Over the weekend former CBS Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson appeared on Fox News' Media Buzz to talk in detail about why she left the news network.
Now there have always been tensions, there have always been calls from the White House under any administration I assume, when they don’t like a particular story. But it is particularly aggressive under the Obama administration and I think it’s a campaign that’s very well organized, that’s designed to have sort of a chilling effect and to some degree has been somewhat successful in getting broadcast producers who don’t really want to deal with the headache of it. Why put on these controversial stories that we’re going to have to fight people on, when we can fill the broadcast with other perfectly decent stories that don’t ruffle the same feathers?
After watching the first part of the interview (part two will air this weekend), it seems a few major points were made.
1. News networks, not just including CBS, are lacking an appetite for deep, long-term investigative reporting. In the age of new media, Twitter and the incredibly fast pace of news, it seems newsrooms aren't investing the time or resources in projects that can't be done immediately.
2. The Obama administration has created an atmosphere in Washington of fear and intimidation toward reporters, hence the reason why investigative work isn't being pursued as aggressively as it was under the Bush administration. First we have the revelations that the Department of Justice spied on reporters from the Associated Press, Fox News and other outlets and went so far as to monitor the phones lines belonging to the parents of Fox News Chief Washington Correspondent James Rosen. Second, we know the White House and Department of Justice regularly work with a certain tax-exempt group (that shall not be named) to smear reporters who dare look into and report on Obama administration scandals. Third, the White House been sued multiple times for failing to properly respond to Freedom of Information Requests. Fourth, President Obama has used the Espionage Act to punish people inside government for talking to reporters more than any other president in U.S. history. When the sources dry up, so do the investigative stories.
3. Corporate interests in bed with big government have a heavy hand when it comes to pushing back on newsrooms and reporters for exposing corruption and relationships with public officials and agencies.
4. Calling scandals "political" is a way to shut down debate and a tactic used to frame an issue as unimportant and irrelevant.
As an outside observer, I'm not willing to let the majority of reporters and their bosses slide on the fact that under the Bush administration they were extremely interested in every aspect of what the administration was doing (as they should have been) while under the Obama administration are willing to ignore major scandals like IRS targeting, Benghazi, Fast and Furious and others. It isn't only because of Obama's chilling effect, but because Obama is a Democrat and Bush was a Republican. Not to mention, the President of CBS News is David Rhodes. His brother, Ben Rhodes, serves as a deputy national security advisor at the White House.