Media needs separation from state

I have always thought of journalism as the fourth branch of government because of its closeness with political actions.

The media are outlets for the government to give the nation information about national issues. The media are also highly influential on public feelings.

In the Dan Rather scandal, for example, skepticism has grown about the quality of the information the masses receive and the people who present it.

Rather ran a report about President Bush’s military record using falsified documents. If a credible reporter giving false information wounded the media, then why did White House officials pour salt into that wound by planting a fake journalist in their briefings?

I am assuming when White House officials decided to allow this journalist without credentials to sit in on these briefings, they were not considering the fallout it could cause if the plot was discovered.

It is difficult enough to gain access to briefings. This debacle only makes matters worse. Applications for permanent passes to briefings take months to complete and require extensive background checks, fingerprints and photographs. This process was set up so that only the most reputable journalists would be allowed to cover the briefings and ask questions.

White House officials should have been wary of this journalist from the beginning. His name is James Guckert, yet he reports under Jeff Gannon. I find that peculiar. What is even more suspicious is that he was denied a permanent Capitol Hill pass because his news organization, called Talon News, was deemed illegitimate.

Despite this, he was given day passes that still allowed him inside the briefings. Why deny one pass and allow another?

It seems to me that something is rotten in Washington, D.C. The officials must believe the guidelines should only be followed when it best benefits them.

Did White House officials think about how this would affect the reporters?

It is a struggle to make sure that information that is broadcast is accurate. Even when the best precautions are taken, sometimes it can still all go wrong.

What are the American people going to think of the media now?

I could say that we need some legislation to prevent this from happening again. The problem is there already are extensive measures to prevent such occurrences.

So, what is the best action to take? Fire the folks behind this mess – the good people of the White House Press Office – and hire people who can properly do their jobs.

They are paid to make sure that certain guidelines are followed, not to make sure that President Bush’s policies are well-accepted by Americans. That is the president’s job.

It is no secret that presidents work closely with the media to get policies shown in a favorable light. That is part of working in politics. The government manipulates whatever it can. That is the way of the world.

However, when the system cannot be manipulated in one’s favor, it does not mean stoop to the level of deceit.

Let the media do its duty to report, and let the officials do their duty of convincing the nation it is right. That is the proper separation of responsibilities.

Charlynique Reynolds is a sophomore English student from Miami. She can be reached at