How ‘Adulatory News Coverage’ Impedes Democracy

Norman Solomon uses his most recent Creators Syndicate column (6/19/09) to call for journalism that “is open scrutiny of the dynamics of power. Reporters should shine a bright light on behind-the-scenes maneuvers that block congressional oversight of administration policies”:

Last Tuesday, when the House of Representatives approved a supplemental spending bill for more war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there must have been celebration at the White House. Days of intense arm-twisting paid off.

The Obama administration had brandished the weapon of retribution against the newest Democratic arrivals in the House. Most news coverage seemed oblivious, but not all. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported just hours before the war-funding measure came to the floor, “the White House has threatened to pull support from Democratic freshmen who vote no.”

Even though “journalists expect strong-arm tactics to come from the White House and may actually view them as evidence of the effective use of presidential power,” Solomon maintains that “huge concentrations of power are hazardous to democracy”: “We may shrug and say words to the effect of ‘that’s the way things are’–but the fact remains that we need journalism to scrutinize ‘the way things are.'”

However, Solomon has several examples–from media failure “to scrutinize the Gulf of Tonkin incident” on up to “adulatory news coverage” of “drastically loosened” financial regulation in the ’90s–that demonstrate how, “unfortunately, too many journalists behave as though levers pulled by the powerful are not notable enough to be questioned.”