Another one trying to get under the radar

Thomas Lipscomb (The Dog That Didn’t Bark, Editor & Publisher 05ma26) takes note of another Eason Jordan episode: “The Press and Linda Foley: Why has there been so little mention in the mainstream media of the Newspaper Guild president’s recent charge that journalists are “being targeted for real” in Iraq by the U.S. military?” His take is that the silence is like the dog that didn’t bark in the Holme’s mystery about Silver Blaze. The dog didn’t bark because the thief was a friend. The fact that another slander of the US military goes without significant note implies malfeasance on the part of the media. This malfeasance is, in part, responsible for the average circulation decline among 684 US daily papers averaging 1.9% in the past year. “In some places it is catastrophic. This is the biggest drop in the last five years. ”

If the most basic tenets of Journalism 101 are now no longer important enough for the media itself to honor and defend against their own members who violate them, where is the professionalism and the authority that is our main claim to writing the indispensable “first draft of history” – much less its value for sale? And if we lose sight of that irretrievably, who needs us? There are bloggers out there today with more credibility than Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, Eason Jordan, and Linda Foley combined, and their audiences are growing.

If Foley is allowed to walk unchallenged from what Mencken might have called “a clear, simple, and” unproven statement, it will only accelerate the speed at which her members lose what is left of their credibility–and then their jobs. (Look at The New York Times newsroom downsizing this week.) If the press isn’t going to take its own standards seriously, it is hard to think of why anyone should take the press seriously enough to pay for it. In the meantime, Rupert Murdoch’s and Roger Ailes’s success offers a constant unpleasant reminder: the media market prefers dogs that bark.

Related to this is a story complaining about “character assasination” being done by people who are asking for Senator Kerry to release his military record. It is not only the media that prefers to be blind about what does not fit their desired reality, it is also people who cannot separate a request for a candidate to substantiate claims made from character assasination. The Kerry Form 180, requesting the candidate to substantiate claims he made in the campaign, contrasts to some Senators seeking secret government documents in order to try to find something horrific about Mr. Bolton or the other ‘Borking’ that is being done to nominees.

Other examples? Consider Amnesty International calling Gitmo a gulag, the Koran desecration fiasco, – and these are only in the last week. How can anyone trust those ‘reporting’ these stories when they are based on anonymous sources or given without any regard for an appropriate referent?

Self policing is necessary for obtaining respect. That policing must be done with standards that exhibit intellectual integrity.

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