Jim Lehrer’s 16 Rules Of Journalism. Awww! How Quaint!

I can’t say I watched the MacNeil-Lehrer Report on PBS (and later after Robin MacNeil’s retirement in 1995,  the PBS NewsHour hosted by Jim Lehrer alone ) more than a handful of times in my life. I wish I had. (I should have: when Lehrer moderated Presidential debates, as he did eleven times, there was never any hint of bias or favoritism, unlike virtually every other debate.)   Lehrer died last week at the age of 85, and his 16 Rules of Journalism, which he often condensed to nine, were published in many news sources upon his passing.

I found myself wondering what various editors and young reporters were thinking as they read Lehrer’s tenets of his now-rotting profession’s integrity. Could they possibly think that the rules accurately reflected widely held and embraced standards of reporters today? Did they read the list with confusion, wondering what in the world this old guy was babbling about? Perhaps they regarded Lehrer’s aspirational list as an archaic and amusing reflection of a bygone era, as many regard George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility, with its exhortations like Rule #9:

“Spit not into the fire, nor stoop low before it; neither put your hands into the flames to warm them, nor set your feet upon the fire, especially if there be meat before it.”

I wonder. I do know that Lehrer took his rules seriously, though sometimes falling short of his own standards. Below is the version of his rules that he explained in a 1997 report by The Aspen Institute. It’s an excellent, excellent list, reflecting an experienced and ethically astute professional’s keen understanding of what his profession is supposed to do for our society, and the best way to do it.

How many of them do you think motivate journalists today? Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Month, “Enemy Of The People” Division: CNN Reporter Joe Lockhart

Yup…a CNN journalist tweeted out a lie , let it go viral, then came back later and said he made it up, but we “know” it’s true.

A trustworthy news organization would fire a reporter who did this immediately. CNN has not and will not, because CNN is  not a trustworthy organization.

On a related track, Matt Laszlo, a journalist who works at The Daily Beast and NPR, tweeted, 
Continue reading

“Nah, There’s No Mainstream Media Bias!” As Chuck Todd Drops The Mask [Corrected!]

[Notice of a material correction: I have corrected this post, which incorrectly stated that the words of a letter approvingly quoted by Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” were his own words. I won’t list all the sources that confused me on this point, but I primarily blame Newsbusters for a misleading headline, “Todd Bashes Christians in MTP Rant Against Misinformation, Trump.”  Todd let a year-old letter to the Times do his ranting for him, which is a craven technique, but he did not himself “rant.” He just read a letter bashing religion as “fairy tales,” and used it in a manner that indicated that he agreed with it.

If I had been more careful reading this and similar accounts, this wouldn’t have happened. In the end, it’s my fault. However, my assessment of Todd’s intent is unchanged.

Thanks to Arthur in Maine for flagging my error.]

***

To be fair, it never was much of a mask anyway.

On “Meet the Press” today, host Chuck Todd apparently snapped, or perhaps let a letter snap for him. He dredged up a year-old letter to the Times that read,

“Why do good people support Trump? It’s because people have been trained from childhood to believe in fairy tales. This set their minds up to accept things that make them feel good. The more fairy tales and lies he tells the better they feel. Show me a person who believes in Noah’s ark, and I will show you a Trump voter.”

“Look, this gets at something,” Todd told his guest, the Times’ anti-Trump editor , Dean Baquet, “that my executive producer likes to say, voters want to be lied to sometimes. They don’t always love being told hard truths.”

Why in the world would Todd pick this faith-mocking letter to make that point? It’s a cowardly smear by proxy. He can advance the writer’s position, but if he’s criticized for it, he can always say “It wasn’t me, it was him!”

Todd and his colleagues never accept this excuse when someone they want to get retweets an inflammatory statement, though. This was exactly like a retweet….an endorsement.

You see, for all the abuse heaped on Hillary Clinton for her “deplorables” gaffe, calling anyone who supported Donald Trump over the virtuous and brilliant Hillary Clinton  a racist, a fool, and an idiot, Democrats, the “resistance,” and journalists believed it then, and they believe it now.  Chuck Todd adds the detail implied by the letter: if good people support President Trump—we know why the bad people support him—it’s because they were turned into idiots by religion! After all, the elite and educated know that religion is a crock, God is a crock, the Bible is a crock. Never mind all the “diversity” lip service. If you’re religious, you’re a dope, and you’re the problem. That’s what he thinks. That’s what most of them think. Continue reading

Jeanette Rankin, The Pearl Harbor Ethics Dunce

This post is a day late, I guess. A friend on Facebook posted the headline above, bringing the episode back to me.

Jeanette Rankin (1880-1973) is a feminist icon, and with good reason. She was the first woman to be elected to Congress (From Montana), even before women were  able to vote under the Constitution. [She also played a pivotal role in  the passing of the 19th Amendment, finally granting all women in the U.S. the right they should have had from the beginning. (Montana was one of the states that allowed full voting rights to woman before the 19th Amendment was passed.)

But Rankin voted against declaring war on Japan after its deadly sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the only member of Congress to do so. In her case, the fact that the only woman in Congress also was the sole opposition to war was no coincidence.

As a trailblazing feminist,Rankin believed that feminism was a natural ally of pacificism. She believed that having women in power instead of men would mean fewer wars, and  less violence. By today’s standards, I would call her a bigot, and that particular brand of bigotry still lurks under the surface of the modern feminist argument that more women should be elected to positions of power just because of the inherent virtue attached to having only x-chromosomes. Continue reading

The Right To Be Unethical: The 10th Circuit Allows “Faithless Electors”

This is professor Larry Lessig. Is it unfair of me to believe that this particular pose is signature significance for a pompous ass? Nobody in the history of photography who wasn’t pompous  posed this way, Lessig has several pictures like this.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Denver ruled 2-1 this week that the Electoral College system established by Article II and the 12th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows Presidential electors to vote against the candidate the popular vote in their state commits them to vote for. In 1952, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled  that primary candidates for party electors can be required to pledge to support the party’s candidate, but according to this decision, that pledge is not enforceable.

The 10th Circuit’s decision was a victory for Michael Baca, a Colorado elector who in 2016 cast his vote for John Kasich, then governor of Ohio, even though state law at the time required him to vote for the winner of the state’s popular vote, who was Hillary Clinton. Baca said his intention was to persuade enough members of the electoral college to cast votes for Republicans other than Donald Trump in an effort to deny Trump a victory.

Ooh, good plan! One way to avoid this problem is for states to make sure their electors aren’t arrogant, undemocratic whack-jobs.

The state removed Baca as an elector and canceled his vote, causing two other electors to abandon their plans to vote for Kasich. All three joined the lawsuit against the Colorado secretary of state’s office, but the 10th Circuit found only Baca had standing to sue.

It seems that the decision has strong Constitutional law behind it. Baca v. Colorado Dep’t of State said in part, Continue reading

When Your Friends Insist That There Is No Mainstream Media Partisan Bias, Ask Them To Explain This…

The won’t and can’t, but they’ll deny that there’s bias anyway. Like Joe Biden, they choose “truth” over facts.

In an infamous 2017 editorial, New York Times Editorial Page Editor James Bennet wrote, “In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.”

Not only was this false, the theory had been thoroughly dsiproven years before. Palin’s map had nothing to do with violence. “20 House Democrats from districts we carried in 2008 voted for the health care bill,” the caption said. “IT’S TIME TO TAKE A STAND.”

It was a call to defeat Affordable Care Act supporters, not to shoot them. The theory, pushed by the Times’ Paul Krugman among other left-wing pundits after the Tucson shooting,  that Palin’s unremarkable advocacy inspired the attack, was unmoored to facts or logic. Loughner’s motives were vague, and he was insane, politically liberal,  and unlikely to have been following Palin’s website. Linking Palin to the tragedy (others blamed Rush Limbaugh) was just the kind of dishonest cognitive dissonance game we are seeing now, with Democrats and the news media blaming President Trump for recent shootings.

On the theory that the Times crossed the line from opinion to malice when it intentionally publicized a false,  six-year old smear, Palin sued the Times for libel. This week a federal appeals court revived the lawsuit, which had been thrown out by a lower court on First Amendment grounds. Continue reading

Rueful Observations On The Latest Development In Virginia Governor Northam’s Blackface Scandal

Well, let’s see: my college has embarrassed me, my law school’s professors continue to make me wish I had earned a law degree by drawing “Skippy” from the cover of a matchbook, black students were apparently insulted in my home city’s famous art museum, my baseball team allowed itself to be split by “the resistance,” and my adopted state of Virginia has the most ridiculous governor since Rod Blagojevich was making Illinois residents consider moving to Tierra del Fuego.

To refresh your memory regarding  the Ralph Northam Ethics Trainwreck, since it’s been stashed in the news media memory hole for a while: the same week  that he appeared to casually explain how post-birth abortion works while showing all the passion of someone describing how to replace a carburetor, Northam’s med school yearbook surfaced showing the governor-to-be either dressed as a Klansman or wearing blackface, unless you subscribe to the theory that the photo of two men in such get-ups was just randomly planted on Northam’s page.

In a dizzying sequence, the Governor 1) apologized for the photo and wearing blackface in it, apparently admitting that it was him 2) said that he didn’t think either figure was him, and he could “tell by looking at it” 3) admitted that he did once wear blackface to look like Michael Jackson in a talent show 4) said that he had to have someone explain to him recently that blackface was considered offensive.

The short version: he’s a babbling, untrustworthy idiot. Continue reading