Using the US Attorney issue as an example, Digby explains the mechanism the press uses to decide what will be a story.
"One of the silliest conventions of modern journalism is that the press can't tell a story if "the other side" isn't screaming about it. Republicans are always screaming (and often are the ones feeding the scandal to the press in the first place) so it's very easy to find that hook. Democrats don't have the institutional infrastructure to successfully manufacture scandals and are often slow off the mark in seeing real ones, so the press doesn't feel they have any reason to pursue them. (And I guess stories about crass political patronage, even in the justice department, just aren't considered news anymore. That's a sad comment all by itself.)"
Digby questions why the main stream media did not pick up on this story. I am asking myself the same thing. I do not trust the Bush White House, so I suspected there was more to the firing of US Attorneys when Diane Feinstein, D-CA questioned the firings in January. Leo noticed my post, and thought it did not smell right either. Both of us are just average guys. So how could we notice it as a story, while the press missed it for two months.
Here is what Digby thinks (Jay Carney is at Time Magazine):
"But this episode perfectly illustrates the problem with the mainstream media's coverage during the last six years. The Bush administration has been the most secretive and ruthlessly partisan in recent memory and yet the Washington bureau chief for TIME reflexively assumed a benign explanation for what was obviously at least a questionable process.
When this story first surfaced, I thought the Bush White House and Justice Department were guilty of poorly executed acts of crass political patronage. I called some Democrats on the Hill; they were "concerned", but this was not a priority."
Digby then quotes Wolf , a White House reporter, from a couple of weeks ago:
"Our- our role is to ask questions and get information. But it- the press briefing isn't Prime Minister's question time. It's not a chance for the opposition to take on the government and grill them to a point where they hand- throw their hands up and surrender. Now, obviously there's a contentious spirit there- we're trying to get information, but, it's not a political exercise, it's a journalistic exercise, and I think often the blogs are looking for us to be political advocates, more than journalistic ones."
"I like Wolff and Carney generally and they aren't the worst offenders by far. But this attitude is pervasive in Washington circles and it's causing some serious problems. (Partisan impeachments against the will of the people. Illegal wars. Out of control executive branch.) It comes at least partially from the fact that journalists think that by simply telling the public what the politicians are saying (much of it on double super-secret background) they are doing their jobs. They allow both sides to play out their political games in the mainstream media and then provide running color commentary on who's "winning." In their minds, if the Democrats aren't as good at stoking scandals or creating an atmosphere of political terrorism, then it's not their job to uncover what the Republicans are doing. Democrats need to "play better" if they want to "win." (You often see a kind of admiration for the bold machismo of the Republican character assassins in the press -- they are winners.)"
I think the press is full of s**t on this issue. Their job is to report news and not just regurgitate talking points. If they ascertain, through experience, that a source of news is overwhelmingly consistent with the objective facts, then they can simply regurgitate. However, when they have seen, time and again, that their source has lied and spun the facts, then the Press has an obligation to dig further and get to the facts.
The Bush administration has made the job of a correspondent much harder at exactly the time when the press is under pressure to get the story out fast. So be it, get the story out fast and then follow up with real reporting. Get to the bottom of the story.
I can read press packets from the various political parties. I don't need the press to do that for me. I do not need them as a simple conduit for spin. Most importantly, our democracy depends on the press to do actual work. When our democracy needs a dicta-phone we will let them know. Until then the press needs to do their jobs. If they don't we will find someone who can, and award the public airwaves to them.