For two centuries Americans have assumed that reporters were the friends of the citizenry and the watchdogs of our democracy.
We assumed that the journalist's sole concern was keeping "the people" informed when someone's trying to pull some shenanigans - which someone is always inclined to do. Journalists were people with superior critical thinking skills who had a burning desire to uncover the truth. Perhaps we took it for granted that the media is one of our trusted checks and balances of power. We always thought they'd be there for us.
In 2003 they went away.
Well, not entirely. But they were more or less eviscerated by the Bush administration's war machine. During the run up to the Iraq war the media did not perform the function of presenting alternative points of view about whether we should go to war. They did not scrutinize the information coming in from the White House and Pentagon - they merely presented it. All this time we had assumed that reporters had suddenly become either retarded or corrupted. But that's not necessarily so.
As Solon writer Glenn Greenwald writes, it wasn't necessarily that the reporters got on board with the White House or that they were incompetent, it was that they may have actually been pressured to report the idea of war that was consistent with the ultra-patriotic fervor of the moment by their corporate bosses (!). Reporters had pieces rejected for being inconveniently unflattering of pro-war stances and had stories toyed with by their bosses. Not toyed with as in made into paper airplanes, paper mache' hats or origami storks. Toyed with as in re-written, white-washed, and "smoothed over."
In other words, they were taken out of the equation.
For example, the rule at MSNBC was that there needed to be two conservative pundits for every liberal pundit interviewed on the shows so they could outshout the liberal. Michael Moore would have required three right wingers opposite him (lol). Why was there such a rule and who's the one that made it? Who knows, but media personalities that disobeyed their bosses or favored anti-war, anti-Bush commentators were simply removed. Which leads Mr. Reynolds and really all the rest of us to wonder, "What's a journalist these days if not someone who doesn't rock the boat?"
Somebody who can scribble English as fast as the Pentagon spokesman can talk?
A corporate spokesman who covers topics of the day in an entertaining way?
Someone who can count the number of dead bodies on a street in Mosul.
Someone who knows how to play the media game as outlined by their bosses? Hmmm, I think, I think yes. This is a winner. Need proof? Here's a very illuminating audio interview between Glenn and Phill Donehue producer Jeff Cohen.
Look on TV today and what you will see is Manchurian Reportage. Guys (yeah, mostly guys) who will say pretty much whatever the teleprompter says they should say. These are not just guys who don't rock the boat, they are people passionately spewing propaganda.
IMHO, the news is about to have an authenticity problem. They're still gliding on the remnants of the media's sterling reputation from years gone by. But if the corporate bosses of the media organizations continue to direct the news, that reputation will deteriorate and rapidly. The people who seek the truth will merely find another way to seek it.
Walter Cronkite used to end his broadcasts with, "That's the way it is." If he were a working "journalist" in today's environment his sign off would be more like, "And that's what they told me today as far as I can tell."