by Jules Witcover
There was a time when the lines between the practices of politics and journalism were clear-cut. Professional politicians did their thing, which was getting elected and getting others elected. Professional journalists did theirs, writing and telling how the politicians did what they did. Seldom did the two meet in public opinion forums
Today, political operatives are regular commentators and analysts on radio, television and the Internet, and journalists of all political persuasions run for public office, sometimes getting elected. Increasingly, now, they join on talk shows to dissect and argue over the state of the nation's politics, usually for both fame and profit.
Working politicians and working journalists flock to networks and cable channels of conservative or liberal persuasion, often preaching their views in echo chambers of their respective political leanings or biases. It has gotten to the point where listeners and viewers have trouble deciding who is a real player in the game of politics and who is a real or professed referee in the game.
The latest prominent partisan political operatives to enter into this mix are two key architects of Barack Obama's 2008 election team. Chief strategist and later
Their new employment corresponds to the much earlier alliance between George W. Bush's chief political guru, Karl Rove, and the
From the other professional direction, a small army of newspaper, magazine and Internet reporters, bloggers and assorted other real or professed journalists have also signed on. They usually go on radio and television outlets that are showcases for one ideological side of the political debate or another, recruited to offer their allegedly unbiased wisdom.
As a result, it has become more difficult for the average listener or viewer to tell whether a given personality is a politician or journalist or a combination thereof as they dispense their assorted views, alleged statements of fact or simple partisan propaganda.
Each ideological side on cable television offers a heavy dose of mouthpieces for its preferred viewpoint,
Into this mix a wary, relatively objective news reporter such as the
All of this is far cry from the earlier days of radio and television when the old networks would gather their most seasoned correspondents from around the country and the world to sit down and discuss their own observations the state of the nation and the world. Political pitchmanship was at a minimum as these analysts spoke with no personal or partisan ax to grind.
But the days of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite and other reporters have been replaced by Rush Limbaugh, Rachel Maddow and other assorted ideologues preaching to their particular choirs. Having partisan political consultants of either side as unpaid guests is one thing. Hiring them hardly adds needed credibility to these favorite exercises of political junkies.
On Partisan Echo Chambers | Politics