Former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson has a new book out, Stonewalled, that details the battles that ultimately led to her parting ways with the Tiffany Network. Attkisson was instrumental in breaking the "Fast and Furious" gun-walking scandal and she also uncovered all sorts of official dissembling about Benghazi.
In an extensive review, The New York Post's Kyle Smith notes that Attkisson considers herself "politically agnostic" and a reporter who follows wherever the story leads. That inevitably led to trouble when the story cast a bad light on the Obama administration.
One of the things that's particularly interesting is the way Attkisson sees bias playing out. It's not necessarily ideological (or at least not in a way that is commonly conceived). Smith explains:
Reporters on the ground aren't necessarily ideological, Attkisson says, but the major network news decisions get made by a handful of New York execs who read the same papers and think the same thoughts.
Often they dream up stories beforehand and turn the reporters into "casting agents," told "we need to find someone who will say . . ." that a given policy is good or bad. "We're asked to create a reality that fits their New York image of what they believe," she writes.
Attkisson mischievously cites what she calls the "Substitution Game": She likes to imagine how a story about today's administration would have been handled if it made Republicans look bad.
In green energy, for instance: "Imagine a parallel scenario in which President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney personally appeared at groundbreakings for, and used billions of tax dollars to support, multiple giant corporate ventures whose investors were sometimes major campaign bundlers, only to have one (or two, or three) go bankrupt . . . when they knew in advance the companies' credit ratings were junk."
Attkisson continued her dogged reporting through the launch of ObamaCare: She's the reporter who brought the public's attention to the absurdly small number — six — who managed to sign up for it on day one.
I interviewed Attkisson for Reason TV earlier this year, as new revelations about Benghazi hit the front pages and she started talking about her problems with CBS brass.
Among the many disturbing points she makes:
As one whistleblower put it to me: things have never been worse for people who try to speak the truth inside the government about illegalities and wrong doing. In their view, and I tend to agree, every administration is more clamped down and closed than the one before it. And the next one starts at the finishing point. It's very hard to make it go backwards. There are rules being implemented now against journalists and the type of work that we do that I think will be very hard to unwind.
It's a really fascinating take on how the news gets made (trigger warning: if you think politics is about sausage-making, then don't click below).