Saturday, April 26, 2003

Media Self-Censorship

Bob Harris, who is subbing for Tom Tomorrow, tells us a little story about the kind of thing which goes on all the time in the media - reporters suppress the truth to retain their access. Every single journalist out there working today knows it, and it's time they stop pretending otherwise.

Story time: I had the opportunity to cover the 2000 GOP convention when I was the morning guy on Working Assets' Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) was the first Out homosexual ever to address a GOP convention. He wasn't talking about gay rights or civil liberties, of course -- he was actually discussing Free Trade with China -- but right in front of him, just below the stage, were several GOP activists, including a nice chunk of the Texas delegation, visibly and demonstratively praying for his Eternal Soul to release its wickedness.

Somehow the networks didn't manage to include that in their coverage.

The next morning, I interviewed the guy in person, live on the air. And just before we started, one of the GOP's media handlers let me know that for the purposes of the following discussion, Jim was not gay.

Here's the self-censorship thing you don't see in the media, and it happens all the time: right then, I had a choice: either push the issue, watch the interview end abruptly, guarantee I wouldn't have another GOP guest for the duration, and face down an hour of empty air time to fill... or just go along.

I decided to play along, and then tell the audience about the entire handling process right after the interview was over, and why I made that choice, which I figured would probably tell the listener more than they'd ever hear otherwise. I'm still not sure it was the right call, but there it is.