Tuesday, April 22, 2008

CNN and Snow on a fine line

CNN may not have learned much from yesterday's NYTimes
about media independence.

The New York Times reported that the Pentagon and the Administration have been promoting their message about the Iraq war through the supposedly independent analysts that all of the major news outlets have been employing.

There is nothing wrong with the government trying to get its message out to the public. The problem is this: The news media and the government cultivated an illusion that these individuals were in fact independent voices. They wore the skin of unimpeachable and objective observers of world events. But they were in fact carefully cultivated by the administration to articulate a specific position on Iraq and the conflict there.

And now CNN has hired Tony Snow, former White House Press Secretary, as a political contributor. Perhaps they hired him explicitly to bring a conservative voice to the network. But I hope that CNN is very careful about the kind of commentary they ask from him.

Larry King asked him who would win in November. Tony Snow replied, "I think [Sen. John] McCain's going to win, actually, because I think security and the economy both break his way."

Statements like this are fine if Mr. Snow is clearly portrayed as an advocate and not an objective analyst of political affairs. But it seems like it would be quite easy for him to take on the air of an analyst. At that point, statements of advocacy masked as analysis become at least a little pernicious.

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