NBC News political editor Chuck Todd hid behind the nostalgia defense in a panel appearance on HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher," saying that the longing for the journalistic values of CBS stalwarts like Walter Cronkite and Don Hewitt — who each died recently — was simply pining for "the good ol' days."

The best journalists, Todd suggested, are always the ones that used to do it — in the same way (his analogy) that people like to say the best baseball players are the old-timers. Well, at least they weren't on steroids.

Sorry, but that's a rather pathetic abdication of responsibility in discussing TV news' excesses and failings, which in this summer of the anti-Obama "birther" movement and wildly overstated health-care claims were neatly summarized by Jamison Foser on the website Mediamatters.org. Whatever one thinks of the watchdog group's politics, Foser gets it right when he states:

In fact, it
is
the
media's
behavior
that
has
made
this
summer's
madness
inevitable.
When
they
let
the
loudest
yellers
and
most
audacious
liars
drive
the
discourse,
they
guarantee
that
people
who
can't
win
on
the
merits
will
yell
and
lie.
When
they
focus
on
politics
rather
than
policy,
they
guarantee
the
public
will
remain
in
the
dark
about
basic
facts.
When
they
repeat
false
claims,
or
treat
them
as
he-said,
she-said
situations,
they
guarantee
that
those
false
claims
will
sway
confused
citizens.
When
they
continue
to
give
a
platform
to
people
who
have
a
history
of
lying

and
assume
those
people
are
telling
the
truth
this time
they
guarantee
those
people
will
continue
to
lie.

Moreover, Todd seemed to contradict himself mere moments later, by questioning whether the media behaved responsibly in rushing to put guys who wore guns to presidential appearances and town halls on television. But Todd frequently appears on MSNBC, which couldn't get one gun-toter on the air fast enough, for an interview with Chris Matthews. Sure, Matthews unloaded on the guy, but that was after giving him a forum to talk about "sprinkling the tree of liberty," etc. And sure enough, there were more guys openly carrying guns at subsequent events.

Todd's right that there's a tendency to be overly romantic about the good ol' days of broadcast news, especially in the context of memorials and obituaries. But in dismissing legitimate criticism he's exhibiting his own very modern condition — the one that says in order to address a problem, you first have to be able to step back and admit that you have a problem.



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