Friday, September 5, 2008

Politics, Polemics, and Publications

If you are a political junkie like me, the history-making news coming out of the conventions in Denver and St. Paul was nothing short of monumental. I don't play video games, but I suspect the one we'll be watching over the next sixty days will be fascinating, certainly in terms of players, and an object lesson in tactics. If this were a chess game, Obama would be in check, confused, and fitfully studying the board, knowing he just lost his queen in a careless move. Not a very comfortable circumstance for a candidate who, up to this point, had been basking in the glow of an adoring establishment media. H. L. Mencken would have loved it.

Politics aside for the moment, I believe what's really emerging from this campaign will have far-reaching consequences for that media. Like Obama, they are in check, but there is a difference. They have been in check for many years by new media: the internet information age, the bloggers, talk radio, and more. This campaign marks a tipping point for Middle America, for conservatives, for those who value reason over emotion. These groups no longer need to look to the coastal intelligentsia for their news, information, and opinion. The agenda-driven media attacks on Sarah Palin, small town American wife, mother, hunter, mayor, governor, and now vice-presidential candidate, have aroused legions of ordinary Americans to reject pseudo-journalism. Standby to watch the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Us magazine, and other suspect Obamamedia as they continue to hang themselves, oh so slowly, while they revise their strategies for the balance of the campaign.

Wouldn't it be pleasant, as well as informative, to see the restoration of journalism standards that dominated major media throughout most of the 20th century? At least we would know where to turn - the editorial pages - for opinion. Don't get me wrong, I know the history of American newspapers is filled with bias, partisanship, and polemic. Perhaps this Palin-inspired paradigm shift merely marks a restoration of early 19th century newspaper standards. I doubt that. There's reform in the air.

When I lived in suburban DC (1964-76) I devoured the Washington Post in a fit of Potomac Fever almost every day. On vacations near Romney, West Virginia, I made a 60 mile round trip just to get the Sunday edition. That's bad Fever. With Ben Bradlee as editor, and the extraordinary personality of Katherine Graham as publisher, the Post became a stellar newspaper. Toward the end of their reign in the late '90s, I believe the Post overshadowed the New York Times. Today, I don't buy either one, but I do review the Post daily as one would a hometown newspaper. As for the Times, I read the obituaries. Sometimes I wonder if they have a draft notice of their own demise. God knows they need it.

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