I’m uncertain about the origin of the term, “lame stream media”—a right-wing slang for “main stream media.” But the expression has become a favorite of slightly to severely deranged people like Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and others who become enraged when facts get in the way of their distorted perceptions of reality.
Indeed, the epithet has merit in terms of lack of context in the contemporary media’s coverage of politics, political campaigns, and a whole host of issues that require an attention span exceeding that of morons—especially in television reporting, and cable news in particular.
For the most part, the “lame stream media” whines come from the right—the farther right, the more intense the whimpering. Democrats, including President Obama, are not immune from whining about media coverage. But when it comes to the reporting by the Republican Propaganda Network, aka Fox “News,” the whining is often justified. The nation’s network of choice for people too lazy to think for themselves specializes in distortions, inaccuracies and outright lies. And if challenged, Fox’s corrections amount to a shrug.
Although Steve Doocy’s correction was somewhat qualified, at least it was an on-air correction. NBC acknowledged a much worse gaffe in a report that erroneously added an inaccurate racial tinge to the Trayvon Martin tragedy. The network acknowledged the distortion in a news release and fired a producer. But made no mention was made of it on the air.
Unfortunately, NBC’s failure to acknowledge its error in the same forum in which the mistake was made is more the rule in television than the exception. I don’t know when avoidance of ‘fessin up began. In my day, however, we made on-air retractions—an embarrassment, for sure—but a necessity from an ethical and legal standpoint.
Even though most newspapers correct errors, the corrections are often buried and never given the same prominence as the offending articles. The worst case scenario in my memory is the New York Times failure to acknowledge misinformation in the articles written by Judith Miller, the reporter whose stories gave credibility to Iraq’s possession of “weapons of mass destruction” and contributed to the propaganda that allowed President George W. Bush to justify a needless war.
In a case that is equivalent to hurling boulders in a glass house, Ms. Miller was critical last week of the Pulitzer Prize awarded Associated Press for its exposé of an orchestrated spying operation on Muslims by the New York City Police Department.
What prompted Miller to bleat about AP’s Pulitzer is a puzzle to me. Maybe the series burned one or more of her sources. Protecting people who are the bread and butter of journalism is a time worn tradition. In my case, I frequently violated the principle by drinking from their fountain of information, then spitting it back their faces (God, forgive me for such an unappetizing metaphor).
Anyway, targets of exposés and/or stories criticizing their actions are apt to lash out, regardless of the level of guilt. In my 30 year muckraking career, I can’t recall anybody responding to my scandal mongering by saying, “You are absolutely right. You have caught me red-handed.”
Incredibly, most of the people I exposed were convinced of their own innocence—oftentimes as they were being escorted into prison. I laughed out loud while reading my friend Leo Honeycutt’s authorized biography of former Louisana Governor Edwin Edwards, the colorful politician who celebrated a portion of his AARP years in a federal prison. At nearly every juncture in the book, he blamed the media for his troubles.
A quarter of a century after a story I did accusing Edwards of duplicity in his dealings with Texaco—first as an attorney for the oil giant, then as Governor trying to block Louisiana litigation to collect unpaid royalties—the “Silver Zipper” complained about my report. What makes his whine so hilarious is the fact that under a different Governor ten years later, Texaco settled the claim with the state for $250-million and other considerations worth $150-million.
The term, “lame stream” media was not part of the lexicon during my career. If so, my employers would, no doubt, have been labeled with the epithet. My problem was I too often allowed facts get in the way of good stories. And that is the basis for much of the “lame stream” media criticism by politicians and lunatic pundits.
The truth is, truth hurts.
My memoir, Odyssey of a Derelict Gunslinger: A Saga of Exposing TV Preachers, Corrupt Politicians, Right-Wing Lunatics…and Me is available at amazon.com, soft-cover or Kindle and at independent bookstores like the Cottonwood in Baton Rouge. It offers $19.99 worth of laughs and much more. The book is an account of my illustrious (I choose the adjectives) investigative reporting career.