful Gary Cooper film, he’d inspire others to clean up the profession. He would return Honor to the Town of Journalism, and save it, and Bloom would be his deputy.

Michael Kelly and David Bloom are not around, anymore, and the behavior of the journalists who survive them does their memory no honor. The news industry as a whole appears to be happy to slap back some red-eye with the fellers in the black hats, to look the other way as the big players slip some aces from their sleeves, and chuckle while the bad guys shoot bullets into the sky in appreciation (or not) of those purdy wimmin with the red feathers in their hair. You can’t do that when the good guys are still around.

I want to believe there are still some good guys left, that there might be one or two journalists out there who could still become the reluctant heroes who clean up the town. But it gets harder, every day, to keep the faith.

Shane, come back! Come back and make John Kerry sign a standard 180 and finally answer some real questions!

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