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From The “Why We Can’t Trust The News Media” Files: The Megyn Kelly- Alex Jones Interview Fiasco

Here is the sequence of events:

1. Newly minted NBC “star” Megyn Kelly announced that she would be interviewing infamous right wing political troll and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on a segment of her new show.

Jones is a fringe media figure and a proven liar, but he has been cited positively by President Trump, and has successfully caused some wide-spread comtoversy and offense, such as when he claimed that the Newtown massacre was a hoax. There is nothing wrong with interviewing such figures; indeed, it is important to interview them. provided ethical journalism standards apply.

Unfortunately, as this episode demonstrates, journalists no longer know what those standards are.

2. In order to persuade Jones to agree to the interview, Kelly promised him—Jones had a tape—that he would be treated fairly. Note: when you tell someone they will be treated fairly in order to have him trust you, your definition of “fair” must be his definition of “fair.”  If he is thinking, “Ah! She will be neutral rather than adversarial, and will not be looking for gotchas!,” but she meant, “It’s fair that I fillet you like a trout, you bastard!” then the interview subject has been deceived.

3. The parents of the victims of the Newtown shooting, as well as their sympathizers and allies, protested the interview, as I wrote about here, saying that NBC was giving Jones a platform. Sympathy and grief are not excuses for censorship. The fact that the parents hate Jones suggests that they shouldn’t watch him be interviewed. They should not seek to interfere with my right to see how he presents himself, and companies (like J.P Morgan) that responded to the threatened boycott by pulling their ads told me that they will go as the winds blow, no matter how totalitarian the direction it might be.

Good to know. To hell with them.

4. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking of progressives with muddled values,  wanted NBC to pull the segment.. The NBC affiliate in Hartford refused to air the episode because the “wounds of that day that have yet to heal.”

Yes, by all means, journalists should never report news or do stories that might upset anyone.

5. Showing the integrity of a sneak-thief, NBC and Kelly furiously re-cut the interview and added a segment in which some Newtown parents could attack Jones.

6. Before the interview aired, Alex Jones released audiotape showing how egregiously Kelly misled him.

7. The interview aired last night, and reviewers were satisfied that Kelly was “tough enough” with Jones, and signaled with her voice, facial expressions, tone and questions that she thought he was scum. “Short of waterboarding him,” one critic wrote, “I don’t know what more Kelly could have done to expose Jones’ dark methods.”

Ugh.

Ethics Observations: Continue reading

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MSNBC Reporter Tony Dokoupil Explains Why His Profession Is Incompetent And Untrustworthy

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On his MSNBC show “Last Word,” host Lawrence O’Donnell expressed surprise that Wisconsin radio personality Charlie Sykes, who conducted a tough interview with Donald Trump this  week, was so much more aggressive that the softball  mainstream media interviewers.

His guest, MSNBC reporter Tony Dokoupil, who is assigned the 2016 campaign beat,  explained that Sykes had done a “one and done” style interview with Trump, which, he said,  journalists who want to have access to Trump over the long haul cannot afford to do.

“People who are on the beat, people who work for our network, they have to keep that relationship going for a long, long time,” Dokoupil said. “Charlie did not have that burden.”

O’Donnell was shocked—shocked!—at this statement. “Well, I don’t think the fact that you have to cover Donald Trump means that you have to then play softball with him so that you can guarantee he will speak to you another time,” he said. “Once the mission of the interview is to get the next interview with the same person, we know how soft that interview is going to be.”

This is hilarious coming from O’Donnell, a blazing partisan who has barely given a tough interview to a Democrat or progressive politician in his life. But I digress.

Dokoupil had committed the cardinal sin of speaking the truth, and it explains a lot. Steve Kroft had essentially made the same confession a couple of years ago when he said that President Obama was willing to do interviews for “60 Minutes” because he knew they would be “fair.” (That was also hilarious, because “fair” is a standard “60 Minutes” has never applied to politicians and leaders it wanted to exhibit in a harsh light. Sorry, digressing again.) The soft-ball approach certainly explains why so many reporters refuse to challenge Trump, and Trump’s boycott and attacks on Fox’s Megyn Kelly for daring to challenge him made explicit the conditions that Dokoupil felt were implied. When ratings are driven by which talking head show gets the falshiest guests, of course most interviewers avoid the “one and done” approach. Is it cowardly? Yes. Does it serve the public interests? No. Does it make lying, misrepresentation and an absence of integrity easy, painless and effective for Trump, Clinton, Obama, Cruz, Sanders, etc., etc.? Sure it does. It also undermines democracy, and is a disgraceful breach of journalism’s obligation to view the public, not its leaders and powerbrokers, as its only constituency.

Would an ethical, trustworthy professional allow this? No, but journalism hasn’t been ethical, trustworthy or professional for a very long time, if ever. For example, the Guardian reported German historian Harriet Scharnberg’s claims  this week that the AP made a mutually beneficial pact with the Hitler regime in order to ensure access to Germany throughout the Holocaust and World War II. The deal had the Associated Press promising to abide by  the Schriftleitergesetz, or editor’s law, agreeing not to publish anything that could be “calculated to weaken the strength of the Reich abroad or at home.” .

I’m sure Lawrence O’Donnell is shocked at this, too.

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