Two Ethics Heroes : Media Critics Jeff Greenfield And Howard Kurtz

 

Maybe there are some cracks in the wall. God, I hope so.

Two media critics affiliated with major news organizations have recently come right out and stated what we have been talking about here on Ethics Alarms regarding the failure of journalists to observe core ethical standards in their commitment to bring down a President who horrifies them, and who has not taken his abuse lying down, as Presidential norms previously required.

The sharp contrast with Greenfield and Kurtz’s remarkable candor that marks most of their industry was on display today, as The Washington Post held a series of panel discussions and aired live video around the theme “Americans & The Media: Sorting Fact from Fake News.” One  segment featured Post political reporter Dan Balz, one of the Post reporters I would categorize as a straight-shooter most of the time, talking to PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff and Fox Special Report host Bret Baier. Woodruff’s comments were obtuse and depressing, but typical of most journalists and their defenders.

 BALZ: Judy you said something recently  I want to read to people: “You shouldn’t go into journalism if you want to win a popularity contest. If you’re doing your job, there are always going to be people who criticize your reporting. But we’ve never been at a place like we are today where there’s practically an entire industry around criticizing the media and holding the mainstream media up as suspect [ Balz didn’t read, but she also wrote, “and out to destroy an entire political philosophy in this country.” Well I said “most of the time.”]. I think the term ‘fake news’ has done a lot of damage to the media.” Describe the damage.

WOODRUFF: The damage is in the minds and the eyes of people who are consumers all across the country. And you see it in the polls. You see it in this [Knight Foundation] poll, a lessening of trust in the news media. I believe – it sounds corny, but I believe so passionately that a free press, free media, the role that we play, news media in our democracy, is part of what holds democracy together. And if enough Americans start thinking the press is not to be believed, that we are to be shoved to the side, regulated, or treated, controlled in some way, then I think we’ve got real problems. Even if it doesn’t get to that point, and they just don’t believe what we’re doing, then I think our democracy is weakened, and I think that’s what’s happening.

Got that? It’s the critics who are undermining the news media, not the unethical news media conduct that justifies the criticism! This quote is astounding. Journalists like Woodruff don’t see anything wrong with how they are doing their job, or rather not doing it. What harms democracy, Judy, is journalists behaving so unethically that the the public loses trust in them, not the criticism.

Now here are the two Ethics Heroes that do not parrot Woodruff’s defensive spin:

Hero #1: Jeff Greenfield is old (74) now, and not as visible as he once was, He is a voice people in his profession still listen to, because his credentials are undeniable. He’s a lawyer, and served as a speechwriter for Senator Robert F. Kennedy, so his liberal credentials are in the bank. He was one of the first and most prominent media and and culture reporters, performing that role for CBS News from 1979 to 1983, and was a senior analyst at CNN from 1998 to 2007. He currently hosts PBS’s “Need To Know” program—I’ve never seen it— and also occasionally does political commentary on NBC Nightly News. He has three Emmy Awards.

Over the weekend, Greenfield took part in an already infamous a debate on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” hosted by the so-biased and defensive about CNNs hackery it hurts my teeth alleged media critic Brian Stelter.  Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress and former Hillary Clinton policy director did her best Joy Reid impression by claiming that the media didn’t listen to the anti-Trump resistance enough. She really did.  (Here was the amusing reaction of CNN’s token conservative. S.E Cupp).

Greenfield noted how many people listen to certain media outlets because it caters to what they want to hear. “And I was told it’s like sinking into a nice warm bath. And I think on both sides of the divide, people are sinking into nice warm baths to reconfirm what they believe,” he said in part, stunning Stelter by fingering CNN as just such a warm place for “the resistance.”

Which, of course, it is, and intends to be.

He went on…

The idea that when I watch CNN sometimes, I think, I expect the indictment on Donald Trump to be imminent because the focus on Russian collusion and that issue is very strong. And if you turn on MSNBC, you’re going to get pretty much a nightly dose of the prosecutor’s case against Donald Trump.

After Tanden complained—she really did!—that the New York TimesTHE NEW YORK TIMES!!!–-didn’t devote enough space to anti-Trump coverage (Like here, for example), Greenfield declared the obvious, saying,

Well, if you are a regular reader of The New York Times, for the last two and a half years you have gotten a full dose of view that Donald Trump is hellaciously unfit to be president. Just today, if you pick up the Times there is an editorial basically calling him out in harsh terms and at least four op-ed pieces in varying degrees saying that Trump is utterly unfit to be President.

Greenfield was never a favorite of mine, because he is still biased and often smug about it, and while he is honest about the bias in the news media, he is surprisingly uncritical, just matter-of-fact. At this stage in the progressive ethics rot of his profession, however, merely having the integrity to state the facts—unlike Woodruff, unlike Reid, unlike the insufferable hack Stelter—is enough to qualify as an Ethics Hero.

Ethics Hero #2, Howard Kurtz is not hesitant to be critical in his new book.

Kurtz wrote for The Washington Post as a news media reporter press from 1990 to 2010. From 1998 until 2013, Kurtz was Stelter’s predecessor at CNN’s Reliable Sources, unlike Stelter genuinely scrutinizing  the media’s fairness and objectivity. Kurtz left the Post for The Daily Beast, writing on media and politics until 2013. He was fired after some erroneous reporting and weaselly efforts to duck responsibility, and the scandal ended his tenure at CNN as well. His ethics record sullied, he moved to join Fox News to host a weekend media program called Media Buzz. It is infinitely better than Stelter’s fake ethics show, but insufficiently critical of Fox. Kurtz also is greedy, and has been accused of insufficiently flagging conflicts of interest.

No, I don’t particularly trust Kurtz. But in the Hollywood Reporter, of all places. as he promotes his new book, Kurtz writes,

Donald Trump is staking his presidency, as he did his election, on nothing less than destroying the credibility of the news media; and the media are determined to do the same to him. This is not just a feud or a fight or a battle. It is scorched-earth warfare in which only one side can achieve victory. To a stunning degree, the press is falling into the president’s trap. The country’s top news organizations have targeted Trump with an unprecedented barrage of negative stories, with some no longer making much attempt to hide their contempt. Some stories are legitimate, some are not, and others are generated by the president’s own falsehoods and exaggerations. But the mainstream media, subconsciously at first, has lurched into the opposition camp and is appealing to an anti-Trump base of viewers and readers, failing to grasp how deeply it is distrusted by a wide swath of the country.

These are not easy words for me to write. I am a lifelong journalist with ink in my veins. And for all my criticism of the media’s errors and excesses, I have always believed in the mission of aggressive reporting and holding politicians accountable.

But the past two years have radicalized me. I am increasingly troubled by how many of my colleagues have decided to abandon any semblance of fairness out of a conviction that they must save the country from Trump….Every president gets pounded by the press. But no president has ever been subjected to the kind of relentless ridicule, caustic commentary and insulting invective that has been heaped on Trump. I have a name for this half-crazed compulsion to furiously attack one man. It’s called Trump Trauma.

(I call it unethical journalism.)

28 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

28 responses to “Two Ethics Heroes : Media Critics Jeff Greenfield And Howard Kurtz

  1. dragin_dragon

    I don’t know…I kinda like ‘Trump Trauma”. Got a nice ring to it, like ‘Provo Privy’.

    • Bonus points for the “Green Berets” reference!

      • Other Bill

        Fighting soldiers from the sky,
        These brave men, who jump and die.

        • dragin_dragon

          I always wondered about that line. Shouldn’t Barry have sung “These brave men who jump and kick the tar out of the enemy”? To paraphrase George Patton, it’s a soldiers job to make the OTHER poor bastard die for his country.

          • Barry was only marginally better at lyric writing than he was at singing. The whole thing was amateur hour stuff, but it struck a patriotic chord. The lyrics don’t always rhyme or scan. Fingernails on a blackboard for me, from the first time I heard it to now.

  2. Chris

    I appreciate that you don’t softpedal your criticism of the news media, but why do you insist on softpedalling your criticism of Trump? You write:

    Two media critics affiliated with major news organizations have recently come right out and stated what we have been talking about here on Ethics Alarms regarding the failure of journalists to observe core ethical standards in their commitment to bring down a President who horrifies them, and who has not taken his abuse lying down, as Presidential norms previously required.

    No, it’s not that he “has not taken his abuse lying down,” it’s that he counters with his own abuse against them, which is equally unethical. Given that today an assassination plot against a CNN journalist was foiled, maybe some reflection about whether it’s responsible to call them the “enemy of the American people” is necessary.

    Because what do countries do to enemies of their people? They kill them.

    • LFW

      But so have Conservatives and were attacked while practicing for a ball game. Neither side is ethical and I doubt they care as long as their folllowers continue to blindly follow. In the South we call it, “Drinking the Kool-Aid.”

      • Chris

        I certainly agree that liberals have used irresponsible and inflammatory language to describe conservatives. I just don’t expect to see that type of language used and justified here.

    • But we don’t, see. We just expose them for what they are.

    • Rich in CT

      No, it’s not that he “has not taken his abuse lying down,” it’s that he counters with his own abuse against them, which is equally unethical.

      Could you give examples?

      • Chris

        I gave the biggest one: “enemy of the American people.” Surely you’re aware of others.

        • I have known that the media is my enemy since about 13, when I realized I was conservative. I am also white, Christian, and male. They hate my race, my state, my religion, my gender, and my values.

          I am an American ‘people.’ They are my enemy.

          When you make stories up to further your political views, as they have done my entire life, you are an enemy of the people, no matter which side of the aisle you are on.

          Because what do countries do to enemies of their people? They kill them.

          You said that, not me. If the leftist media goes on unchecked, this very well could be the outcome.

          What I find ironic is that when the hard core socialists/communists actually take over, one of the first groups executed are the media who got them there. So the leftist media would die if they succeeded in their goals.

          • Chris


            You said that, not me. If the leftist media goes on unchecked, this very well could be the outcome.

            What I find ironic is that when the hard core socialists/communists actually take over, one of the first groups executed are the media who got them there. So the leftist media would die if they succeeded in their goal.

            This is the kind of unhinged lunacy encouraged by inflammatory rhetoric such as “enemy of the American people.” I expect better of each and every Ethics Alarms commenter.

        • Glenn Logan

          This is typically overwrought, Chris. I personally would not use the term “Enemy of the American people” as Jack does, but it is defensible. I’d prefer “Enemy of the Republic,” as this is a matter for the whole republic to deal with, not just the people. I suspect Jack finds that too remote, but whatever. For the purposes of this conversation, you could say either are essentially accurate.

          However, it’s silly to suggest rhetoric like this is driving violence. What’s driving violence are unhinged people disposed to violence, who will usually find an excuse to act on their violent impulses in one way or another. If he weren’t attacking the media, maybe the unhinged would be attacking his neighbor instead.

          And frankly, I can’t think of a reason the media should be less in the crosshairs of said violent folks than say, you or I.

          • Chris

            I don’t think any of that is an excuse for someone in a huge position of power and influence to start painting a target on a group’s back. In Trump’s case, some of his retweets of gifs have come close to making that literal. I’m not going to go as far as saying that “there’s blood on Trump’s hands,” but the president should not be declaring a law-abiding group “the enemy of the American people.” For one thing, it convinces nobody who doesn’t already object to the media’s bias; it just makes the speaker sound completely hysterical. All it does is push those who already agree to the extremes.

            • Why do you keep saying this? There is an institution that is intentionally misleading and misinforming the public while maintaining its objectivity and virtue. Since it is itself the institution charged with enlightening the public, this is the perfect scam. Only one institution possesses sufficient power, access and influence to counter the fraud: the Presidency. Coincidentally, the particular individual being targeted most prominently by the fraudulent institution is currently personifies that institution.

              I would prefer that the President not be the one to have to carry this message. Indeed, there are many bad results that will come from this. But it is essential that the message be carried, because what the news media is doing to the country and the democracy is disastrous. Now, if you will identify a realistic and plausible alternative, I’ll readily agree that it is best if the President lets the battle be fought by others. (Especially more articulate others—like mots of his meat ax rhetoric, I doubt that Trump careful weighed exactly what “enemies of the people” implied.) But it has to be a voice likely to reach as far as the news media. It isn’t me. Who or what is the alternative? I don’t see one, and in the void, the President has a duty to step up.

              • Chris

                I wouldn’t even call actual scam artists “the enemy of the American people.” The label suggests actual treason, if not terrorism. If the message is “The media is in serious need of reform and needs to hold itself to a higher standard, because its current coverage is often deceptive,” I have no problem in theory with a president delivering that message, though to have any credibility, said president should lie at least slightly less than the media, which disqualifies this president immediately. If the message is “The media is the enemy of the American people,” no one should be promoting that message, because it isn’t true, it’s hysterical, irresponsible and freakish, and it radicalizes people already on the margins.

  3. To what are your objecting? The historical facts, or that the media is pushing for a cold Civil War into a hot one?

    • This was to Cris:
      This is the kind of unhinged lunacy encouraged by inflammatory rhetoric such as “enemy of the American people.” I expect better of each and every Ethics Alarms commenter.

    • Chris

      To what are your objecting? The historical facts, or that the media is pushing for a cold Civil War into a hot one?

      You hadn’t said that last part before, but I certainly object to it, as I have before when I’ve seen conservatives here push the hysterical, irresponsible and freakish “Civil War” narrative. We are not in a Civil War, cold or hot, and no one I know hopes for one. But it seems some here are absolutely itching for one.

      I was objecting to your suggestions that our government might start executing members of the leftist media, that the leftist media is a communist organization, and that leftists themselves might start executing members of the leftist media. These are unserious, radical suggestions. They are stupid and irresponsible. They add nothing to reasonable debate. As I said: I expect better. Get serious.

      • You do not believe we are in a cold Civil War because you are on the side that has be on the offensive for the past 50 years. You were raised in it, and do not notice (or just cheer) when progressives attack normal people who differ with them politically. The pot has been slowly simmering toward a boil for that long. It became a civil war when the normal people voted Trump into office.

        Witness how your side has reacted since. Hillary denigrated at least 25% of this county’s population in one ‘deplorable’ speech. The press has denigrated and attacked those who voted for Trump, about half of those who voted. We hear every day how white people are the problem, how males are the problem, how Christians are the problem.

        What else do you call it when half the county detests the other half, and continuously attacks them? When people’s lives are ruined based on progressive whim? Please. The right has simply started fighting back, using progressive Alinsky tactics. This is sad, but effective.

        I was objecting to your suggestions that our government might start executing members of the leftist media…

        I did not say our government would do that: you are putting words in my mouth. I simply stated that history shows what happens when your side (hare core socialist/communist) takes over a country. I know this history stuff is hard, since you were not alive when it happened, but it is true. It would no longer BE our government when this started, as a coup will have replaced our Republic.

        Keep your head in the sand, Chris. It is much more comfortable than dealing with how the side of ‘sweetness and light’ actually treats those who they consider their enemies. How intolerant progressives are; how they want to suppress free speech, take away honest responsible gun owner’s rights, and create a dual tiered justice system.

        The media outright calls people like me their enemy. We are in the majority in this country, demographically. This makes them an enemy of the people.

        • Chris

          I simply stated that history shows what happens when your side (hare core socialist/communist)

          That is not my “side,” and you are destroying any claim to rationality you had.

  4. That is not a rebuttal, it is name calling. You got nothing

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