Jonah Goldberg

Watching Tom Brokaw, Ted Koppel and Tim Russert this past Sunday wasn't quite like seeing dinosaurs asking each other what's happened to all the tasty fronds, but the year-ending edition of NBC's "Meet the Press" offered an excellent glimpse at why the elite mainstream media as we know it is facing extinction.

No doubt intended as a grand treat for the viewing audience, "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert invited NBC's Tom Brokaw and ABC's Ted Koppel to ladle out some observations from their deep wells of wisdom for all of the world to imbibe.

These three giants of television journalism tut-tutted about one government failure after another, from the Katrina response to the government's inability to provide health care for everybody to our dismayingly low taxes. Brokaw agreed with Koppel, Koppel agreed with Brokaw. Russert nodded as one newsman repeated what the other one just said.

For example, regarding the Hurricane Katrina episode - in which the media collectively broke all chains of objectivity in order to preen with outrage over the plight of the downtrodden - Brokaw asserted "there were no gray areas in Katrina." By this he meant the media was 100 percent right for portraying the federal government as 100 percent wrong. This elicited nods all around. Brokaw even quoted Aaron Broussard, the Jefferson Parish president who openly wept on "Meet The Press" about the tardy federal response: "They didn't come. They promised they would come and they didn't come."

Alas, Brokaw left out the fact that Broussard had to be invited back on the program to clarify various untruths (aka "lies") in his original version of events. Russert let this fact fall by the wayside in this no-gray zone. And on and on it went.

Now, it's fair to say that Brokaw, Koppel and Russert are three of the very best journalists the elite mainstream media have ever produced. Respective flaws notwithstanding, they are generally respected by viewers of various ideological outlooks for being tough and serious. Indeed, one of the most overlooked reasons for Russert's success at "Meet the Press" is that conservative viewers respect him enough to tune in. (Right-leaning eyeballs provide television ratings points too, you know.)

But in the same way the rules tend to break down when cops are asked to investigate other cops, elite journalists see themselves as above the standards they apply to everyone else. So while Russert wouldn't devote a whole show to nothing but softball questions for a politician or CEO, he turns into Larry King on Prozac when interviewing his colleagues.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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