Saturday, November 14, 2009

Forty years ago, Spiro Agnew indicted the news media; many Americans now believe he was right

Forty years have passed since Spiro Agnew, then the vice-president, delivered his remarkable indictment of the news media in Des Moines.

That was the day "nattering nabobs of negativism" entered the American vocabulary, along with several other remarkable phrases.

I was there as a reporter, but Agnew wasn't talking about me. Even then, I was a conservative swimming in a sea filled with liberals who were, at times, hostile.

Nevertheless, Agnew was a little scary. His tone and manner were menacing, his words seemed threatening. There were no grace notes. All of us were in the cross-hairs.

A few years later, I persuaded the editor of the Minneapolis Tribune to let me do a series of reports on the growth of government, which was becoming an issue in California. This would be a jarring venture for the Tribune, a reliably liberal newspaper.

But even I was surprised when I asked friends on the staff to lend me their knowledge and talents on certain stories. Without exception, they said no. They knew what the thrust of the series would be and wanted no part in it.

As soon as the stories started running, readers began calling to tell me they had read the paper for decades and had never before seen any questioning of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal in it.

Now, 40 years after the Agnew attack, the American public is seething against Big Government and the news operations that continue to applaud its incursions on individual liberty.

Agnew, after all these years, turns out to have been right.

Here is Michael Socolow in the Bangor Daily News:

It remains the most influential indictment of American journalism ever made. Forty years ago today, this famous figure began railing against the corporate media. “A broader spectrum of national opinion should be represented among the commentators of the network news,” he argued, explaining that “men who can articulate other points of view should be brought forward, and the American people should be made aware of the trend toward the monopolization of the great public information vehicles and the concentration of more and more power over public opinion in fewer and fewer hands.”

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