The next time you encounter a learned discussion of 'the liberal media' -- which usually features stalwart denials of political bias, combined with pious invocations of professional standards -- consider the life and career of James Wieghart, who died this week at the age of 76. Mr Wieghart's tenure in journalism was, by any measure, successful, star-studded--and emblematic of the problem of bias in American journalism.
He began at a distinguished provincial newspaper (the Milwaukee Journal) and ended as chairman of the journalism department at a provincial university (Central Michigan). But his ports of call between those two signposts are characteristic of the breed. He went from the Milwaukee newspapers to Washington, D.C.--and the staffs of two Democratic legislators, Senator William Proxmire and Representative Henry Reuss. From the Democratic side of Congress he then joined the Washington bureau of the New York Daily News, becoming bureau chief and, ultimately, executive editor in New York. When the News was acquired by Mortimer Zuckerman, Wieghart moved back to Washington and over to the Scripps Howard News Service, where he wrote a column.
Then, in 1986, he took leave of journalism, once again, to become staff director for Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., followed by a stint as spokesman for the Iran-contra special prosecutor, Lawrence Walsh. This interlude of service/flackery for Ted Kennedy and the Iran-contra inquisitors was followed by his chairmanship of the journalism department at Central Michigan University, during which time Wieghart served as a 'consultant' to the Iran-contra investigations for four more years.
It need hardly be said that this revolving-door biography, between journalism and service to the left-wing precincts of the Democratic party, is neither unusual nor cause for concern in the Mainstream Media. Mr. Wieghart's obituary in The Washington Post, which recounted his various comings and goings, did not see fit to comment on the propriety of mixing journalism with partisan political labor, except to quote Mr. Wieghart to the effect that, working as an investigator for Walsh, involved "a never-ending battle with a lot of lily-livered lawyers"--who, no doubt, were defending their clients against political prosecution.