Sunday, March 13, 2011

When did this become journalism?

So asks Mitch Album in his latest article at the Freep.

Album is the most successful and enviable of journalists. He is also the most rare of journalists. He is a sports writer. He is a feature sports writer. As such, none of what he writes has to conform to what could be classicly defined as journalism. He long ago dispensed with the 5 Ws (and an occasional H.)

He does not conform to the upside down pyramid. He can use the metaphor and the simile. He can cast doubt upon witnesses, can paraphrase, can broad brush context, and can mislead his readers into believing that he was an actual live witness to events when he was merely a television viewer.

None of these truths diminish in any way his ability as a gifted writer. Yet, not all writers are journalists, just as not all journalists are news journalists.

Mitch Album is appalled at the antics taken by James O'Keefe in his sting of NPR that unquestionably exposed chief NPR fundraiser Ron Shiller as a leftist partisan hack. (Is it too early in this post to mention that NPR receives nearly ten percent of its overall funding from the American taxpayers?) Consequently, NPR chief executive Vivian Shiller also resigned.

Album is outraged!

The sleazeball behind this latest "gotcha" incident is James O'Keefe, who is all of 26 years old, calls himself an investigative journalist without formal training and thinks nothing of lying and fraud as long as it perpetuates his strong conservative viewpoint.
Real journalists who are outraged can use the term "sleazeball" indiscrimately.

Journalism in its contemporary form, is not objective. When I went to journalism school there was at least a wink-wink assertion that journalists must remain neutral. Let me tell you, that was a long time ago, and even then the college classrooms were filled with those seeking journalism degrees wanting to "make a difference." They came into journalism at the height of Walter Cronkite's influence over the television airwaves and Woodward and Bernstein (at the time not so old themselves) were still basking in the glow of an investigation that brought a Presidency to its knees.

O'Keefe might not be the poster child for classical journalism, but he is as effective as a journalist in both style and talent as many others who make headlines today while making no such pretense of objectivity...Ezra Klien anyone?

I suppose we should, in the absence of sufficiently aged and trained journalists willing to undertake an investigation of publically supported NPR, expect that otherwise incorruptible organiztion to proudly air its dirty laundry on the clothesline right outside its corporate offices.

If they had something to hide, they would show it. Because, in a way, they already do.

I am one of those rare creatures who happens to be both conservative and willing to listen to NPR. I often listen to Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Fresh Air, Car Talk, Prarie Home Companion, On the Media, Interfaith Voices, and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (though I still do not have Carl Castle's voice on my home ansering machine.) I listen because I don't like radio music and because I spend a lot of time on the road. I am no genius, but if Mitch Album in unable to detect the aggrevated slant of NPR, neither is he.

I also happen to believe that the stable of programs presented on Fox News is slanted toward conservativism. However, when Fox wants to present the progressive side of an argument it hires flaming liberals such as Bob Beckel, Joe Trippi, or Juan Williams to present the liberal viewpoint. When NPR wants to present the conservative viewpoint it balances out the screeching of E.J. Dionne with David Brooks, one of only a handful of "conservatives" who found reason enough to vote for Barack Obama.

Finding a conservative who voted for Obama takes some diligent investigation. Good grief, if we had such talented researchers out there looking for bigfoot we'd have long ago displayed him at the National Zoo, or, perhaps, supported him in his perpetual career as the senior senator from Massachusetts.

The fact is, whether James O'Keefe is a journalist or not, he certainly is a film maker. He certainly is willing to stick his neck out, and he is every bit as viable in journalism and political circles as the rather rotund Michael Moore, a literal giant in the documentary industry now, in particular, since documentaries aren't expected to be about truth or objectively either.

Shame on you, James O'Keefe, for being, as the elder journalist Mitch Album asserts, a sleazeball. Shame on you for using the same tactics in confronting NPR that liberal news media operatives have used for years on just about everybody but NPR. Shame on you for not conforming yourself to the unyielding tenets of journalism like those guys over at editorial page of the Freep do.

To be accepted into the fraternity you must conform--not to classic journalism, and not to contemporary journalism. No, what you must conform to is the vision of serious journalists who have no constraints other than being protectors of the narrative.

Don't worry, when you are ready they will send you the membership card.

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