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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Howard Dean on corporate media

From a Columbia Journalism Review interview with former Vermont governor Howard Dean.

Dean: I’ve heard ninety percent of Americans get their news from eleven corporations.

I think that the biggest problem is that the enormous pressure on the bottom line affects editors’ judgments. And it doesn’t take too many forced revisions of reporters’ stories to teach them that they shouldn’t be writing anything that isn’t fascinating and scintillating and somewhat scandalous.

Do you think that leads to a focus on personality instead of candidates’ political positions?

I do. And I think it also leads to putting a lot of things in the newspaper that just aren’t so.

Do you think there’s any truth to the idea that the press slighted you because you didn’t schmooze them enough?

Yes, I do. I have a bit of a doctor’s personality, you know. I tend to get to the quick of it.

I think it’s a dangerous thing to have that schmoozy Washington relationship between reporters and principals, because that’s when news doesn’t get reported. But everybody is so cozy in Washington. I went to the Gridiron Dinner, and I was appalled to hear [Vice President Dick] Cheney make a remark about duck hunting with Nino [Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia]. Everybody laughed. The truth is, this is a blatant conflict of interest for the bench. If you did that in my state, you’d have to step aside and recuse yourself. But in Washington, it’s no harm, no foul. That’s not very good for democracy.


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