Many Americans have a negative image of journalists and it is one that is growing in believability and acceptance every day, especially as the New Media begins to attract more and more attention from the American people. This image of the aloof, even anti-American, journalist is becoming rote with more people all the time. Sadly, the journalists themselves seem to be uninterested in countering this appalling public image, imagining themselves above being considered mere Americans. On this subject, a recent op ed by Mark Fitzgerald of Editor & Publisher warns journalists that perception is often truth and that the penchant that journalists have for not standing proudly and patriotically during the National Anthem does not help their image any -- good advice that will be roundly ignored by journalists the country over.
Fitzgerald starts off with a bit of an untruth of his own, though I am not accusing him of knowingly perpetrating a falsehood. Saying that "There's no cheering in the press box," Fitzgerald goes on to describe journalists are perennially uninvolved and aloof from the subject of which they report. At some level this may be correct. Certainly when journalists, notoriously left-wing, cover conservatives and Republicans there is no cheering. But, as the recent example during the 2008 National Democratic Convention shows, when it is left-wing, journalists have no problem at all cheering. One need not forget the fawning the media lovingly handed to Bill Clinton to prove the cheerleading they are apt to, either.
Still, that quibble aside, Fitzgerald has a great point about how the unpatriotic attitude of journalists damages their profile. Worse, it makes people doubt journalist's work simply because their word isn't trusted not to be coming from an anti-American perspective.
In general, Fitzgerald finds the reticence for cheering or showing emotion while covering a story a good thing, as do I. But he finds on instance of this blasé act "irritating." He discovered this annoyance during the political conventions every four years.
I'm talking about the press corps' irritating habit of remaining seated during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the start of each night's session.
I've only covered a couple of conventions from the inside of the hall, but inevitably, the vast majority of reporters in the press boxes remained seated as the national anthem is played. I cringed every time I saw this dopey tradition followed.
Fitzgerald has certainly stumbled upon a truism with this observance, though he seems confused by it just the same.
I'm not entirely sure what accounts for this rude behavior, this pretense that being a journalist somehow exempts us from acting as Americans when [sic] for this brief ritual.
(Note: I think he meant "even" instead of "when." I am sure "when" is a typo.)
Fitzgerald, naturally not wishing to think ill of his fellows, though, is sure that this refusal to display a patriotic reaction to the National Anthem does not reflect a "lack of patriotism in the press." However, that might seem rather more like unsupportable, wishful thinking instead of real truth.
Finally, indulging in some pointless snarking, Fitzgerald scolds his comrades in ink as well as the last three presidents -- on second thought it was probably a slam on presidents just to make his pals seem more at ease with his criticism.
If we can rise for the likes of the past three Occupants in Chief, who each in his way sorely tested the respect due the presidency, then surely we can stand for the flag of our fathers and "The Star-Spangled Banner."
I have news for you Mr. Fitzgerald. The past 40 years of journalism has "sorely tested" the respect the American public have for journalists far more than it has taxed its respect for any president. Collectively, far more Americans distrust the press than they do presidents. Petulantly remaining seated during the National Anthem is no aberrant display of the Press Corps' anti-Americanism. It is part and parcel of it.
Still, good on you Mr. Fitzgerald for scolding your pals just the same.
(Photo credit: Editor & Publisher)