Vanity Fair Writer Says 'Anti-Press Hysteria of the Nixon Years' May Return

The monthly magazine Vanity Fair is still a Hollywood-crazed chronicler of the rich and famous, but in the past few years it's also become an increasingly shrill anti-Bush voice -- sort of a more elegantly written, hard-copy version of the Huffington Post.

Writer Marie Brenner, a frequent contributor to VF, sounded a little shrill herself this past weekend, claiming that "the atmosphere against the press right now is as onerous as I can ever remember it," and that judicial demands for reporters to reveal confidential sources may result in a comeback for "the anti-press hysteria of the Nixon years."

Brenner, whose 1996 VF piece on Jeffrey Wigand was the basis for the 1999 movie The Insider, spoke at a journalism conference in San Antonio. Excerpts from a story by Sheila Hotchkin in the San Antonio Express-News:

...Brenner...said Saturday that war is being waged against this nation's press and journalists must stand together to turn back assaults on their freedoms...

In her speech, Brenner drew parallels between the Watergate era of the 1970s and today's "Plamegate" era, in which the disclosure of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity led to a criminal investigation that saw courts compelling reporters to reveal confidential sources. New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for her initial refusal.

Brenner said that and other attacks on the press threaten to push the nation back to a darker time: "the anti-press hysteria of the Nixon years."

...

"The atmosphere against the press right now is as onerous as I can ever remember it," Brenner said after her speech...

[B]loggers often put forth the news with a partisan slant, she said, and "more and more Americans now receive their news through these partisan channels."

Brenner said that while journalists are well aware of these and other threats to the press, Americans at large have not yet begun to pay attention, and much less realize the potential significance. She said journalists have an obligation to shine a light on what is happening.

"These are challenging times for all of us," Brenner said, "and the need to stand together as a profession ... seems as crucial as it did during the Watergate years."

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters