Everything you know about corporate media is true. Michael Lewis, head of the Center for Public Integrity, spills the beans about his time working for Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes and ABC News.
It became painfully apparent over time that network television news was not especially interested in investigative reporting, certainly not to the extent or the depth of the best national print outlets. In fact, the most trusted man in America around this time, CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, had told Timemagazine something in 1966 that still rang true more than a decade later: that “the networks, including my own, do a first-rate job of disseminating the news, but all of them have third-rate news-gathering organizations. We are still basically dependent on the wire services. We have barely dipped our toe into investigative reporting.”
Gradually, television’s daily editorial insecurity vis-à-vis the older print world and its own tepid commitment to enterprise journalism caused me to conclude that all three major networks were mostly interested in the illusion of investigative reporting. Breathless, “exclusive” coverage of the latest government report (preferably ahead of the other networks), replete with “revelations” and “findings”—all unabashedly piggybacking on the investigations of others, official reports by inspectors general or congressional committees, criminal or civil court records—could create the aura of an aggressive news organization, for much less money (and fewer libel suits) than actually doing the original reporting. I found it sobering to realize that the news organization I worked for didn’t consider the work of finding the actual truth about a complicated situation economically efficient or even necessary.
The absurdity of this faux-investigative game reached its nadir for me one day when I was asked to follow up on a wire service report about former president Lyndon Johnson. Someone with personal access to Johnson when he was Senate majority leader in the late 1950s had just asserted under oath that he had on more than one occasion given Johnson envelopes of cash. I was explicitly asked to “check it out” for that evening’s news program.
It isn't just major news outlets. Everything seems to be an echo chamber, with very little in the way of investigative work done and far more amplification of that which happens when uninvestigated events' consequences come to light.