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Journalists tread fine line between patriotism and partisanship

In wake of last week's tragedy, news anchors don red, white, and blue

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With American flags draping buildings, cars, and baseball fields right now, few people probably think twice about seeing red, white, and blue in their local and national TV news coverage.

Anchors wearing ribbons or reporting the news with flag-filled TV monitors behind them are just a few of the expressions of patriotism that are being beamed from sea to shining sea.

These displays of support, while in keeping with much of the country's mood, raise questions about a practice that is usually kept separate from the workplace of those charged with asking tough questions of government.

Journalists already face uphill battles during times of conflict, when access to information from the govenment can be limited. Already, issues of accessiblity have arisen with regard to the actions of the Bush government.

Legendary newsman Walter Cronkite is calling for a board to monitor government censorship in response to Attorney General John Ashcroft's statement that the news media would be kept in the dark about the details of the war.

Some critics say that's why it's so important for journalists to maintain their independence. They have already detected a softer touch when it comes to members of the press interviewing federal officials. And in some cases, efforts to be patriotic have blurred the lines more heavily than a tri-colored ribbon -with statements being read on air that offer support for the president's decision to wage a war against terrorism.

To those who monitor journalism ethics, those practices are more troubling than mere decoration. Wearing a ribbon - as NBC's Tim Russert did when he interviewed Vice President Dick Cheney on "Meet the Press" -may not be the worst violation of objectivity.

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