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By David Podvin

Excruciating bear market? Not at the Washington Post Company. On Friday, the stock hit a new all time high. It is stronger than 99.9% of the equities that are traded in the United States.

Recession? Not at the Washington Post Company. While most American corporations are struggling to meet profit targets during these hard economic times, the Post recently reported much better than expected earnings. According to Dow Jones, “The publisher said its 7% increase in revenue for the quarter was due mostly to a 25% revenue boost at its education division, 12% higher revenue at its cable division and 3% growth at its broadcasting division.”

The success is the financial windfall that comes with placing the interests of George W. Bush above journalistic integrity. Since 1999, the Washington Post Company has relentlessly promoted Bush at the expense of whatever honor its flagship newspaper previously had. The company is now being handsomely rewarded for prostituting itself. The revenue boost at the Post education materials subsidiary (Kaplan, Inc.) occurred because of the Bush bill that promotes standardized testing in public schools. The higher revenue at the cable and broadcasting divisions was made possible by favorable rulings on deregulation by Michael Powell, the Bush appointee who now heads the Federal Communications Commission.

Al Gore opposed the standardized testing that is so profitable for the Post. He also opposed the deregulation of the broadcasting industry that increases profits for the Post and every other media conglomerate. That is why he is not president today.

Despite grudgingly giving Gore a meaningless editorial page endorsement late in the 2000 campaign, the Post spent the year trashing the vice president on the important front page of the paper. Readers were constantly bombarded with stories by Ceci Connolly, David Broder and the rest of Executive Editor Leonard Downie’s hit squad about nonexistent Gore scandals and imaginary Gore lies. When the Post was challenged with conclusive evidence that it was reporting inaccurately, the paper refused to issue retractions or apologize to Gore for smearing him. To the contrary, the Post went right on lying through the Florida recount, when it falsely reported that Gore’s demand to have all the votes counted proved he was “doing anything to win”.

Among the Washington Post’s faithful readers are many of the editors of other news organizations across the country. These professionals look to the Post and The New York Times to set the national journalistic agenda. The result is that Americans now know Gore claimed to have invented the Internet, pretended to have uncovered the crimes at Love Canal, lied repeatedly during the debates, imagined being the model for the male protagonist in Love Story, etc. None of the factoids are true, but they collectively served the purpose of keeping the election close enough to be stolen.

For the modern Washington Post, journalism is never about reporting the truth. It is always about making money. The Post is in the vanguard of the pro forma journalism movement, in which management decides to emphasize those story lines that will best enhance the profits of the parent company. During the 2000 campaign, the editors and reporters at the paper all knew “George W. Bush Becomes President” was the most profitable story line for the Washington Post Company that pays their salaries. They never wavered in their commitment to achieve the desired corporate result.

They still don’t. Today, with Bush in the White Office and executive branch scandals busting out all over, the sound you no longer hear is that of the Washington Post calling for perpetual investigations of a sitting president. In place of adversary journalism, the paper now has erstwhile investigative reporter Bob Woodward writing fawning articles that attempt to convey just how indescribably wonderful Bush really is.  

The cooperative arrangement that benefits Bush and the Post is bad news for the average American. Huge amounts of taxpayer money have been used to reward the Post and other media conglomerates for their indispensable role in helping Bush seize power. In addition to sweetheart legislation that is designed to enrich companies like Kaplan, there have been big corporate tax cuts and the free transfer of extremely valuable broadcasting licenses from public ownership to the industry. This is all part of the payoff phase of a corrupt quid pro quo.

Especially harmful to common citizens is the elimination of regulations that prevented the media giants from monopolizing the political debate in this country. As a result of an FCC decision to allow the consolidation of the communications industry, fewer people will have control over the information that is available to American consumers of broadcast and print news. That means even more power for conglomerates like the Washington Post Company, which means even more power to help Bush gain a second term. Everyone comes out ahead, except those who believe in democracy and a free press.

There is currently a series of revealing reports at in which Bob Somerby documents the intense hostility toward Al Gore by mainstream reporters during the 2000 campaign. Somerby attributes the negative and inaccurate coverage to personal animus – a specific dislike of Gore and his offensive personality on the part of high profile journalists at major media outlets. This explanation does not account for why high profile journalists at major media outlets consistently lied about Bill Clinton and his charismatic personality. Or why they lied about Michael Dukakis. Or Walter Mondale. Or Jimmy Carter. Or George McGovern….

Mainstream reporters are well aware that, if they enjoy being mainstream reporters, then they had better show intense hostility toward any Democratic presidential nominee. Their employers have billions of dollars of kickbacks to collect when Republicans capture the White House. History does not provide many examples of employees who cost their bosses that kind of cash and then receive promotions. Or get to keep their jobs.

In order to survive, journalists who work at major communications companies have had to conform to the reality that reporting the truth is subservient to increasing the bottom line. The work product of these vassals constantly proves that they never forget mainstream journalism in this country is a wholly owned subsidiary of Corporate America.

Neither should you.

Podvin on the Media

Podvin, the Series


Last changed: December 13, 2009