There were more than 35,000 pictures of FDR taken. Two show him in a wheelchair. Why? Because the press almost unanimously agreed that - despite the huge news value - depicting FDR as a cripple would be bad for the war effort. The few dissenting photographers from that consensus were routinely blocked or deliberately jostled by the senior photographers so as to shield FDR from embarrassment and the public from its "right to know."
Maybe the press was right to show restraint. Maybe it was wrong. But at least journalists didn't think their best work was work that treated America as a hostile power. The Ernie Pyle Journalism Award, for example, recognizes journalists who show "unwavering support and loyalty to the United States of America in the pursuit of fair and accurate reporting."
Fox News offers a lesson here. I know the network's detractors think it's a rightwing propaganda factory. And, I certainly agree that much of Fox's programming is conservative (though liberals' sudden concern with ideologically loaded coverage is ironic). But at least one of the things that has made Fox News successful isn't that it's rightwing, it is that it's populist.
This is an important distinction. From the beginning, Fox anchors weren't ashamed to wear American flags on their lapels. They aren't afraid to refer to American troops as "our brave fighting men and women" or some such. They aren't terrified that they will lose their objectivity merit badges if they sound like they hope America wins.
If Fox goes overboard sometimes, it's only compared to a new standard Ernie Pyle wouldn't recognize.
In 1987, for example, Peter Jennings and CBS' Mike Wallace explained on a PBS show that they wouldn't warn American troops they were about to be ambushed. When Wallace was asked if saving American lives might be a higher duty than getting 30 seconds of videotape, he snapped back: "No. You don't have a higher duty. No. No. You're a reporter!"
More recently, after the 9/11 attacks, David Westin, the president of ABC News, got into a lot of hot water with the public - though not much with fellow journalists - for refusing to express an opinion on whether the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon was legitimate: "As a journalist I feel strongly that's something that I should not be taking a position on."
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