Worst Ethics Column of the Month: Michelle Goldberg’s “The Lara Logan Media Wars”

There’s nothing so pointless as complaining about a phenomenon that is logical, natural, useful and just, on the grounds that it’s so darn mean. Nevertheless, that is the gist of a Daily Beast column by Michelle Goldberg, another in the increasingly ethics-challenged stable of journalists being assembled at Tina Brown’s slick website.

Ruing the fate that befell journalist Nir Rosen after he not only ridiculed the horrendous attack on ABC reporter Lara Logan by an Egyptian mob, but implied that as a ‘war-monger” she deserved it, Goldberg wrote…

“…it indicated that Rosen has deep, unexamined problems with women, particularly women who are his more-celebrated competitors. But it was also appalling to realize that this brief, ugly outburst was going to eclipse an often-heroic career. The media’s modern panopticon has an awful way of reducing us all to the worst thing we’ve ever done…Again and again, we see people who make one mistake either forced out of their jobs or held up for brutal public excoriation. But the more we live in public, the more we need to develop some sort of mercy for those who briefly let the dark parts of themselves slip out, particularly when they’re truly sorry afterward.”

Ah, yes, the old “one mistake” plea! Continue reading

Mr. Friedkin? Mr. Hawks? Meet Mr. Madison and Mr. Twain

It was Saturday Censorship at the Movies last night in Cable Land.

First, I got to watch that manly channel, Spike, blanch at showing a possessed 12-year-old girl use the work “fuck”, which, as you horror devotees know, is a word rather central to showing how she has been taken over, like Helen Thomas, by the demon Pazuzu. There was Linda Blair, as the suddenly possessed Regan O’Neill, bouncing rhythmically on her bed as her horrified mother and physician looked on, shouting “—Me!—Me!—Me!”, apparently horrifying them with a noisy outbreak of egocentricity. The later scene in which the Demon Child is found masturbating with a crucifix was also clumsily chopped up so it was impossible to figure out what was going on. Continue reading

The Second Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2010 (Part 2)

The final categories in the Worst of Ethics 2010. Coming up: The Best of Ethics, 2010.

(If you missed Part 1 of the Worst, go here.)

Worst Ethics Presentation: “Ethics in Politics: An evening with Former Governor Rod Blagojevich” (Presented to its students by Northwestern University) Continue reading

Ethics Lessons From the Helen Thomas Meltdown

“The leaders of Wayne State University have made a mockery of the First Amendment and disgraced their understanding of its inherent freedom of speech and the press,” said 90-year-old ex-journalist Helen Thomas, when told that her alma mater, Wayne State, was ending the Helen Thomas Spirit of Diversity Award in response to her most recent anti-Semitic remarks. “The university also has betrayed academic freedom — a sad day for its students.”

A few lessons with ethical overtones can be gleaned from this latest development in the sad coda to Thomas’s long career: Continue reading

Trust, the News and Journalist Biases: You Can’t Get There From Here

Over at Tech Crunch, founder Michael Arrington responds to the firing of Octavia Nasr and the resignation of Helen Thomas with this argument:

“I think journalists should have the right to express their opinions on the topics they cover. More importantly, I think readers have a right to know what those opinions are. Frankly, I’d like to know sooner rather than later just how insane some of these people at CNN and Fox News are. To stop them from giving me that information is just another way to lie to me.”

Arrington is right, of course. The pose that journalists are politically objective is almost always a fraud, and efforts by organizations like The Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle to prevent their reporters from doing things like attending political rallies for politicians they admire or expressing strong opinions on social websites have nothing to do with preserving journalistic objectivity, but rather with preserving the illusion of journalistic objectivity. “All this bullshit about objectivity in journalism is just a trick journalists use to try to gain credibility, and the public eats it up,” Arrington says.

But Arrington is also wrong.  Continue reading

Journalistic Ethics Cluelessness: Weigel, Outrageous Bias, and the Washington Post

There can be no doubt : the main-stream media is so ideologically biased that it can’t recognize obvious bias anymore, even when it undermines its credibility. That is the only conclusion one can reach from the amazing story of David Weigel, who was awarded a Post website blog to write about “inside the conservative movement.” David Weigel, as his recently leaked e-mails to a mailing list shows, detests conservatives, conservatives views, positions, commentators and leaders. He does so not in a possibly manageable “there are evident problems with the extremists in this movement and some of its underlying philosophy” fashion, but it a “I hate these morons and wish they’d all die” way, which is exactly the sentiment many of his messages convey.

Giving someone like Weigel the role of reporting on conservatives is exactly as responsible and fair as letting Michelle Malkin cover the progressive movement, asking Senator Inhofe to cover climate change developments, asking Gloria Allred to keep us up-to-date on the life of Tiger Woods, or giving Helen Thomas the assignment of covering Israel. And yet that is exactly what the Washington Post did. Continue reading

The Ethics of Helen Thomas Awards

When does an honor start honoring the wrong values? This tricky ethical problem is now in the spotlight thanks to the sudden self-destruction of Helen Thomas, who blurted anti-Semitic sentiments to a Rabbi, on camera, in an impromptu interview.

There are journalism awards named after Thomas, including The Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement given by the Society for Professional Journalism. Now that Thomas has included among her life time achievements a demand that the Jews “get the hell out of Israel” and go back to Germany and Poland—you know: “where they belong,” what does her name on the award mean to future recipients? Is accepting it a tacit endorsement of her views? Or should individuals be assessed on the totality of their careers, and not solely identified with their inevitable missteps. no matter how reprehensible? The latter was a common theme of eulogizers at President Richard Nixon’s funeral. Continue reading

Helen Thomas, Bias, and the Demon Pazuzu

Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with superannuated newswoman Helen Thomas believing that the Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and return to Germany and Poland. An if she believes it, there is nothing wrong with her saying so, as she did to a questioning rabbi. It’s good to know. Since we now know her biases on the matter, we can better assess her credibility when she writes about Middle East politics.  As Joe Gandleman writes on “The Moderate Voice:

“Just saying “Go back to where you come from” is the same as the misguided, empty-headed Americans who shout “Go back to Africa” to blacks or “Go back to Mexico” to American born Latinos when they know they are American born Latinos. It shows her so hopelessly biased and lacking realistic perspective that stories written by her beg to be skipped over…. on the Middle East story, how can anyone think that when she asks questions she is seeking information to flesh out a story (unless it was a special on airfares so Jews can fly out of Israel)?”

As I said: good to know. What is wrong and dishonest, however, is Thomas’s “apology” after it began to sink in that her candidly expressed and crude bias could be a career-ender. So, emulating that eminent anti-Semite, Mel Gibson, Helen released this: Continue reading