Helen Thomas is the White House version of an investigative journalist. The following is her description of 'tough' reporting:
"I'm also one of the few reporters who push the Pentagon on Iraqi casualties. When I'm writing a column about war casualties, I call the Pentagon and say, "Well, now, how many fatalities?" They'll readily say how many, in battle and in accidents. Then I ask about the wounded soldiers, and they reluctantly tell me about the wounded. Then I say, "How many Iraqis?" And the answer I'd get is, "We don't track that. They don't count." So once I called back and I said, "Look, aren't we supposed to be liberating these people?"Calling the Pentagon for casualty figures is not investigative reporting.
Anyway, in the same discussion with CODEPINK cofounder Gael Murphy, is the following portrait of the "embedded" reporters who form the White House corps:
It almost sounds like reporters are embedded with a presidential candidate and then inherit the White House as their reward.Yeah, and maybe it will rain dollar bills tomorrow.
That's certainly true. They get to the White House because they've done a good job on the campaign, they've gotten to know the players, and they're supposed to have this kind of entrée and closeness. And then they engage in self-censorship instead of challenging everything that's being said. I remember Bush's press conference a few days before the war. It was a fiasco, because everybody knew we were going to war and asked things like Do you pray? instead of asking the hard-news questions like: Why are we going to war?
Did you ever challenge your colleagues about their reporting?No. They knew how I felt, they could hear me, but there is an unwritten rule that you do not challenge your colleagues...
So in terms of the media, looking toward the future, what hope do you see?My hope is that we'll all wake up and realize our tremendous collective failure...