Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Wag the dog

Howard Kurtz told Megyn Kelly last night . . . the decision by Rolling Stone not to fire anyone involved . . . “one of the worst journalistic scandals in the last half-century.” In one sense, that may overstate the issue, as other scandals have involved deliberate fabulism on the part of the reporter rather than the source — Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke are all examples, the last of whom won a Pulitzer for her false reporting.

Finding a parent or volunteer or administrator who stole money from your school or city government is not "worst" because it's criminal and deliberate. It's a relatively rare criminal act, something at the extreme, that almost never involves an amount of money that is material to the entity.

But the stuff that's done casually and pervasively, that's the damaging stuff. Rolling Stone is just a rare case where they've been caught. LAGuy says there's nothing inherently wrong with agenda journalism, but of course there is. Right off the bat it's a failure. It won't be fixed by prophylactic measures such as checking your premises. And when it is the dominant mode of production, then we simply don't have journalism. A shame, really, and probably fatal.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow an indictment of Fox along with RS. I applaud

3:47 AM, April 08, 2015  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I confess a weakness for schadenfreude. I skim the web lookig for stories about the arrogant, pompous and self-righteous who are forced to confront being proved wrong. And I find it oddly satisfying when it happens to folks of any political stripe.

Interestingly, it's rare. There are the famous examples, like Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich betting in 1980 on the scarcity of certain resources. There were all the Peak Oil gloom and doomers just 8 or 10 years ago. And of course, the annual "end of the world" prognosticators.

But, except when the failure is overwhelmingly indisputable, most people caught in a mistake never accept or admit their failure. On NPR this morning they had a story about how Turkey still refuses to accept it engaged in genocide against Armenians a century ago. Hillary Clinton is hardly likely to admit she was wrong to accuse a "Vast Right-wing Conspiracy" for allegations of infidelity against her husband in the 90s. I haven't heard that Simpson or Mazzolli have admitted that the 1986 immigration amnesty resulted in an even bigger influx of undocumented immigrants than had occured before their Act.

Rolling Stone's feeble apology, with no mention of the damage caused to the UVA fraternity, joins the list of unsatisfying schadenfreude moments. Maybe the fraternity's lawsuit will yield better results, if they hold out settlement for a real apology and comsequences for the journalists responsible for the damage.

8:29 AM, April 08, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

There's plenty of good journalism that comes from the right and left, exposing problems or simply reporting on what's going on. To deny this agenda-driven work is to so limit the profession that you'd be getting rid of large portions of the journalistic world (and still be stuck with reporting that both sides call slanted).

The key is not about whether you have an agenda--which might, for instance, help you decide what you want to cover to begin with--but whether or not you're scrupulous in your research and reporting. If you are, it's okay if your work only reflects issues favored by one side, while others work on issues favored by another.

9:29 AM, April 08, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

In the service of humor is one thing (four photos, not bad), but clearly you understand the difference.

Writing in English is not agenda driven.

Writing about sports (or civics) is not agenda driven.

Pretty clearly, agenda driven means you are subverting an obvious (if usually implicit) framework in the service of falsehood.

There is not plenty of good journalism, as you assert. There is occasionally some. There are, certainly, people worth reading on the right and left, but too few of them.

If I choose to write a newspaper that generally believes in free markets and property, fine. But if I am unable to write a story about a socialist or communist structure that is in fact delivering the goods, then I am agenda driven.

12:59 PM, April 08, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

"Pretty clearly, agenda driven means you are subverting an obvious (if usually implicit) framework in the service of falsehood."

Agenda driven does not mean you are subverting an obvious framework in the service of falsehood, and putting "pretty clearly" in front of it doesn't make it so.

I could give lots of specific examples, but let's just give a generic one--you hear there is corruption in government, and you do research to expose it. That is agenda driven, but what counts is you doing your research properly and fairly to get honest results.

Even newspapers that claim to be neutral have plenty of agenda-drive articles, but, in fact, most journalism (reporting pieces, not opinion or analysis) done in periodicals is agenda-driven, since most such journals have a viewpoint. This doesn't stop these pieces from being helpful and honest and well done.

BTW, a lot of the worst journalism is done by those who claim not to have any agenda.

"There is not plenty of good journalism, as you assert. There is occasionally some."

There being occasionally some good journalism and there being plenty of good journalism are not contradictory statements.

1:16 PM, April 08, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

I'll take that as your concession.

2:09 PM, April 08, 2015  

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