As the Old Song Goes, “Baby Some Things Never Change”

By Jack Limpert

A sidebar from a Washingtonian article I wrote in 1973 about DC’s journalism establishment:
What the Press Thinks Is Wrong With Itself

In conversations with about 30 Washington journalists, here are some of the shortcomings of the press that were mentioned:

—We get too friendly with sources.

—The American press doesn’t have the guts to go after big business. Aside from Morton Mintz and Jack Anderson, nobody does it. We all go after government, but never business.

—We’re all out there covering the same story, the obvious story. It’s more exciting than going off on your own. You’re in there among the television cameras.

—We still tend to cover personalities. There is a bias against institutional reporting, which is what we need a lot more of.

—Smart politicians know how to create newsworthy events, so we have a tendency to be led into writing what they want us to write about, rather than initiating stories on our own.

—Most reporters are liberals—we want to see things changed for the better. But too many of us are bleeding heart liberals, not tough liberals. When the Great Society programs passed, we all thought it was wonderful. But we never went out to find out how those programs were working.

—We all want to deal with the same great issues. We leave most of Washington uncovered.

—We ought to do a lot more investigative and interpretive reporting. And good interpretive reporting is not advocacy reporting—it’s explaining why things happened.

—The problem is most of us are here for the prestige of our papers, so our editors would rather have our bylines on big obvious stories rather than have us go out and dig around government.

—We grossly overreport the White House, cover the Senate well, and do a terrible job of covering the House.

—You know it must really make Bob Haldeman smile that we all sit around the White House press room using Ron Ziegler as a punching bag instead of going out and finding out if the government is working.

—The regulatory agencies—they’re making decisions that affect the pocketbook of every American and hardly any of us know there they are in Washington.

—We’re too easily satisfied to report the official version of stories that don’t mean a hell of a lot in the first place.
The hed is from the Tim McGraw song, Some Things Never Change, recorded in 1999:

After all this time I still miss you everyday
The same world spins ’round
I guess some things never change
Sometimes I go out but it never feels the same
I still look for you
Baby some things never change


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