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Matt Bai is a political reporter and staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, Bai graduated from Tufts in 1990 and received a Masters from the Columbia School of[…]

American media has never been good with war.

Matt Bai: You know there’s a lot of, you know, self-…. There’s a lot of feeling . . . and certainly a lot of feeling in the public that the credibility of the media has deteriorated. And you know I think some of that is, you know, we’re at a time of war. And if you really look back at the history of this, I think it’s important to do. You know American media has never been good with war. In a free society with a national interest, and a military, and a free press, it’s very hard to balance all of this. It always has been. And actually I would argue that in most ways that count, in many ways the American media has gotten better over time; has evolved; has not gotten worse at all. I mean look. My in-laws were my . . . My mother-in-law and her entire family were… during the Second World War in an American concentration camp. And my . . . my father-in-law fought for a segregated army unit to try and win their release, which never happened. And during the course of that time over 100,00 Japanese-Americans at the heyday of the great, you know, Rooseveltian America . . . more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans . . . citizens of America were rounded up and put into …, and the press didn’t say a word. And there wasn’t a peep out of the American press, right? You can’t tell me that we’ve gotten worse. You can’t tell me that, you know, that was a golden moment. Vietnam . . . We remember about Vietnam a handful of correspondents who, you know . . . who courageously told the truth about what they saw. The . . . the real picture of course is very different. The vast majority of American media for years and years was . . . was . . . was very timid about that war. And in fact, you know, a lot of those journalists we now think of as heroes of the Vietnam era, they couldn’t get their stuff printed for a large period of time. So in the larger sweep, I think the American media, you know, has gotten better, and I think we have a lot to be proud of. But we, you know, we go through difficult moments. I think we’re in a difficult moment, and I think one of the most precious commodities you have is the trust of the public. And to the extent that we squander that, you know it does have long term ramifications. I mean it’s such a diversification of media now that it’s . . . it’s very difficult because people have to understand that, you know, Access Hollywood does not do what I do. And part of it is the responsibility of the consumer.

Recorded on: 12/13/07