I don’t think I can do a better or more thorough job than Salon’s Glenn Greenwald at making crystal clear what is so ethically wrong with members of the Washington press corps happily frolicking with Vice President Biden, Rahm Emanuel and other administration Obama officials at Biden-hosted party, so read his column here. Not that what Greenwald says shouldn’t be immediately obvious, especially to the journalists themselves, but it obviously isn’t. I just heard Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter turned Fox flack, laughingly say that she used to share an Amtrak car with Biden when he was a Senator to get inside information, and she didn’t see why accompanying him on a water slide was any different.
Oh, come on. Judith Miller really doesn’t see the difference between doing her job as a reporter by riding Amtrak and Wolf Blitzer and Ed Henry being shown on You-Tube giggling and playing games with the same people are supposed to be objectively covering? Probably so; her former colleague, snarky Times columnist Maureen Dowd, also pooh-poohed the idea that frolicking with power interfered with speaking truth to the same power. The good will of journalists, she sneered, is not bought with cold french fries—clever, but intellectually dishonest. A chummy party like Biden’s is a gift, if just a gift of fun and status, and it is appreciated by the recipients of it, the journalists (unlike cold french fries). The public sees the watchdogs and those they are supposed to watch acting like buddies, and wonder if the reporters involved will be as inclined to bark when they see something wrong. This is why it is called “the appearance of impropriety,” a basic ethical concept that is apparently alien to both Miller and Dowd. Greenwald was not exaggerating when he wrote…
“I personally don’t think that these types of interactions ‘violate journalistic ethics,’ because I don’t think such a thing exists for them. Rather, all of this just helpfully reveals what our nation’s leading “journalists” really are: desperate worshipers of political power who are far more eager to be part of it and to serve it than to act as adversarial checks against it — and who, in fact, are Royal Court Spokespeople regardless of which monarch is ruling. That’s why they’re invited into the heart of Versailles to frolic with the King’s most trusted aides: it’s their reward for loyal service as Court courtiers.”
It’s not very complicated: if the public believes that journalists are inclined to be favorable toward government officials because they like them, get benefits from them, and seek their approval, then they cannot trust the objectivity of the news. The Biden party proves that some prominent journalists either don’t understand this, or don’t care.