Note - this piece was inspired after reading AC's (Fore Left) recent post, Odd Coordinates, who had linked to this Michelle Malkin piece. I began this as a comment on AC's blog, but as it got longer, I realized it deserved a post of its own.
Since I began following politics (which was age 10) the media have played an increasingly larger role in the political process, during the course of time. But, with that larger role comes influence, and with that influence comes power.
What we see today is a news media that has become both a watch dog and a whistle-blower, and in some cases an out of control entity that has little oversight, except within itself. Using the constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of speech principle, many have become highly irresponsible, as they see the outcomes their irresponsible actions (and in some cases inactions) produce. They not only enjoy the new-found power, they have become drunk with it.
It started with the Vietnam War. Now I am not going to debate the various merits (or lack thereof) in that conflict. But just take a look back sometime and see how a media played a integral role, in that campaign.
While resting on the laurels of that particular victory, they soon found a "gimme" with the Watergate affair. That's when the MSM became emboldened to go after a sitting president and made a major contribution to his removal. (I know he resigned, but he resigned under pressure. Therefore, he was indirectly removed.)
That is when the era of the Dan Rather (chew your face until you bleed) style of reporting was born. That was the beginning of an aggressive approach philosophy; one that relentlessly pursues a story in order to get the negatives or the so-called "dirty laundry" stories, either to sell or to ruin (or sometimes both).
It didn't stop there, either. The media soon got restless again, and again, another scandal fell into their laps, the Iran-Contra Affair. They got a lot of mileage out of that one, for sure. But, they didn't succeed in ruining a presidency, like they had with Nixon. Some of their momentum was (in effect) reduced, if only for a season.
They followed that up with the Whitewater investigation and when that fell through (due to a series of unfortunate events that directly favored President Clinton), they turned towards a new direction. Instead of respecting the President's private lives, they then became glorified tabloids in their coverage of "Monicagate".
And just when you thought it could get no worse, you find that there are more dastardly intentions, than selling a few papers and ruining a few politicians' life. Now the stakes have risen, again. Publishing general locations of government officials' homes is one thing, but printing more precise data that can lead to the exact locations of such homes, is not safe and it borders on violating the owners' rights to privacy, not to mention safety.
One has to ask themselves, where are the boundaries going to be in the future? Where will the public's right to know end? And where will the limits of the principles (of responsible journalism) begin?
Will they lose more integrity and force hands to put slight contraints on some media actions, in the future, creating another "freedom of speech" stir? If they do, freedoms will be forever lost, no matter how slight they may be. Or, will the media wake up and realize that with great power comes great responsibility? If they do, they can avert an entire battle that need not be fought.
Or does the media want to be the fourth branch of government? Just how far will this all go and what do they really hope/want to accomplish, here?