Seymour Hersh won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the My Lai massacre in the Vietnam War. Ever since, he’s been the scourge of presidents and press officers, not afraid to speak his mind about America, journalists, and politicians. He’s an equal opportunity gadfly who launches withering criticism at Republican and Democrat alike.
Recently Hersh put reporters and the Obama Administration in his gun sights. According to a report in the Guardian newspaper, Hersh ripped American journalists, chiding them for their timidity, their refusal to challenge the story lines put out by the Obama Administration, and their willingness to temper their reporting to support the President. He said that the Obama Administration story about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden is “one big lie, not one word of it is true,” and argued that journalists aren’t investigating the shifting depictions of the event as they should. He called reporters “pathetic” and “more than obsequious” for their unwillingness to challenge the President, and he claims the Obama Administration “lies systematically.” He singled out the New York Times and said the newspaper spends “so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would.”
Hersh — like me — is a big believer in real journalism and reporters who ferret out the truth and let the chips fall where they may. He thinks, however, that the existing managers of newspapers and network news bureaus will never return to the days of “shoe leather” reporting, where reporters find sources and stories rather than waiting in briefing rooms for press officers to give them handouts. Hersh recommends firing 90 percent of newspaper editors and promoting new editors who can’t be controlled, closing network news bureaus, and starting over.
It’s interesting to hear a journalistic icon like Seymour Hersh speak out about the state of American reporting. Newspapers are worried about why their circulation is falling, falling, falling. Maybe if they stopped “carrying water” for politicians and started really reporting on what is actually happening, readers would return.