When this writer served in the Reagan White House, the big battle was over aid to the Contras, the Nicaraguan guerrillas who were seeking to oust the Sandinista regime aligned with Moscow.
When a close vote in the House went against us, and our aid package went down, the White House press corps erupted in hoots and cheers. Did the American people not have a right to know the anti-Contra bias of the White House press corps? Would it not have been better for democracy if people knew the truth about the beliefs of the men and women covering a president who believed in the Contra cause?
In 2000, there were reports that CNN executives on election night had to tell CNN staffers in the newsroom to stop cheering when the network awarded another state to Al Gore, because the cheering was going out over the air. Folks might get the mistaken impression that CNN was in the Clinton-Gore camp.
Years back, a survey was taken among the Washington press corps, asking them to name the candidate they had voted for. The returns that came back were astonishing. McGovern and Mondale, both of whom lost 49 states, had crushed Nixon and Reagan among the media elite by four- and five-to-one. Only African-Americans had voted as solidly liberal and Democratic.
This shredded any pretense that the Washington media elite was a mirror of America. But, as it was the truth, and the truth shall make your free, why should not the people know the political leanings of those feeding them the "news" about the candidates and causes they cover?
The question, finally, is this: Do the people have a right to know the biases of the people from whom they get almost all their information about politics, politicians, candidates and causes? Seems to me that an honest journalist has to answer yes.
Why not a media policy of openness? All journalists are not only permitted to, but encouraged to participate fully in the political process through contributions. Moreover, they are encouraged to reveal in public forums whom they voted for, and why.
Media organizations would list all political contributions of their journalists on a website, so the public could judge whether the coverage and commentary was truly fair and balanced, or whether reporters titled toward the candidates who got their contributions.
Call it truth in journalism.
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