If America's mainstream media were as liberal as conservatives claim we are, we would be ballyhooing the fiasco of James D. Guckert, aka Jeff Gannon, with page-one banner headlines and hourly bulletins. Sure, Guckert-gate may seem like a tempest in a teapot, at first. But so did the Whitewater land development deal. Yet, conservative commentators and editorialists, aided by their allies in Congress, rode that Arkansas pony until it ended far afield of a land deal and the impeachment of a president for lying about sex. Imagine, then, how the conservative choir would sing out at this point if a Democratic White House knocked long-tenured journalists off its pressroom access lists so that it could give access to a fellow like Guckert, who dependably asks softball questions because he reports for a partisan Web site that supports the administration. Imagine how they would question the access given by Secret Service and the White House press office for two years to a guy who used a driver's license that said James Guckert to get into the White House and then switched to his alter ego of Jeff Gannon. The best explanation for this that Bush press secretary Scott McClellan could give to Editor & Publisher magazine was, "People use aliases all the time in life, from journalists to actors." Guckert wrote under the name Jeff Gannon for Talon News, a conservative online news outlet associated with another Web site, GOPUSA, a conservative Web site based in Houston and dedicated to "spreading the conservative message throughout America." He attracted the attention of liberal bloggers when he asked President George W. Bush a squeezably soft question at a news conference in January: How, he asked the president, could he work "with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?" Liberal bloggers also uncovered links between Guckert and gay-oriented Web sites. But all that's a titillating sideshow compared to the charges that House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has called to the attention of the special prosecutor investigating the leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative to columnist Robert Novak. In 2003 Guckert wrote in Talon News that he had asked Plame's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, about "an internal government memo prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel" that revealed his wife's CIA role. Revealing a CIA agent's identity is a federal crime. A Time magazine reporter and a New York Times reporter face possible jail sentences for refusing to say who revealed Plame's CIA role to them in an apparent effort to discredit Wilson's criticism of the administration's Iraq war policy. Is the prosecutor putting Guckert's feet to the fire, too? If not, why not? Of course, every administration tries to manipulate the media. Team Bush has elevated it to a high art. Before Guckert, there was the disclosure that three conservative syndicated columnists had been paid handsomely to promote administration programs - payment they failed to disclose to readers. And remember those pre- packaged video news releases featuring fake reporters so local news outlets would be tempted to run them as legitimate news stories, as some did? But I thought the last straw was the unprecedented herding of reporters covering this year's inaugural balls into pens from which they could only venture to interview ball guests if they were escorted by "minders" in the fashion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Tell me again: What was that war about? Oh, yeah: freedom and democracy. Great. We could use a little more back here at home. Unfortunately, this administration and its supportive chorus is getting away with less accountability, more secretiveness, partly by demonizing the media. If they succeed in intimidating us from watchdogs into lapdogs, they will have succeeded where previous administrations from both parties have failed. That's why, despite the Guckert fiasco, I do not begrudge Web journalists from the right or the left or the squishy middle their access to government pressrooms. I want to see more access, not less, granted to a press corps that is as diverse as the people we serve. More media access means more government accountability. But, when media watchdogs are intimidated into becoming lapdogs, as some wise wit once said, that's not reporting; that's just taking dictation. - Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune) If you do not know who Ganon is, look 'em up. He's the latest in debunking the "liberal media" myth.