Friday, September 16, 2005


Exactly who trained students who have become so worthless as reporters?

That's the first thought that passed through my mind when I read Jay Rosen's piece slamming 60 Minutes He asks: It's the anniversary of the big collapse at CBS over the National Guard Memos. "People of CBS News, you've had a year to think about it. How, if you are dedicated to truthtelling, could you have permitted the near destruction of your network's reputation for telling the truth? What explains your silence, September 9-20, 2004?" Well, you would never know this from the piece, but Jay Rosen is one of the academics who teaches journalism students who then turn into the sort of morally bankrupt reporters who Rosen excoriates. And you would have no trouble picking out who they are learning this from. Here are just a few of the points Rosen painstakingly manages to miss in his exposition: 1. Wizbang is a site run by and posted on by crackpots. One blogger at the site, for example characterized the Bush speech as follows: " ReidBlog: "Sorry Black people... want some cash?" But while the site proprietors show a little more class publicly, their sentiments are no less crude than their patrons. They accuse the Boston Globe of wanting to surrender to Al Qaida. They claim that "loony liberals" blame John Roberts for Katrina. They accuse Editor & Publisher of "smearing" the American Legion (Look for the cavernous gap in their reasoning at /archives/006873.php if you like. I won't link directly). On and on, a mountain of false witness so huge that even Armaggedon would leave it barely singed. 2. Marian Carr Knox, Commander Killian's typist, stated that the contents of the memos were authentic, even if the memos themselves were not. This is a point that Rosen was ethically obligated to point out, since it almost certainly entered into CBS's decision to hang tough. Like the rest of us, they doubtless could scarcely believe that someone would fabricate memos that Killian actually had Knox type. 3. Rosen fails to note that there was disagreement among typographic experts about the authenticity of the documents, with an excellent-- and persuasive-- piece coming from a Utah academic saying that the claims by right-wing sites on the nature of the font are simply wrong. Barbara O'Brien at Mahablog, with significant experience in poublishing, also did a good job of explaining why the right wing arguments were flawed. 4. Rosen fails to clarify a point he raises: that the documents cannot be proven authentic because they are copies. By the same token, though, they cannot be proven inauthentic. They shouldn't have been used as evidence by CBS, but neither are they obviously fake. And of course, worse yet was that right-wing sites were generally working off of copies of copies. 5. Rosen has no problems using Captain's Quarters, another crackpot site, to answer a poster in comments. Granting that with some people, one has to refer them to their media before they'll believe you, this looks like a probable example of indirect sourcing of the kind that students are told-- at least I hope they are told-- is inappropriate. 6. Mary Mapes has refuted, persuasively or not, the charges against her. It is only the illusion of consensus that allows Rosen to treat her as a non-entity. But she produced many, many, many stories that checked out. She deserves to be heard. 6. Rosen avoids the fact that authenticated documents, provided by the Guard/military, show that George Bush did not perform the number of years or complete the number of annual drills required of Guardsmen. In other words, the documents on 60 Minutes may have been fake, but-- as Commander Killian's secretary made clear-- the story was real. Let's re-state the facts: 60 Minutes, like many news organizations, failed to do a necessary check before airing a story. A producer says that she was put under pressure to move the story, just as journalist after journaliust says they are under increasing pressure to produce more faster for purely commercial reasons. Although the documents substantiate what is known, they can't be proven to be authentic. This was blindingly obvious from the fact that they are copies. So, the real sin of 60 Minutes is a failure to check facts closely. Um. Sort of like all of the media with George Bush's case for war. Sort of like all the media with George Bush's tax cuts. In other words, the problem with 60 Minutes is that they are doing what the rest of the media is doing, even the crackpots. Unlike the crackpots, when CBS makes a mistake, they undergo some accountability. The "MSM" that Rosen excoriates are, as the years roll on, increasingly his students and the students of his colleagues. No, not Mary Mapes specifically. The hypocrisy in the situation would make any person with an ounce of morality sick. Honestly, I do not understand how a man can stand in front of a classroom of students (or even a webful of people who think they are journalists) and pretend to expound on journalistic ethics when he apparently can't see the ethical problems of this piece. Maybe the problem with the "MSM" is that ethically blind teachers are leading students into ethical blindness? And then hammering them for learning what they were taught?
Somebody ought to just pop a drain in his head to get all the pus out.
:-) My posts sometimes cause people's heads to explode, but I hadn't thought of it as a surgical intervention.
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