U.S. MEDIA BECOMING 'ECHO CHAMBER' OF BUSH ADMINISTRATION, SAYS VETERAN JOURNALIST SANDER VANOCUR 

HONOLULU (March 14) -- The U.S. media is "becoming more and more an echo chamber" of the Bush administration and not asking hard questions about possible war in Iraq, a veteran of U.S. network news said. 
"If it's unpatriotic to ask questions, we're in terrible shape," said Sander Vanocur, who joined NBC news in 1957 and went on to become White House correspondent. "It's not treasonous to voice our concerns."
Vanocur, who also worked for ABC News and PBS television, spoke at the East-West Center Wednesday in recognition of Freedom of Information Day, which falls on Sunday. 
Vanocur criticized the recent White House press conference at which President George Bush called upon a prepared list of reporters like he was reading from "a prom dance card. What did we learn about what the country is going to pay for this war?"
Discussing how prepared Americans were for war, he said the media had performed "pretty much the way the administration wanted." Vanocur said reporters were playing the administration as truthful without "asking the hard questions.
"Maybe George Bush is right...but the questions should be asked."
Vanocur, saying he "was happy to run the risk of appearing liberal," asked: "Does the president really have the right to pronounce war at his pleasure? That question is seldom being asked by the press." 
If any war in Iraq went badly, Vanocur, emphasizing that he used his words carefully, believes civilian officials would "accuse the press of being treasonous. They have to have somebody to blame."
Vanocur questioned why "George Bush is hell-bent on this crusade (against Iraq).
"As bad as Saddam Hussein is, I'm not sure this is where the next (terrorism) event is going to come from," Vanocur said.
"California is worried about being bombed by North Korea."
Saying there has been a general "debasement" of the U.S. media, he was most critical of the TV talk shows, calling hosts "gas bags."
Vanocur's talk was co-sponsored by the East-West Center, Honolulu Community-Media Council, Society of Professional Journalists and the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council. 

The East-West Wire is a news service provided by the East-West Center in Honolulu. Any or all of this report may be used with attribution to the East-West Center or to the person quoted.

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