Ruben Navarrette Jr. of the Dallas Morning News laments the reaction Bush received while addressing the Unity conference of minority journalists last week.

The following is the essence of a letter sent him via e-mail.

"At times, I felt I was attending a political rally rather than a meeting of professionals in a news-gathering business that stresses the need for impartiality and objectivity," Navarrette writes.

On its face, the criticism appears to fall flat because newspapers and TV news channels are neither impartial nor objective, though the least I imagine the media could hope to accomplish was fairness and accuracy.

It does poorly at that, as well.

News reports from major outlets often merely repeat what government officials say -- without independent verification of facts or proper context.

It's a challenge, to be sure, but the age of sound bites does little to change that -- a trend in which the media itself is complicit in propagating.

Navarrette continues:

The president's jokes fell flat. The folksy Texas banter wore thin. And most of what Bush said the audience seemed to dismiss without a hearing.

Bush didn't help matters by appearing to be on the defensive. His presentation was clumsy, and he was obviously under-prepared. As when, searching for a way to tout his education reform efforts, Bush noted: "You can't read a newspaper if you can't read."

Anyone who has gone out of his way to alienate a good deal of journalists by saying he doesn't read newspapers, as well as by doing everything beyond its power to restrict the media at every turn -- including the ban on photographing coffins of U.S. soldiers, for one -- cannot expect the alienation will or should continued unopposed.

For a good deal of journalists, who are well-read those "folksy" ways seem simple-minded and perhaps mildly horrifying.

It was disrespectful – and distasteful. It was also dumb. Things like this help set back the larger cause of bringing racial and ethnic diversity to journalism.

"Respect," first and foremost, is earned. A majority of American voters did not cast their ballots for Bush and instead watched as the political legacy inheirited the goodwill and the maneuvering in subverting the democratic process in the 2000 election.

Follow this with one failed policy after another, and it becomes clear that respect beyond a civil demeanor is unwarranted.

"Respect" is likely why the media -- as seen in such stunning mea culpas by The New York Times and The Washington Post -- went along so uncritically with the Bush administration's unfounded and indefensible assertions on the need for war. Perhaps it was "respect" for the presidency that led to the media's own betrayal of the public trust and the unique role it holds, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Lastly, those who would deny the need for diversity in newsrooms would jump at any excuse to do so. It takes little help from columnists who would help add credence to the right-wing message that the media is the enemy.


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