by: David Harris-Gershon on December 17th, 2013 | 4 Comments »
After John Miller’s infomercial for the NSA had run its course on 60 Minutes, it was reported – to nobody’s great surprise – that the CBS newsman was ditching his television contract to take a top intelligence post at the NYPD.
For Miller, this was just a continuation of his revolving door professional career, alternating between national security appointments and journalism posts. Problematic? Of course. However, the most troubling aspect was the revelation that Miller had been under consideration for the NYPD post while working on his NSA story.
He wasn’t just a past insider ‘reporting’ on the NSA. This was a future insider doing a story about the inside. This was a journalist having full access to the inside and reporting upon it not to critique it, but to celebrate it, knowing his goal was to become a part of it.
Now, a central problem with contemporary journalism is that many mainstream reporters are so enamored with the powerful – with their access to secret sanctums and champagne-soaked affairs – that they cannot (or refuse to) fulfill their journalistic mandates. However, this reaches elevated levels when career journalists become so taken with power that they decide to become those they are charged to cover.
In recent years, a number of mainstream journalists have tried to make the leap from reporter to politician. While some of these have done so to make political statements or have altruistic motivations, many have sought positions of influence after covering the influential for years. They have chosen power over the job of keeping it in check.
This is not a new phenomenon in America. Since the 1800s, journalists have been making the leap from the pen to the penthouse. And newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst was famous for his view that journalists didn’t even have to leave their posts to become the powerful. In a 1898 New York Journal editorial, Hearst wrote:
The force of the newspaper is the greatest force in civilization. Under republican government, newspapers form and express opinion. They suggest and control legislation. They declare wars. They punish criminals, especially the powerful. They reward with approving publicity the good deeds of citizens everywhere. The newspapers control the nation because THEY REPRESENT THE PEOPLE.
Today, too many journalists fawn over those who control the nation and wish that they themselves were in control. And not by influencing public opinion, as Hearst sought. But by stepping into the elite’s inner circle.
Miller and 60 Minutes, with their jointly-produced NSA infomercial, did this country a favor by throwing back the curtain briefly and exposing a journalism run a amok – a journalism produced by those who worship power.
They also reminded us why, in today’s age, independent media sources are so vital to a vibrant democracy. For someone must expose those insiders who pose as journalists, pretending to give us the real story.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.