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Counterpunch

Sometimes the press reminds me of that one unfortunate kid the school bully just wouldn't leave alone. You remember him: He was the one who never stood up for himself, no matter how bad the abuse became. The media's much the same: Continually assailed from the left and the right, it more often than not greets each blow with a meek nod or feeble defense than a strategically placed jab of its own. That's not to say that the press is perfect – far, far from it – but many in the business do seem so cowed by their critics that even the most unfair criticisms can get treated with a respect they don't deserve.

Well, one Twin Cities station has decided to channel Howard Beale and tell its critics its not going to take it anymore. Last week, Citypages reports, KSTP refused to run an ad attacking "the media" because the station's management felt the criticism was unfair. (Hat tip Romenesko, naturally.)

"The spot in question--bankrolled by the conservative advocacy group Progress for America--featured testimonials from Minnesota veterans defending U.S. war policy in Iraq interspersed with images of the 9/11 terrorist attacks," writes Mike Mosedale. He continues:

The overall sentiment did not bother KSTP general manager Rob Hubbard. In Hubbard's view, the problem lay in the veracity of two specific claims that were embedded in the ad: "That the media only reports the bad news" and "you would never know it from the news reports, but the enemy in Iraq is al Qaeda."

That, says Hubbard, is plainly false. He points out that both KSTP and ABC, its parent network, have reported on the Iraqi elections, progress concerning reconstruction of the country, and the reopening of its schools--all of which qualifies as "good" news. "When someone is watching our news, we're 'the media.'" Hubbard explains. "We know that [the claim in the advertisement] is inaccurate as it relates to us."

The City Pages story is solid, and I'd encourage you to check out the whole thing. As Mosedale reports, it is not all that unusual for a station to turn down an ad, as Arianna Huffington learned when she tried to air ads in major markets suggesting SUV drivers were supporting terrorism. Just as they did in Huffington's case, however, some bloggers are crying censorship.

The constant attacks of critics have put the media is in a tough position. News outlets have an obligation to respond to legitimate criticisms and hopefully improve as a result, but those in the press also have to maintain their authority in the face of attacks from those who have an ideological or political interest in discrediting legitimate reporting. It's heartening to see that KSTP had the good sense to refuse to be party to an unfair attack on its record, even if it meant passing up an estimated $600,000. Here's hoping that when legitimate criticisms come their way, they also have the good sense not to look away.