Helen Thomas and Myra MacPherson wonder if the watchdogs of democracy will ever bark again
Known for her fearless questioning of presidential power from President John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush, White House Press Corps reporter-turned-columnist Helen Thomas introduced her latest book, Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public (Scribner; June, 20, 2006) at the Miami Book Fair International 2006. Thomas began her brief remarks with a recitation of the failings of the Bush Administration and how the media turned from watchdog to lapdog in the process. She closed with a couple of humorous anecdotes from her sixty years in journalism to lighten the mood and reminded the audience that diplomacy, not the barrel of a gun, is the engine of peace. Former Washington Post reporter Myra MacPherson followd Thomas with an introduction to her new biography, All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone (Scribner; August 29, 2006). After describing the powerful FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's (1895-1972) efforts to hound and discredit the iconoclastic journalist and self-proclaimed communist I.F. ('Izzy') Stone (1907-1989), MacPherson illustrated the rebel nature of Stone with several anecdotes of how he uncovered some of the major news stories of the day, including most notably President Lyndon Johnson's fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which ultimately drove Johnson from the White House. MacPherson rounded out her presentation with an anecdote about Stone'sstudy of ancient Greek language and Socrates illustrating Stone's arrogance. Helen Thomas then took a question from the audience on what she would most like to ask George W. Bush. Thomas and MacPherson then held a 25-minute question and answer period with the audience in which they discussed maintaining objectivity in journalism; the question of presidential honesty going back to John and Robert Kennedy compared to today; the issue of media fact-checking and political lies; the issue of truth vs. fairness in media; the role of the media in a democracy; the issue of White House press secretaries in manipulating truth; the question of who sets editorial agendas in the newsrooms of America; and the irony of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show as an alternative source of the day's news.
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