Newscasters, sick of official lies and stonewalling, finally start snarling.

Media criticism.
Sept. 2 2005 5:36 PM

The Rebellion of the Talking Heads

Newscasters, sick of official lies and stonewalling, finally start snarling.

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You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals, as Jack Cafferty just pointed out, so tragically, so many of these people, almost all of them that we see, are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold. [Emphasis added.] [Watch the video.]

(Note to Blitzer: You might be one of those guys, like Campanis, who shouldn't talk about race extemporaneously. Next time, try channeling your outrage from the pages of a well-thought-out news script.)

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The rebellion of the talking heads reached its culmination today as CNN.com contrasted "the official version" of events in New Orleans with its "in-the-trenches" account by its reporters and authoritative sources. Muted compared to the on-air growling, the Web story still portrays the government as a pack of liars, or worse, as bumbling idiots. The broadcasters' angry dispatches break with the "public face" they usually give their work: polite, patient, neutral, generous. A steady diet of such confrontational reporting would probably be as edifying as a Jerry Springer show. But when the going gets this tough—when government incompetence and lies become so insurmountable—sometimes the only way to get the story is by getting mad.

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Get this: Rush Limbaugh called me a liberal on his show yesterday for my Wednesday column about the news broadcasters' general neglect of race and class. Said Limbaugh, "The whole purpose of this story for Mr. Shafer and these stories on these lower level websites that hopefully they think will percolate to the mainstream press is to eventually indict the American way of life, to indict the American culture, to indict the American society as inherently unfair and racist." I can't wait to impress my friends at the American Prospect by sending the transcript over. Meanwhile, call me a communist, a fascist, a neo-con, an anarcho-syndicalist, or late to dinner via e-mail: slate.pressbox@gmail.com. (E-mail may be quoted unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Jack Shafer was Slate's editor at large. You can follow him on Twitter or email him at Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.