Journalists With Ethics? Do They Still Exist?

* Almost as rare as the mythical “moderate Muslim”- but we found two:

In his latest piece, ABC News columnist Michael Malone absolutely skewers the mainstream media for debasing and corrupting a once-honorable profession: Editing Their Way to Oblivion: Journalism Sacrificed For Power and Pensions.

By Michael S. Malone

The traditional media is playing a very, very dangerous game.  With its readers, with the Constitution, and with its own fate.

The sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this election campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling.  And over the last few months I’ve found myself slowly moving from shaking my head at the obvious one-sided reporting, to actually shouting at the screen of my television and my laptop computer.

But worst of all, for the last couple weeks, I’ve begun — for the first time in my adult life — to be embarrassed to admit what I do for a living.  A few days ago, when asked by a new acquaintance what I did for a living, I replied that I was “a writer”, because I couldn’t bring myself to admit to a stranger that I’m a journalist.

You need to understand how painful this is for me.  I am one of those people who truly bleeds ink when I’m cut.  I am a fourth generation newspaperman.  As family history tells it, my great-grandfather was a newspaper editor in Abilene, Kansas during the last of the cowboy days, then moved to Oregon to help start the Oregon Journal (now the Oregonian).  My hard-living – and when I knew her, scary – grandmother was one of the first women reporters for the Los Angeles Times.  And my father, though profoundly dyslexic, followed a long career in intelligence to finish his life (thanks to word processors and spellcheckers) as a very successful freelance writer.  I’ve spent thirty years in every part of journalism, from beat reporter to magazine editor.  And my oldest son, following in the family business, so to speak, earned his first national by-line before he earned his drivers license.

So, when I say I’m deeply ashamed right now to be called a “journalist”, you can imagine just how deep that cuts into my soul.

Now, of course, there’s always been bias in the media.  Human beings are biased, so the work they do, including reporting, is inevitably colored.  Hell, I can show you ten different ways to color variations of the word “said” – muttered, shouted, announced, reluctantly replied, responded, etc. – to influence the way a reader will apprehend exactly the same quote.  We all learn that in Reporting 101, or at least in the first few weeks working in a newsroom.  But what we are also supposed to learn during that same apprenticeship is to recognize the dangerous power of that technique, and many others, and develop built-in alarms against their unconscious.

But even more important, we are also supposed to be taught that even though there is no such thing as pure, Platonic objectivity in reporting, we are to spend our careers struggling to approach that ideal as closely as possible.  That means constantly challenging our own prejudices, systematically presenting opposing views, and never, ever burying stories that contradict our own world views or challenge people or institutions we admire.  If we can’t achieve Olympian detachment, than at least we can recognize human frailty – especially in ourselves.

For many years, spotting bias in reporting was a little parlor game of mine, watching TV news or reading a newspaper article and spotting how the reporter had inserted, often unconsciously, his or her own preconceptions.  But I always wrote it off as bad judgment, and lack of professionalism, rather than bad faith and conscious advocacy.  Sure, being a child of the ‘60s I saw a lot of subjective “New” Journalism, and did a fair amount of it myself, but that kind of writing, like columns and editorials, was supposed to be segregated from ‘real’ reporting, and at least in mainstream media, usually was.  The same was true for the emerging blogosphere, which by its very nature was opinionated and biased.

But my complacent faith in my peers first began to be shaken when some of the most admired journalists in the country were exposed as plagiarists, or worse, accused of making up stories from whole cloth.  I’d spent my entire professional career scrupulously pounding out endless dreary footnotes and double-checking sources to make sure that I never got accused of lying or stealing someone else’s work – not out any native honesty, but out of fear: I’d always been told to fake or steal a story was a firing offense . . .indeed, it meant being blackballed out of the profession.

And yet, few of those worthies ever seemed to get fired for their crimes – and if they did they were soon rehired into an even more prestigious jobs.  It seemed as if there were two sets of rules:  one for us workaday journalists toiling out in the sticks, and another for folks who’d managed, through talent or deceit, to make it to the national level.

Meanwhile, I watched with disbelief as the nation’s leading newspapers, many of whom I’d written for in the past, slowly let opinion pieces creep into the news section, and from there onto the front page.  Personal opinions and comments that, had they appeared in my stories in 1979, would have gotten my butt kicked by the nearest copy editor, were now standard operating procedure at the New York Times,the Washington Post, and soon after in almost every small town paper in the U.S.

But what really shattered my faith – and I know the day and place where it happened – was the War in Lebanon three summers ago.  The hotel I was staying at in Windhoek, Namibia only carried CNN, a network I’d already learned to approach with skepticism.  But this was CNN International, which is even worse.  I sat there, first with my jaw hanging down, then actually shouting at the TV, as one field reporter after another reported the carnage of the Israeli attacks on Beirut, with almost no corresponding coverage of the Hezbollah missiles raining down on northern Israel.   The reporting was so utterly and shamelessly biased that I sat there for hours watching, assuming that eventually CNNi would get around to telling the rest of the story . . .but it never happened.

But nothing, nothing I’ve seen has matched the media bias on display in the current Presidential campaign.  Republicans are justifiably foaming at the mouth over the sheer one-sidedness of the press coverage of the two candidates and their running mates.  But in the last few days, even Democrats, who have been gloating over the pass – no, make that shameless support – they’ve gotten from the press, are starting to get uncomfortable as they realize that no one wins in the long run when we don’t have a free and fair press.  I was one of the first people in the traditional media to call for the firing of Dan Rather – not because of his phony story, but because he refused to admit his mistake – but, bless him, even Gunga Dan thinks the media is one-sided in this election.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not one of those people who think the media has been too hard on, say, Gov. Palin, by rushing reportorial SWAT teams to Alaska to rifle through her garbage.  This is the Big Leagues, and if she wants to suit up and take the field, then Gov. Palin better be ready to play.  The few instances where I think the press has gone too far – such as the Times reporter talking to Cindy McCain’s daughter’s MySpace friends – can easily be solved with a few newsroom smackdowns and temporary repostings to the Omaha Bureau.

No, what I object to (and I think most other Americans do as well) is the lack of equivalent hardball coverage of the other side – or worse, actively serving as attack dogs for Senators Obama and Biden.  If the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as President of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (that at least will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography.  That isn’t Sen. Obama’s fault:  his job is to put his best face forward.  No, it is the traditional media’s fault, for it alone (unlike the alternative media) has had the resources to cover this story properly, and has systematically refused to do so.

Why, for example to quote McCain’s lawyer, haven’t we seen an interview with Sen. Obama’s grad school drug dealer – when we know all about Mrs. McCain’s addiction?  Are Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko that hard to interview?  All those phony voter registrations that hard to scrutinize?  And why are Senator Biden’s endless gaffes almost always covered up, or rationalized, by the traditional media?

The absolute nadir (though I hate to commit to that, as we still have two weeks before the election) came with Joe the Plumber.  Middle America, even when they didn’t agree with Joe, looked on in horror as the press took apart the private life of an average person who had the temerity to ask a tough question of a Presidential candidate.  So much for the Standing Up for the Little Man, so much for Speaking Truth to Power, so much for Comforting the Afflicted and Afflicting the Comfortable, and all of those other catchphrases we journalists used to believe we lived by.

I learned a long time ago that when people or institutions begin to behave in a manner that seems to be entirely against their own interests, it’s because we don’t understand what their motives really are.  It would seem that by so exposing their biases and betting everything on one candidate over another, the traditional media is trying to commit suicide – especially when, given our currently volatile world and economy, the chances of a successful Obama presidency, indeed any presidency, is probably less than 50:50.

Furthermore, I also happen to believe that most reporters, whatever their political bias, are human torpedoes . . .and, had they been unleashed, would have raced in and roughed up the Obama campaign as much as they did McCain’s.  That’s what reporters do, I was proud to have been one, and I’m still drawn to a good story, anygood story, like a shark to blood in the water.

So why weren’t those legions of hungry reporters set loose on the Obama campaign?  Who are the real villains in this story of mainstream media betrayal?

The editors.  The men and women you don’t see; the people who not only decide what goes in the paper, but what doesn’t; the managers who give the reporters their assignments and lay-out the editorial pages.  They are the real culprits.

Why?  I think I know, because had my life taken a different path, I could have been one:  Picture yourself in your 50s in a job where you’ve spent 30 years working your way to the top, to the cockpit of power . . . only to discover that you’re presiding over a dying industry.  The Internet and alternative media are stealing your readers, your advertisers and your top young talent.  Many of your peers shrewdly took golden parachutes and disappeared.  Your job doesn’t have anywhere near the power and influence it did when your started your climb.  The Newspaper Guild is too weak to protect you any more, and there is a very good chance you’ll lose your job before you cross that finish line, ten years hence, of retirement and a pension.

In other words, you are facing career catastrophe -and desperate times call for desperate measures.  Even if you have to risk everything on a single Hail Mary play.  Even if you have to compromise the principles that got you here.  After all, newspapers and network news are doomed anyway – all that counts is keeping them on life support until you can retire.

And then the opportunity presents itself:  an attractive young candidate whose politics likely matches yours, but more important, he offers the prospect of a transformed Washington with the power to fix everything that has gone wrong in your career.  With luck, this monolithic, single-party government will crush the alternative media via a revived Fairness Doctrine, re-invigorate unions by getting rid of secret votes, and just maybe, be beholden to people like you in the traditional media for getting it there.

And besides, you tell yourself, it’s all for the good of the country . . .


Melanie Phillips


Is America Really Going To Do This?


The impact of the financial crisis on the American presidential election has somewhat obscured the most important reason why the prospect of an Obama presidency is giving so many people nightmares. This is the fear that, if he wins, US defences will be emasculated at a time of unprecedented international peril and the enemies of America and the free world will seize their opportunity to destroy the west.

Personally, I don’t give any credence to the ‘support’ for one candidate over the other that has been expressed by the enemies of civilisation (Iran and Hamas ‘support’ Obama, while an al Qaeda blogger ‘supports’ McCain). Their agenda is simply to sow confusion and promote American recriminations and disarray. Nor do I set much store by many of the remarks made by either candidate during the latter stages of this election campaign, since under this kind of pressure both will now say pretty much anything to win it. The New York Times has run a useful analysis of the candidates’ foreign policy campaign statements which shows how Obama has carefully tacked to the ‘hard power’ agenda while McCain has in turn nodded towards ‘soft power’.

No, the only way to assess their position is to look at each man in the round, at what his general attitude is towards war and self-defence, aggression and appeasement, the values of the west and those of its enemies and – perhaps most crucially of all – the nature of the advisers and associates to whom he is listening. As I have said before, I do not trust McCain; I think his judgment iserratic and impetuous, and sometimes wrong. But on the big picture, he gets it. He will defend America and the free world whereas Obama will undermine them and aid their enemies.

Here’s why. McCain believes in protecting and defending America as it is. Obama tells the world he is ashamed of America and wants to change it into something else. McCain stands for American exceptionalism, the belief that American values are superior to tyrannies. Obama stands for the expiation of America’s original sin in oppressing black people, the third world and the poor.

Obama thinks world conflicts are basically the west’s fault, and so it must right the injustices it has inflicted. That’s why he believes in ‘soft power’ — diplomacy, aid, rectifying ‘grievances’ (thus legitimising them, encouraging terror and promoting injustice) and resolving conflict by talking. As a result, he will take an axe to America’s defences at the very time when they need to be built up. He has said he will ‘cut investments in unproven missile defense systems’; he will ‘not weaponize space’; he will ‘slow our development of future combat systems’; and he will also ‘not develop nuclear weapons,’ pledging to seek ‘deep cuts’ in America’s arsenal, thus unilaterally disabling its nuclear deterrent as Russia and China engage in massive military buildups.

McCain understands that an Islamic war of conquest is being waged on a number of diverse fronts which all have to be seen in relation to each other. For Obama, however, the real source of evil in the world is America. The evil represented by Iran and the Islamic jihadists is apparently all America’s fault. ‘A lot of evil’s been perpetuated based on the claim that we were fighting evil,’ he said. Last May, he dismissed Iran as a tiny place which posed no threat to the US — before reversing himself the very next day when he said Iran was a great threat which had to be defeated. He has also said that Hezbollah and Hamas have ‘legitimate grievances’. Really? And what might they be? Their grievances are a) the existence of Israel b) its support by America c) the absence of salafist Islam in the world. Does Obama think these ‘grievances’ are legitimate?

To solve world conflict, Obama places his faith in the UN club of terror and tyranny, which is currently fuelling the murderous global demonisation of Israel for having the temerity to defend itself and is even now preparing for a rerun of its own anti-Jew hate-fest of Durban 2, which preceded 9/11 by a matter of days.

McCain understands that Israel is the victim rather than the victimiser in the Middle East, that it is surrounded by genocidal enemies whose undiminished intention is to destroy it as a Jewish state, and that is both the first line of defence against the Islamist attack on the free world and its most immediate and important target.

Obama dismisses the threat from Islamism, shows zero grasp of the strategic threat to the region and the world from the encirclement of Israel by Iran, displays a similar failure to grasp the strategic importance of Iraq, thinks Israel is instead the source of Arab and Muslim aggression against the west, believes that a Palestinian state would promote world peace and considers that Israel – particularly through the ‘settlements’ – is the principal obstacle to that happy outcome. Accordingly, Obama has said he wants Israel to return to its 1967 borders – actually the strategically indefensible 1948 cease-fire line, known accordingly as the ‘Auschwitz borders’.

Obama would thus speak to Iran’s genocidal mullahs without preconditions on his side (the same mullahs have now laid down their own preconditions for America: pull all US troops out of the Middle East, and abandon support for ‘Zionist’ Israel) but has said he would have problems dealing with an Israeli government headed by a member of Israel’s Likud Party. In similar vein, it is notable that Obama opposed the congressional resolution labelling the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, which passed the Senate by a wide margin with support from both parties. And had he had his way, there would have been no ‘surge’ in Iraq and America would instead have run up the white flag, with the incalculable bloodbath and strengthening of the jihad that would have followed.

Obama assumes that Islamic terrorism is driven by despair, poverty, inflammatory US policy and the American presence on Muslim soil in the Persian Gulf. Thus he adopts the agenda of the Islamists themselves. This is not surprising since many of his connections suggest that that the man who may be elected President of a country upon which the Islamists have declared war is himself firmly in the Islamists’ camp. Daniel Pipes lists Obama’s extensive connections to Islamists in general and the Nation of Islam in particular, and concludes with this astounding observation:

Obama’s multiple links to anti-Americans and subversives mean he would fail the standard security clearance process for Federal employees. Islamic aggression represents America’s strategic enemy; Obama’s many insalubrious connections raise grave doubts about his fitness to serve as America’s commander-in-chief.

The hatred that these Islamist connections entertain towards Israel is reflected amongst Obama’s own advisers. With one notable exception in Dennis Ross, whose late arrival in Camp Obama suggests a cosmetic exercise designed to allay alarm among Israel supporters, his advisers are overwhelmingly not only hostile to Israel but perpetrate the loathesome canard that Jews have too much power over American policy.

The former Carter adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, for example, not only denounced Israel’s war against Hezbollah thus:

I think what the Israelis are doing today [2006] for example in Lebanon is in effect– maybe not in intent – the killing of hostages

but also supports Mearsheimer and Walt’s notorious smear that the Jews have subverted America’s foreign policy in the interests of Israel. Merrill McPeak, vice chairman of Obama’s campaign and his chief military adviser, has similarly blamed problems in the Middle East on the influence of people who live in New York City and Miami (guess who) whom no ‘politician wants to run against’ and who he says exercise undue influence on America’s foreign affairs. Most revolting of all is Samantha Power, a very close adviser whom Obama fired for calling Hillary a ‘monster’ but who says she still expects to be in Obama’s administration. Not only has Power has advocated the ending of all aid to Israel and redirecting it to the Palestinians, but she has spoken about the need to land a ‘mammoth force’ of US troops in Israel to protect the Palestinians from Israeli attempts at genocide (sic) — and has complained that criticism of Barack Obama all too often came down to what was ‘good for the Jews’.

There are, alas, many in the west for whom all this is music to their ears. Whether through wickedness, ideology, stupidity or derangement, they firmly believe that the ultimate source of conflict in the world derives at root from America and Israel, whose societies, culture and values they want to see emasculated or destroyed altogether. They are drooling at the prospect that an Obama presidency will bring that about. The rest of us can’t sleep at night.


5 thoughts on “Journalists With Ethics? Do They Still Exist?”

  1. Michael Malone’s article on the media bias in the US Presidential campaign can also be applied to Australian media bias in favour of Kevin Rudd – which still continues.

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