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Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’

Citizen journalist, military intelligence, and other oxymorons

This blog is written by a guy who is a recovering journalist who screwed up a lot. I mean, A LOT. I mean, to the point I had a macro set up for writing corrections. I once had to run a correction to a correction. I’m not one to disparage someone for getting something wrong.

However, when you blatantly lie, when you manipulate facts to get your “point” across … well you just get called Fox News. Or you’re Andrew Breitbart.

And here’s the thing: Andrew Breitbart is such a D-bag I won’t even link to his site. Under the veil of “citizen journalism” and battling the “liberal media,” Breitbart ran footage that had been severely edited of a speech by a female African-American Agriculture Department worker who said she had not worked as hard as she should have to help white farmers early in her career. That was two minutes of the speech. The OTHER 38 minutes discussed how she overcame her own racial prejudices and ultimately strove to understand that yes, we’re all in this together, regardless of race, color or creed.

Breitbart, who has spent several years operating right-wing websites, ran the footage which then resulted in the woman getting fired. When the rest of the footage showed up, Breitbart offered no apologies, saying he had been manipulated in the process also, that he just ran the footage the way he received it.

Well, then. WHEW! At least he didn’t do anything wrong. Oh, wait, that’s right. Nothing but NOT CHECK THE FACTS!

Breitbart displays the growing problem that exists in the media. Once we had three networks and read the newspaper everyday and we knew what was going on; now you can get all the news you’d ever want 24 hours a day via television, radio, or the Internet. Journalists were chain-smoking alcoholics with cheap suits and rings under their eyes and a fierce determination for the truth. Now anyone with a digital video camera and an Internet connection can go and claim they’re a “citizen journalist.”

What we’re forgetting in this day and age, however, is that journalism was always built around the truth, not your existing opinion and mysterious video footage that showed up in your email inbox. Journalism was about checking the facts in the search for the truth, not creating the truth out of what you already believe.

NPR has an excellent piece by Jonathan Chait, the senior editor of The New Republic, that expounds on this far better than me. However, there is a lengthy quote he mentions from Breitbart which points directly to not just the arrogance of Breitbart and his kindred, but the fundamental flaw of “citizen journalism” as a whole:

No steadfast journalism rule is unbendable when it comes to justifying and protecting the racket that is modern journalism, specifically, political journalism in the United States today. The ends justify the means for the Democrat Media Complex. They lie when they claim to be objective. They lie when they claim to be unbiased, because these so called “truth seekers” are guilty of engaging in open political warfare… most media organizations are either complicit by participation in the treachery that is Journolist, or are guilty of sitting back and watching Alinsky warfare being waged against all that challenged the progressive orthodoxy. The scandal predictably involves journalists posing as professors posing as experts. But dressed down they are nothing but street thugs.

Journalism that comes with a ready-made opinion isn’t journalism; it’s editoralizing at its best, blogging at its worse. This blog will never claim to be “journalism” (hell, one of my categories is “leftist politics). 

This blog is basically the assorted rantings and ravings of one person. But in the content-hungry media whirlpool that passes for news today, everyone seems willing to stretch the veracity of the truth in an effort to garner some attention and to sell their point of view. Even Dan Rather, one of the most respected journalists of the past 50 years, fell victim to it with the “Killian documents” scandal, concerning former President George W. Bush’s military record.

I’m not saying Rather had a viewpoint he was trying to get across (though his opinion on the Bush presidency has become obvious in recent years). But our rush to feed the media beast has given license to almost anyone to throw out anything they want to world to know without the background research and legwork needed to back up the story. No, now it’s just a matter of posting it up onto your website and then hiding from the repercussions. The virtue of experience and steadfastness has faded and given way to Breitbart and others to scandal, to slander, to work to destroy, and then just shrug it off. “Oh, I was manipulated too,” they say.

Manipulation isn’t an excuse. If you can’t back up what you’re ready to run, be it in a newspaper or a website or on television news, DON’T RUN IT! Check facts. Be a real journalist. Be an adult. Understand that there are causes and effects in this world. Know that when you screw up, it reflects back on thousands of others who call themselves “journalists” and might, just might, be battling to shine the light out across the darkness. Know it could hurt hundreds or thousands who get caught up in your “manipulation.” Know that you’re not an island adrift in an Internet ocean. Know that responsibility comes when you call yourself by a title. And stop embarrassing yourself and others. No matter of our race, our color, our political belief, we’re better than that. We all deserve better than that.

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