Watchdogs of Democracy?
The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public
By Helen Thomas
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9780743267816, 240pp.)
Publication Date: June 20, 2006
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In the course of more than sixty years spent covering Washington politics, Helen Thomas has witnessed a raft of fundamental changes in the way news is gathered and reported. Gone are the days of frequent firsthand contact with the president. Now, the press sees the president only at tightly controlled and orchestrated press conferences. In addition, Thomas sees a growing -- and alarming -- reluctance among reporters to question government spokesmen and probe for the truth. The result has been a wholesale failure by journalists to fulfill what is arguably their most vital role in contemporary American life -- to be the watchdogs of democracy. Today's journalists, according to Thomas, have become subdued, compromised lapdogs.
Here, the legendary journalist and bestselling author delivers a hard-hitting manifesto on the precipitous decline in the quality and ethics of political reportage -- and issues a clarion call for change. Thomas confronts some of the most significant issues of the day, including the jailing of reporters, the conservative swing in television news coverage, and the administration's increased insistence on "managed" news. But she is most emphatic about reporters' failure to adequately question President George W. Bush and White House spokesmen about the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, and on subjects ranging from homeland security to the economy. This, she insists, was a dire lapse.
Drawing on her peerless knowledge of journalism, Washington politics, and nine presidential administrations, as well as frank interviews with leading journalists past and present, Thomas provides readers with a rich historical perspective on the roots of American journalism, the circumstances attending the rise and fall of its golden age, and the nature and consequences of its current shortcomings. The result is a powerful, eye-opening discourse on the state of political reportage -- as well as a welcome and inspiring demand for meaningful and lasting reform.
Helen Thomas is the dean of the White House press corps. The recipient of more than forty honorary degrees, she was honored in 1998 with the inaugural Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award, established by the White House Correspondents' Association. The author of Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President; Front Row at the White House; and Dateline: White House, she lives in Washington, D.C., where she writes a syndicated column for Hearst.