Adversarial Reporters

My cynical belief is that Jay Rosen never spent a day as a working journalist ("Cynicism Works--If You're Bogart," Commentary, May 30).

To offer a comparative perspective on journalism, based on fantasies in which "Saturday Night Live" finds parody material out of the Gulf War news briefings and Humphrey Bogart's beloved fictional portrayals of the cynic, is mind-boggling. Has journalism failed so miserably it is now compared to fantasy?

Analysis of the Gulf War coverage, in which admittedly the press looked bad, demands a much more comprehensive examination. Perhaps had the press actually been more cynically aggressive, not relying solely on Pentagon briefings, coverage would have revealed what really happened and we would be focusing on the 100,000 lives lost and the real cost rather than news personalities and war myths.

There is much to criticize in current U.S. journalism, from TV news operations that think their job is to give us "soft" news to a Washington press corps too timid to reveal all it knew about Ronald Reagan. My concern is that the press isn't cynical enough anymore. The job of the journalist is not to be loved. Good reporting is about access to and discovery of truth so that we may all effectively participate in our democracy. The only responsibility reporters must honor is to report what they know as accurately, objectively and quickly as they can. If cynicism delivers those goods, then cynicism must remain as a grand tradition of our journalism.


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