If people relied on the mainstream media, especially print media, to keep up to date on the government, then they must have quite a shock this morning with the resignation of Van Jones. For instance, the New York Times makes its first mention of the Jones controversy this morning — by reporting his resignation:
In a victory for Republicans and the Obama administration’s conservative critics, Van Jones resigned as the White House’s environmental jobs “czar” on Saturday.
Controversy over Mr. Jones’s past comments and affiliations has slowly escalated over several weeks, erupting on Friday with calls for his resignation.
Did the Times report it on Friday? On Saturday? No. Their first print report of any controversy at all over Van Jones came today, in reporting his resignation. The Times does a credible job laying out the more substantial accusations against Jones, but there is a problem here as well:
Appointed as a special adviser for “green jobs” by President Obama, Mr. Jones did not go through the traditional vetting process for administration officials who must be confirmed by the Senate. So it was not until recently that some of Mr. Jones’s past actions received broad airing, including his derogatory statements about Republicans in February and his signature on a 2004 letter suggesting that former President George W. Bush might have knowingly allowed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to occur in order to use them as a “pre-text to war.”
Mr. Jones’s involvement in the 1990s with a group called Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement prompted recent accusations by conservative critics that he associated with Communists. The group, according to a post-mortem written by some of its founders, was an anti-capitalist, antiwar organization committed to achieving “solidarity among all oppressed peoples” with “direct militant action.”
When did the 9/11 Truther connection come to light? Jim Hoft reported it Thursday, and it flew through the blogosphere. Even more Truther connections came out the next day. When did the New York Times — and to be fair, most other newspapers in the country — get around to reporting in print that a paranoid conspiracy theorist had a job as a White House czar? Today, after he quit.
Byron York gives us the round-up:
Coverage of the Jones controversy was a case study of some of the deep divisions within the media. Fox News’ Glenn Beck devoted program after program to Jones’ past, and a number of conservative blogs were responsible for finding some of Jones’ most inflammatory statements. Yet even as the controversy grew — and even after Jones himself apologized for some of his words — several of the nation’s top media outlets failed to report the story. As late as Friday, as the Jones matter began to boil over, it had not been reported at all in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC. Although the Post and CBS went on to report the Jones story on Saturday, the Times did not inform its readers about the Jones matter until after Jones resigned.
So much for speaking truth to power, eh?
This reminds me very much of the lack of coverage given to Eason Jordan’s accusations of deliberate journalist assassinations by the US military in early 2005. Jordan, a vice-president at CNN, made those accusations at a conference in Davos, Switzerland, where he thought Americans would not learn of them. After all, if CNN doesn’t report it, does it really happen? A reporter quoted Jordan and started a firestorm … in the blogosphere and on talk radio, which dug out more outrageous accusations and statements from Jordan. Newspapers couldn’t be bothered to cover it, however — not until Jordan’s resignation from CNN forced them to do so. In that case, the LA Times didn’t report it until almost 48 hours after Jordan resigned, and the New York Times only ran one wire-service report on its website prior to the resignation.
With Jordan, the assumption was that the media didn’t want to eat its own. That same assumption could be made about their reluctance to report on Van Jones. They have beclowned themselves a second time, and now have to answer for their silence in defense of a government official.