Christopher Toothaker, or the problem with mainstream media

Juan Cristobal says: – This weekend’s rapprochement between the U.S. and Venezuela is, without a doubt, good news. We have long argued on this blog that isolating Chavez is impossible and that fueling his anti-U.S. rhetoric only helps Chavez and actually hurts the opposition, including our political prisoners.

But don’t expect to read this opinion in the mainstream media.

Case in point: this dispatch from Christopher Toothaker, of the Associated Press. Toothaker tried to find out what the opposition thinks of this new detente between the two countries. He paints the portrait of a wary opposition, concluding that we want Obama to press Chavez on his increasing authoritarianism.

His only source? Milos Alcalay.

I have no problem with former Ambassador Alcalay. In fact, I may even agree with most of what he’s saying.

My problem is with this reporter claiming that Alcalay actually speaks for the opposition. As a former diplomat who has never held elective office and who served as Chavez’s Ambassador a full two years after the April 2002 massacre, Mr. Alcalay is not the spokesperson we really need, nor is he a representative voice of any significant portion of the opposition.

Was it too much to ask Mr. Toothaker to get other opinions? For example, the opinion of the leaders of our political parties, or of Caracas’ embattled Mayor? Last I heard, those were the guys actually getting the votes.

You may be tempted to conclude that this is their fault. Partly, it is, given how I can’t find a single quote from a significant opposition voice talking about the Obama-Chavez meeting. Seriously, people, is it too hard to put out a press release?

But it’s clear Mr. Toothaker didn’t seek to talk to other sources. Had he done that, he would have added the usual disclaimer of how he tried to reach other people but did not hear back. This omission hints that his only source was Alcalay and, poof, a note about Venezuela’s wary “opposition” makes its way to hundreds of newspapers and media outlets across the globe.

A while back, we concluded that our opposition leadership needed to make way for fresh faces and new ideas. So it goes with mainstream media. Their laziness and the callous way in which they do their job does a disservice to Venezuela’s opposition and to the public in general.

It’s time for them to go as well. Luckily, they’re on their way out.