Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What Journalism Is and What It Should Be

By now, the Rolling Stone story that led to General McChrystal's firing is old news. But while the story itself was quite salacious, I am actually more interested in the aftermath.

It turns out a few journalists were actually pissed about the article and criticized the author, Michael Hastings, for what they perceived as a breach of trust. I find this entertaining to no end and am shocked someone would actually openly admit such a thing. It's one thing to genuinely believe that you should never write critical articles of the military or let some comments slide, but to openly admit that a journalist should write fluff pieces in order to please the people in charge is pretty appalling. Even though I'm not naive enough to think it never happens, you'd at least think people would be a more hush hush about it. Unless they don't mind looking like a tool that is.

These two videos are a perfect example of what I mean and are shocking in their different views of journalism I think.

First, can Logan be any more pretentious? People try to make the news more sensational? Holy freaking cow. Color me surprised. Also, What is up with Howard Kurtz? The difference between he's attitude towards these two guests is glaringly obvious.

Glenn Greenwald got it right when he said, "These two segments should be put into a museum, or a journalism class, to illustrate what journalism is supposed to be (Hastings’ views) and what it has actually degenerated into (Logan’s)." I don't know if I'll ever be lucky enough to actually report about these sorts of things, but if I do then I hope I'm more like Hastings then Logan. It is not a reporters responsibility to ensure that some politician or military leader has a job. And if you're not smart enough to figure out that bashing your boss to a journalist is not really the best way to insure job security, then you probably deserve what you get.

From Matt Taibbi:
Anyone who wants to know why network television news hasn't mattered since the seventies just needs to check out this appearance by Logan. Here's CBS's chief foreign correspondent saying out loud on TV that when the man running a war that's killing thousands of young men and women every year steps on his own dick in front of a journalist, that journalist is supposed to eat the story so as not to embarrass the flag.

Let me just say one thing quickly: I don’t know Michael Hastings. I’ve never met him and he’s not a friend of mine. If he cut me off in a line in an airport, I’d probably claw his eyes out like I would with anyone else. And if you think I’m being loyal to him because he works for Rolling Stone, well – let’s just say my co-workers at the Stone would laugh pretty hard at that idea.

But when I read this diatribe from Logan, I felt like I’d known Hastings my whole life. Because brother, I have been there, when some would-be “reputable” journalist who’s just been severely ass-whipped by a relative no-name freelancer on an enormous story fights back by going on television and, without any evidence at all, accusing the guy who beat him of cheating. That’s happened to me so often, I’ve come to expect it. If there’s a lower form of life on the planet earth than a “reputable” journalist protecting his territory, I haven’t seen it.

As to this whole “unspoken agreement” business: the reason Lara Logan thinks this is because she’s like pretty much every other “reputable” journalist in this country, in that she suffers from a profound confusion about who she’s supposed to be working for. I know this from my years covering presidential campaigns, where the same dynamic applies. Hey, assholes: you do not work for the people you’re covering! Jesus, is this concept that fucking hard? On the campaign trail, I watch reporters nod solemnly as they hear about the hundreds of millions of dollars candidates X and Y and Z collect from the likes of Citigroup and Raytheon and Archer Daniels Midland, and it blows my mind that they never seem to connect the dots and grasp where all that money is going. The answer, you idiots, is that it’s buying advertising! People like George Bush, John McCain, Barack Obama, and General McChrystal for that matter, they can afford to buy their own P.R. — and they do, in ways both honest and dishonest, visible and invisible.

They don’t need your help, and you’re giving it to them anyway, because you just want to be part of the club so so badly.
Seriously, check out his whole post. It's brilliant.

Then I saw this video and I had to wonder if the old way of doing things is just inept:

Food for thought.

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