posts about or somewhat related to ‘media criticism’
Time once was that a “watchdog” press would closely scrutinize the work of elected officials and the powerful.
Adversarial journalism was its bread and butter, and relationships with those covered were held at arms length.
Time once was.
Via the James Rainey of the LA Times:
Imagine if the San Francisco Chronicle beefed up coverage of the state capital and asked Gov. Jerry Brown which agencies deserved the most coverage. Or what if Fox News planned to take a closer look at the United Nations with the blessing of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon?
The snickering that ensued would be prolonged, followed by a righteous blast of indignation from other news outlets. Journalism born out of such cooperation would rightly stink of conflict.
That will be at least the initial aroma around the latest journalistic initiative by America’s fastest-growing news outlet, Patch.com. The AOL-owned operation announced this week that it would open hyper-local news sites in Newark, N.J., “in partnership with Newark Mayor Cory Booker.”
"It will be great to have their help, since they are so plugged into the community, to help us identify the places to start," Arianna Huffington tells Rainey. "But that does not in any way immunize them from criticism or … the kind of journalism we would need to engage in."
— Doc Searls, Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, Earthquake Turns TV Networks into Print.
Last week, after returning to the States from covering Egypt’s revolution, Anderson Cooper called out Hosni Mubarak and other politicians for lying to the media about their response and options to the uprising.
Soon, American establishment media were criticizing Cooper for taking taking sides in the conflict and losing his journalistic objectivity.
As Salon’s Glenn Greenwald writes:
Over the weekend, The Los Angeles' Times James Rainey mocked CNN’s Anderson Cooper for repeatedly using the word “lie” to describe the factually false statements of Egyptian leaders. Though Rainey ultimately concluded that “it’s hard to find fault with what Cooper had to say” — meaning that everything Cooper identified as a “lie” was, in fact, a “lie” — the bulk of Rainey’s column derided the CNN anchor for his statements… Rainey also suggested that the harsh denunciations of Mubarak’s false statements were merely part of “Cooper’s pronounced shift toward more opinion-making in recent months … trying to adopt the more commentary-heavy approach of [CNN’s] higher-rated competitors, Fox and MSNBC.” To Rainey, when a journalist calls a government lie a “lie,” that’s veering into “commentary-heavy opinion-making” rather than objective journalism
Rainey, as Greenwald notes, wasn’t the only figure with questions about Cooper’s objectivity. Media critic Howard Kurtz had this to say during a Q&A with Newsweek’s Christopher Dickey, “Now I think most journalists would agree with him, perhaps most Americans would agree with him. But should an anchor and correspondent be taking sides on this kind of story?”
Rainey, Kurtz and Dickey all have this exactly backwards. Identifying lies told by powerful political leaders — and describing them as such — is what good journalists do, by definition. It’s the crux of adversarial journalism, of a “watchdog” press. “Objectivity” does not require refraining from pointing out the falsity of government claims. The opposite is true; objectivity requires that a journalist do exactly that: treat factually false statements as false. ”Objectivity” is breached not when a journalist calls a lie a “lie,” but when they refuse to do so, when they treat lies told by powerful political officials as though they’re viable, reasonable interpretations of subjective questions. The very idea that a journalist is engaged in ”opinion-making” or is “taking sides” by calling a lie a “lie” is ludicrous; the only “side” such a journalist is taking is with facts, with the truth. It’s when a journalist fails to identify a false statement as such that they are “taking sides” — they’re siding with those in power by deceitfully depicting their demonstrably false statements as something other than lies.
We couldn’t agree more, and recommend reading Greenwald’s full critique of the critique over at Salon.
Canada’s CBC asks whether WikiLeaks is journalism, quotes one source who says, Yay (“The release of the files represents the triumph of investigative journalism.”) and another who says, Nay (“He’s not a journalist. He’s not a whistleblower. He is a political actor. He has a political agenda.”).
What does WikiLeaks signify for journalism and civil society? Here’s some of what we’ve read this week.
1. Missing the Point of WikiLeaks — The Economist
With or without WikiLeaks, the technology exists to allow whistleblowers to leak data and documents while maintaining anonymity. With or without WikiLeaks, the personel, technical know-how, and ideological will exists to enable anonymous leaking and to make this information available to the public. Jailing Thomas Edison in 1890 would not have darkened the night.
1. WikiLeaks Reveals More than Government Secrets — Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com
On CNN last night, Wolf Blitzer was beside himself with rage over the fact that the U.S. Government had failed to keep all these things secret from him… Then — like the Good Journalist he is — Blitzer demanded assurances that the Government has taken the necessary steps to prevent him, the media generally and the citizenry from finding out any more secrets.
3. Wikileaks hounded? — Reporters Without Borders
This is the first time we have seen an attempt at the international community level to censor a website dedicated to the principle of transparency. We are shocked to find countries such as France and the United States suddenly bringing their policies on freedom of expression into line with those of China. We point out that in France and the United States, it is up to the courts, not politicians, to decide whether or not a website should be closed.
4. Why I love WikiLeaks — Jack Schafer, Slate.com
Oh, sure, [Julian Assange’s] a pompous egomaniac sporting a series of bad haircuts and grandiose tendencies. And he often acts without completely thinking through every repercussion of his actions. But if you want to dismiss him just because he’s a seething jerk, there are about 2,000 journalists I’d like you to meet.
5. What the Attacks on WikiLeaks Tell Us — John Naughton, Memex 1.1
The great American editor Oz Elliott once lectured graduates at the Columbia School of Journalism on their sacred duty to democracy as the unofficial legislators of mankind. He asked me what I thought of it. I said it was no good to me: I was trained as a reptile lurking in the gutter whose sole job was to “get the bloody story”.
Yet journalism’s stock-in-trade is disclosure. As we have seen this week with WikiLeaks, power loathes truth revealed.
6. The War on WikiLeaks — Joshua Norman, CBS News
Since the first mentions of a leak of potentially embarrassing U.S. diplomatic cables, a quiet war has blossomed between those who claim they support openness and free speech and those who claim they are protecting lives, international cooperation and the rights of the Swedish court system.
— Ben Crair, Deputy News Editor, The Daily Beast
— Thomas Friedman, New York Times.
(Source: The New York Times)