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Patriotism hurts journalistic credibility

Since Sept. 11, many newsies have — like many Americans — rallied around the flag, raising the thorny issue of how to reflect the national spirit while remaining impartial as journalists.

The Stars and Stripes have been conspicuously displayed in the logos of most of the news nets, and some anchors — Fox News’ Brit Hume and NBC’s Tim Russert, for example — have taken to wearing flag pins.

MSNBC has been airing a minute-long promo filled with weepy music and images from the first week that ends with the words “United We Stand … MSNBC.”

But critics say these displays of patriotism undermine anchors’ journalistic objectivity. It’s an issue the nets first encountered — albeit to a lesser extent — during their coverage of the 1991 Gulf War.

Adding to the dilemma this time around, the public has also been quick to jump on any net that appears to be critical of President Bush.

When ABC News’ Claire Shipman reported on “Nightline” about Bush’s stance during this crisis, the newscast received numerous emails saying this was the wrong time to dissect the president’s actions.”Our job is to get it right down the middle,” says ABC News prexy David Westin. “Over the long haul, that will be the most patriotic thing we can do, and ultimately for the good of the government.”

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