12:00 am
Fri July 4, 2014

Beat The Press Fourth Of July Special

Fireworks shoot over the Hatch Shell in Boston during the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert rehearsal, Wednesday, July 3, 2013.
Credit (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

We're celebrating the Fourth of July with a civics lesson rooted in the Fourth Estate and some recent cases in which the First Amendment clashed with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

  • Sketchy scoops: The media loves a good expose, especially one that calls the ethics of a powerful person or institution into question. But as the furor over racist remarks by long-time NBA owner Donald Sterling shows, when it comes to its own ethics, the media can be surprisingly flexible. 
  • Pundit problem: Whenever there’s a crisis, the media starts looking for pundits, experts who can tells us why things are going badly. Case in point: the disintegration of Iraq, which has the press giving platform to a group of commentators that critics say has zero credibility. 
  • Activist anchors: 24-hour cable news network MSNBC came under fire this spring when Democratic operatives accused the network of a double standard,  allowing Joe Scarborough to speak at a Republican fundraiser while forcing another host to cancel an appearance at a Democratic fundraiser.
  • Fake news: Comedian John Oliver, best known for his work on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” now has his own show on HBO called “Last Week Tonight”. It’s languished in relative obscurity since its debut in April, but that all changed when an Oliver diatribe about net neutrality went viral.

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