Major Ethics Alarm: American Journalism Is Crumbling Before Our Eyes [Part 1: Signature Significance]

flag-american-crumbling

…and without trustworthy journalism, democracy cannot survive.

There was reason to hope that following its beyond miserable performance in its coverage of the campaign and election just concluded, American journalism would respond to reality and dedicate itself to repairing its broken relationship with traditional professional ethics. Poll after poll shows that the news media’s standing with the public has never been lower. Because the profession itself ought to be more keenly aware than anyone of how vital honest, fair and competent journalism is to the health of a democracy, one would expect that this would be a moment demanding brutal self-examination and rapid reform.

This is not what we are seeing, however. Consider:

  • Last weekend, ABC’s Jonathan Karl interviewed Donna Brazile in a New Year’s Day review of the election. I couldn’t believe it. She was introduced as a respectable commentator with no acknowledgment of her role in the Clinton fiasco and the news media’s disgrace. As Ed Morrissey wrote,

Why is Jonathan Karl interviewing Brazile in the first place? …It has been 62 days since CNN severed their ties with Donna Brazile over the fact (no longer an “allegation”) that she cheated during one of the Democratic presidential primary debates and attempted to cheat during a second one in Flint, Michigan. And yet ABC News is inviting her to sit down for a casual New Years Day chat like any other political analyst.

CNN shouldn’t have allowed her to be a staff member to begin with, since she was a partisan political operative. She used that relationship and exploited her conflict of interest to try to do what she could to  rig the election. She was exposed, lied by denying it, and fired. Now, after the election, she behaves as if nothing has changed, and ABC again presents her as a reliable analyst.

  • After WikiLeaks’ publication of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chair John Podesta revealed collusion and shockingly unethical ties between prominent journalists and the Clinton campaign, as well as the campaign openly referring to such journalists as allies, none of the journalists so exposed have been disciplined, nor have any of the news organization employing them indicated that they were so much as troubled by the revelation.

Many of those same journalists will now be covering the Trump White House. This includes CNBC’s chief political correspondent, John Harwood, who had numerous supportive  e-mail exchanges with the Clinton campaign, including one that patted himself on the back for his infamously biased questioning of GOP candidates in a televised debate.

  • In December, the New York Times announced it would be hiring Politico reporter Glenn Thrush to cover the Trump White House, despite WikiLeaks e-mails showing that Thrush sent pending stories to Clinton staffers for their approval.
  • On CBS, “Face the Nation” led off 2017 with a supposedly “balanced” panel of pundits made up of guaranteed Trump critics: Former Bush speechwriters Michael Gerson, and David Frum, the latter who argued in the pages of “The Atlantic” for conservatives to vote for Clinton; Jeffrey Goldberg,  the Obama-extolling editor of “The Atlantic,” and former NPR anchor Michele Norris, who left the  network when her husband took a job in the Obama White House.

The panel—did I mention that this was presented as balanced?—was hosted by John Dickerson, whom CBS named its top anchor in 2015 despite one of the more openly partisan records of any broadcast journalist. For example, in 2013, he wrote an essay for Slate titled, “Go for the Throat! Why if he wants to transform American politics, Obama must declare war on the Republican Party.” By long-dead standards of journalism ethics, no reporter who allowed his name to placed on such a partisan screed would ever be hired as anything but an op-ed columnist by a respectable news organization.

Luckily for Dickerson, CBS is no longer respectable

The discussion proceeded as one would expect. Frum: “The idea that a foreign power has reached into the United States, and tampered with American democracy, and maybe chosen for Americans a president that the larger number of Americans didn’t want for themselves.”  He went on—this was from the “not pre-biased against Trump’ side of the panel, remember— to say that Trump’s victory is a “threat to democratic institutions in this country and around the world. And I– I don’t think we do people a service by saying, ‘You know, there have been bad things in the American past before.”’There have been. This is our bad thing, and it’s about as bad a thing as has happened in any of our lifetimes.”

Vietnam. Watergate. Impeachment. Assassinations. 9-11. No, the worst thing that has ever happened to the United States since 1960 (when From was born) is that Americans learned, after news sources like CBS publicized the leaks, that Democrats rigged their nomination and cheated on debates, that the DNC knew Obama was lying about Clinton’s e-mails, and that the Clinton Foundation was indeed influence-peddling, and that this information, though there is no evidence that it actually did, caused a corrupt Democratic candidate to lose an election. The worst.

Did Dickerson, or anyone present, inject the mandatory, “Uh, David, are you out of your frickin’ mind?” Of course not.

 Gerson, who at that time thought that his old boss was boycotting the Trump inauguration, added, “I think there’s a pretty much even chance that we’re going to have a constitutional crisis or have a completely incompetent presidency that doesn’t know how to exercise power.” Was there anyone there inclined  to respond, “Well, you might be right about the constitutional crisis, since Democrats have been working pretty much non-stop to create one, and–wait, Michael, haven’t we just had a completely incompetent presidency that doesn’t know how to exercise power?”

Of course not.

But balance is relative. Norris then suggested that Trump won because white Americans don’t like having a black President. That’s what “Make America Great Again” meant.

  • CNN’s “New Day” co-host Alisyn Camerota countered a complaint by the RNC’s Sean Spicer that Senate Democrats were planning on obstructing Trump’s attempts to govern by saying that Republican Senator Mitch McConnell had stated that his goal was to make Barack Obama a “one-term president” before Obama was even sworn in.

ARRRRGHHH!!!!!

This, as I have written more than once (and so has the Washington Post fact-checker in 2012) is the false Democratic talking point that will not die.  McConnell’s “one-term president” comment came in October 2010 in an interview with National Journal just weeks before the midterm elections and almost two years after President Obama was elected. Never mind. Why should journalists be required to know the facts and accurately relay them—and by the way, it was all that fake news that Trump voters stupidly believed that beat poor Hillary. When Spicer tried to correct Camerota’s false statement, she refused to budge. Camerota: “I think your timeline might be wrong. I will check that, Sean, because I think it was right when President Obama was elected…”

No subsequent correction has been forthcoming, so all of CNN’s loyal Democratic following will now be re-circulating this fake history. By the way, did you know that Mike Brown shouted “Don’t shoot!’ and had his hands in the air, and that Hillary lost because political parties almost never keep the White House for three straight terms? It’s true: I read it, saw it and heard it on the news…over and over again.

  • Which is a nice segue to the Washington Post’s front page scoop that Russian hackers penetrated a Vermont power grid, which the Post was inclined to believe because “Russia hacked the election.”

The Washington Post headline:

Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say.

Anyone can purchase the malware found on the laptop, but the Post leaped to the conclusion that Russians implemented the malware just because Russians developed the malware. If the Post had bothered to check with the Burlington Electric Department, it would have known that its story didn’t comport with the facts. After being roundly butchered for presenting this fake news, the Post finally, several days later, retracted it, writing,

As federal officials investigate suspicious Internet activity found last week on a Vermont utility computer, they are finding evidence that the incident is not linked to any Russian government effort to target or hack the utility, according to experts and officials close to the investigation.

An employee at Burlington Electric Department was checking his Yahoo email account Friday and triggered an alert indicating that his computer had connected to a suspicious IP address associated by authorities with the Russian hacking operation that infiltrated the Democratic Party. Officials told the company that traffic with this particular address is found elsewhere in the country and is not unique to Burlington Electric, suggesting the company wasn’t being targeted by the Russians. Indeed, officials say it is possible that the traffic is benign, since this particular IP address is not always connected to malicious activity.

Do I think the Post was convinced that the Russian were hacking into a power grid because it bolstered the “Russia hacked the election” narrative being pushed by Democrats to undermine the Trump Presidency?  I do, because that’s how bias works: it makes you stupid, unethical and incompetent.

I should mention for the sad Snopes defenders periodically checking in here that this fake news that conservative sites were able to debunk long before the mainstream media questioned it was never checked on that fact-checking site.

So what’s going on here?

The analysis is in Part 2, coming right up…

_________________

Facts: Daily Caller, Hot Air, Newsbusters 1, Powerline, Newsbusters 2.

11 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions

11 responses to “Major Ethics Alarm: American Journalism Is Crumbling Before Our Eyes [Part 1: Signature Significance]

  1. “By long-dead standards of journalism ethics, no reporter who allowed his name to placed on such a partisan screed would ever be hired as anything but an op-ed columnist by a respectable news organization.”

    That’s one dying aspect of journalism ethics I’m not sure warrants any shedding of tears.

    Jay Rosen’s essentially correct that all journalists carry a point of view in their writing. It seems to me that a journalist ought to be able to transparently reveal political alignment and beliefs yet still produce “objective” journalism, to the extent that any such thing exists.

    The problem for the credibility of the press stems not from having its ideological ties exposed, but from its far-from-balanced journalism–particularly when juxtaposed with survey data showing journalists tend to skew left. The failure to self-moderate (or even perceive?) its ideological tilt has led in large part to the low level of public trust the press now enjoys.

    It wasn’t Brazile’s background as a Democratic operative that disgraced her. It was her behavior in continuing to act as a Democratic operative after she joined the mainstream media establishment. Presumably she could have acted differently.

    • Presumably nothing. Can you list a single example of that ever actually happening in practise?

      • For one who does not believe Brazile could presumably have acted differently, presumably nothing I write could change that person’s mind (resulting in you thinking about it differently).

        The question is why anyone who believes Brazile could not have done journalism otherwise would themselves believe in objective journalism (“to the extent that any such thing exists”).

        Can I give you a single example of objective journalism, in principle, regardless of its source? If yes, then perhaps your challenge is answerable.

        • “For one who does not believe Brazile could presumably have acted differently”

          I believe that she COULD have, I just also realise that I live on Earth and theories like “people CAN do the right thing, despite their bias” seem to run into huge logistical problems when faced with reality. I can’t think of a single time that it’s ever happened in this situation, and while my experience isn’t all inclusive, your answer to a call for examples was: “Can I give you a single example of objective journalism, in principle, regardless of its source?”

          I’m going to translate that question to “Can I give you a rhetorical?” And if I’m right, then no. I’ll need a real, practical example.

          But more, we aren’t talking about ‘journalists’ as a monolith, we’re talking about blatant, brazen political operatives that became ostensible journalists. You have to ask yourself “Why was this person hired?” Was it her history of unbiased, professional journalism? I actually snorted at the idea. No, I think It was because MSNBC wanted a lefty hack, and Brazile fit the bill. I think that if she had come across as unbiased, she wouldn’t have been hired. I’m also going to take a pot shot at the idea that this “discredited” her. Discredited her as what? A journalist? She had no credit as a journalist. What she had credit as was a hack, and she continued to be a hack, and the people that wanted her to be a hack were pleased at her performance to the extent that she landed a senior management job at the DNC.

          • “I believe that she COULD have”

            Thanks. That sheds light on your call for an example, albeit prompting me to wonder why, if you believe she could have, you need an example to prove it.

            I think your assessment of MSNBC’s hiring decision was spot on. They wanted a hack and got one, more or less. But my point is simply that an ideological bias (which we all have to some degree)does not necessarily indicate an inability to do objective journalism. I’m a conservative. I won an award in school for (objective) reporting. And my history as a conservative (and unwillingness to try to hide it) would keep a newspaper from hiring me in many cases. Like I would work for a newspaper anyway, but does this truly make sense? Would I be more objective if I hid my conservatism? Does pretending to be ideologically neutral make one more neutral and ethical?

        • “For one who does not believe Brazile could presumably have acted differently”

          I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. Please explain.

          • I wrote that Brazile could presumably have acted differently, meaning that her history as a political operative did not necessarily preclude her from doing ethical and objective journalism. I suggest her ethical failing had to with her action independent of her history.

            If somebody disagrees with that presumption, that Brazile could have acted differently (“one who does not believe Brazile could presumably …”), then perhaps it makes perfect sense not to hire a former political operative to do journalism. The former political operative can do nothing else but fail at the task of objective journalism.

            I do not expect I have the ability to provide an example disproving the latter proposition (Brazile could not have acted differently).

            At the same time, I should not need to prove the first proposition to somebody who already believes it.

            In short, I was trying to get at the root of the challenge from the first. I apologize for allowing my affinity for convoluted phrasing to interfere with effective communication. I hope my explanation did not make things worse. Cheers.

            • “then perhaps it makes perfect sense not to hire a former political operative to do journalism.”

              Well, it sure makes sense not to let a CURRENT operative do journalism. I’ve been complaining about Brazile for years. No question, CNN was setting itself up for this.

  2. What I find especially offensive is the brazenness of the incestuous relationships the media has with the DNC. Brazile was shitcanned not because of what she did, but because she got caught…. And that’s OK, because the DNC immediately scooped her up to replace Debbie Wasserman Shultz, who had just been shitcanned for fixing the DNC for Hillary. But that’s OK, because Clinton immediately scooped her up for some unnamed position in her campaign. It’s shameless.

  3. Kyjo

    Speaking of WaPo, they couldn’t resist “fact-checking” Assange, even after such egregious mea culpas concerning Russian hackers: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2017/01/05/julian-assanges-claim-that-there-was-no-russian-involvement-in-wikileaks-emails/

    THREE Pinocchios!

  4. Vietnam. Watergate. Impeachment. Assassinations. 9-11. No, the worst thing that has ever happened to the United States since 1960 (when From was born) is that Americans learned, after news sources like CBS publicized the leaks, that Democrats rigged their nomination and cheated on debates, that the DNC knew Obama was lying about Clinton’s e-mails, and that the Clinton Foundation was indeed influence-peddling, and that this information, though there is no evidence that it actually did, caused a corrupt Democratic candidate to lose an election. The worst.

    Even assuming that the Russia did hack the DNC favors and selectively released information critical about Hillary Clinton.

    How is it different than what Candy Crowley did in 2012? How is it different than from what Dan Rather did in 2004?

    I wonder if fans of the movie Truth think there was anything wrong with what Russia allegedly did.

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