James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association, a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media, and a professor of communication studies at Whitworth University.

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Bill Moyers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Posted by James McPherson on April 26, 2008

Bill Moyers devoted almost a full hour to an interview with Barack Obama’s pastor last night. The interview served as a good reminder of three things:

  1. Bill Moyers has consistently managed to put himself in the best job in TV journalism, and to do it extremely well.
  2. The media (especially television) generally do a dismal job of providing context for events. Wright is a complicated and highly intelligent man, but he and his message have been widely misunderstood and falsely portrayed–often intentionally.
  3. Negative attacks drive far too much political coverage. That’s why so many people know something (however misinterpreted) about Wright and his relationship to Obama, while relatively little attention has been paid to John McCain’s relationship to fundamentalist anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic pastor John Hagee. For more on that connection, see Zachary Roth’s article at Columbia Journalism Review. I suspect it will become more of an issue after the Dems finally choose a nominee and start focusing on McCain.

Neither McCain or Obama should be judged significantly for what their friends or critics say, but unfortunately journalists find it far easier to report on potentially harmful associations than to cover the issues. “Illegal war costing hundreds of times more than predicted? Faltering economy? Record deficit? Lack of Congressional oversight? Judicial restructuring? Politicizing of the Supreme Court? How complicated and boring. Say, who is Britney endorsing? Any chance that she has hired an illegal alien?”

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