Bedded and Embedded: Newsman as SlutSeptember 26th, 2007

The permanently embedded commercial media are embedded in the agencies of government as a stone is embedded in soil. They are also bedded by the agents of government as a whore is bedded to accommodate a paying client.

Modern reporters are paid to gain access to government officials (among other important people). Aware that the reporter’s attention could present an opportunity to influence the public, the official, in return for the grant of access, lets the reporter know what can and can’t be reported. Transgress, and the door slams shut.

Making a deal to censor at the direction of a source is an act of prostitution. The transaction is contrary to principle and both parties are compromised by it, just as the sex act is debased for both participants when money changes hands.

If you’ve ever wondered why the embedded media typically excuse government officials from public accountability, reporters’ habitual acts of prostitution afford a ready explanation. Utter a truthful word, and you’re exiled, left to nose around for stray bits of news like a pig for a truffle. As reporters used to do.

Journalistic prostitution would be fine if the reporter’s job were to shape public opinion in line with the needs of government officials, as it is in totalitarian states. But in a republic like ours the reporter’s job is to inform, and sacrificing factual reporting in exchange for access is just plain un-American.

That’s why news-consumers should be alert to acts of prostitution by reporters. When reading a report about Al Anbar province, for example, the news consumer would be foolish to assume that any of the information was gathered first-hand. More likely, the reporter is delivering a self-serving press release from the government, retyped with an occasional personal flourish from the safety of a bureau in Amman or Doha.

From the White House to City Hall, the reporter who refuses to deliver the press release loses access to the source. The rest are duly bedded and embedded, and, often enough, they won’t even advise you of imminent dangers. How safe is that bridge, that mine, that building, that drug, that car? Don’t rely on the embedded media to tell you. The reporter and the regulator are browsing at the same buffet. Whores.

With this in mind, it becomes possible to sift through what’s presented as fact, isolating rumors, prognostications and opinions, rejecting self-serving declarations, and pinpointing factual deficiencies and inconsistencies. It’s a discouraging way to read the news, but in a failed state like ours, in which newsrooms are staffed by embedded libertines, that’s the way it is.