Saturday, December 18, 2021

Ted Rall: The Washington Post's Insane Canonization of Editor Fred Hiatt (Who?)

 As if we needed reminding that Americans don't trust the news media, a recent report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford found that the United States ranks dead last in news consumer confidence out of 46 countries surveyed.

One major criticism is that too many journalists appear to reside in a bubble far removed from the day-to-day life of most Americans. Reporters overwhelmingly vote Democratic, are white and clustered along the coasts. They are far likelier than the average news consumer to hold a master's degree and therefore to come from a privileged background.

Given the elitism endemic to American journalism, it isn't surprising that so many stories and issues that concern millions of ordinary people go undercovered or ignored by the press. From the gutting of the Midwest by deindustrializing free-trade agreements to the opioid crisis to wages that have been frozen in real terms for half a century, the media keeps missing big trends with major ramifications, like the surprise victory of Donald Trump -- an event that only came as a shock to people who don't spend time in flyover country.

Sometimes, like this week, one major news outlet's navel-gazing shines a spotlight on the insanely disconnected cluelessness of the professional journalist class. This one involves the recent death by heart attack of Fred Hiatt, the 66-year-old editorial page editor of The Washington Post.

In addition to an obituary and selected outtakes from his opinion writing, the Post published a fawning editorial remembrance ("Fred Hiatt was an editor of surpassing integrity, intelligence and compassion"), an over-the-top essay by a former publisher ("I've never known a better editor than Fred Hiatt -- or a better person") and six pieces (so far) by staff columnists: "Fred Hiatt was a bulwark against the culture of contempt," by Marc A. Thiessen; "Fred Hiatt led with wisdom, wit and a transfixing whisper," by David Von Drehle; "Fred Hiatt deserves to be remembered long after he is gone," by Charles Lane; "What I never got to say to Fred Hiatt," by Dana Milbank ("a man of towering intellect, unerring judgment and moral courage," Milbank wrote); "The enduring power of an independent voice," by Colbert I. King; and "For Fred: A letter from the heart," by Kathleen Parker.

That's 10 articles about a person whom 99.9% of Americans, and probably 90% of Post readers, have never heard of. Having met and talked to Hiatt a number of times over the years, I have to think that he would have strongly disapproved of hagiography reminiscent of Libyan newspapers under Col. Muammar Gaddafi -- or of the goes-to-11 media coverage of the 2008 death of Tim Russert, host of "Meet the Press."

While it is tempting to chalk up this excess to a combination of genuine sadness, gratitude to a boss who hired (or at least didn't fire) staffers during the great meltdown of the American journalism industry, and the absence of someone at the helm self-aware enough of the optics to tell his third or fourth or fifth or sixth columnist to write about something else, surely there is something notable about this craziness considering that it emanates from the Post, arguably the most financially secure print news organization in the United States thanks to its ownership by the world's second-richest man.

In a business with more than its fair share of gruff, unappreciative executives who never return emails, Hiatt's professionalism and courtesy stood out. He got back to everyone and treated people with respect. It's easy to understand why his colleagues liked him. Taking note of the passing one of your own tribe is understandable. But a newspaper isn't supposed to be about the people who make the newspaper. 

And 10 pieces? The Post only published two articles about the death of President George H.W. Bush. (They also covered the fact that Trump didn't attend Bush's funeral.) Think of all the news and opinion that will never see the light of day in order to make room for that nonsense. For example, the Post has never covered the Steven Donziger scandal.

Like most people, Hiatt was far from perfect. A longtime neoconservative, he pushed the Post's editorial page, which still doesn't employ a single progressive, much less a leftist, to the far right. Under Hiatt, the Post's support for invading Iraq was so enthusiastic and sustained that it's possible to argue the war wouldn't have happened without him, which would have saved over a million lives. He never apologized.

It's swell to hear that his columnists enjoyed working for him, but in politics and media, what matters is not one's affable office manner but what winds up on the printed page. Hiatt's editorial pages were and remain a paragon of center-right militarism and milquetoast corporatism, championing middlebrow politics and culture to prop up an establishment dependent on poverty, racism, exploitation of workers and all manners of oppression. 

Post readers know what the newspaper is. The orgy of self-congratulation via the lionization of an obscure newspaper executive serves only to further increase distrust of an important media outlet.

Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, "The Stringer." Order one today. You can support Ted's hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.



Anonymous said...

It’s because of folks just like this guy

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rall, didn't your Momma teach you not to speak ill of the dead?
It's because you only add to the grief of a family and friends that thought his redeeming qualities outweighed your fault finding.

Nor did it occur to you that much of the media distrust can be placed at the feet of biased talking heads, particularly the ones at FOX whose texts on January 6 prove that what they think and what they say aren't the same.
In my small home town, we call that lying, self-serving hypocrisy.
But, as President Lincoln pointed out, you can fool some of the people all of the time!

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, journalism currently suffers from a lack of diversity. I'm not talking about racial or ethnic diversity, and I don't include opinion peddlers in my definition of journalists.

I'm talking about diversity of intellect within individual newsrooms. It seems to me like newsrooms are run by juveniles who demand everyone must be like them.

Anonymous said...

Every platform that displayed downvote/dislike counters is doing away with them. They want the beliefs of the majority to always seem like they are the opinions of the minority, while the narrative of the minority is pushed as popular consensus.

Gaslighting and mass surveillance (subsidized by .gov) are the end goals of social media.

Anonymous said...

They must deliver a different edition of the Post in Ted Rall's neighborhood than anywhere I have ever lived.

Seriously, why does KF waste space on this guy?

Anonymous said...

Read this political cartoonist's Opinion piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal entitled "Ethan Crumbley Is Not An Adult" and then get back to us about Rall's thought processes. His cartoon opinion yesterday contends that the 15 y/o mass killer cannot be tried as an adult while his parents are simulataneously charged with crimes rooted in their failure to act as parents. It will give you whiplash, and WSJ is aggressively blocking comments from people outraged by this cartoonist's "opinion". Yeah, no wonder Americans distrust "media". The most important factor in "media" is how the public reacts to it. If you're a snowflake of either Republican or Democratic mindset and become hysterical about what "media" reports, then you need a reality check. Most grownups know when they are being played like a fiddle.

Anonymous said...

C' least wait till next year to trash a man that, as this opinion piece one ever heard of. This is the type of meanness that both sides are sick of .

Anonymous said...

Mainly because you have a media that puts out opinions, hurt feelings, slanted or Twitter/Tik Tok opinions out instead of facts to get it out there, to get a reaction from idiots. You ever watch CNN/MSNBC when something big happens, the amount stumbling and guessing those clowns do. You ever notice when certain races do something we have pictures and all PII about them and then others are just listed as a man/teenager. Certain crimes committed by certain races are blown out of proportion and others are quickly hidden once it doesn’t match the narrative. Whenever any of these media organizations are in court they’ll say it’s just opinions, but your “college educated” idiots don’t know difference. The cesspool of idiots out there get butt hurt over Peloton “killing” an actor in a scene on sex and the city, there really are people out there walking around like this, so the media knows they can convince them that anything they tell them will be taken as truth.

Anonymous said...

Rall really believes that Hiatt 'pushed the WP editorial page to the right', or some such b/s as that? His only basis for that claim was their support of the Iraq war - something that many left-leaning Congresspeople supported and voted for. It may be true that Hiatt was a right-wing neocon; I don't know. And frankly, don't care. But to read a column produced by someone that things the Post is a right-leaning paper is an absolute waste of time. Something I have now learned and will not do again.

Anonymous said...

This is the same guy who wrote that the Constitution should be more-easily amended to reflect the changing times, while completely missing the fact that we already have a body law that is made/changed on a regular basis by our elected representatives in Congress. That body of law is called the United States Code, i.e., the federal statutes.

If the U.S. Congress is so dysfunctional that it can't legislate, I think the solution is to fix that problem, rather than target the Constitution. In my opinion, campaign finance reform and drug testing for our elected representatives would be a good start.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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