Journalism Juju

November 13, 2013

dali-013High overcast and quiet this early Wednesday on California’s north coast — the Pacific Ocean, less than two miles away, is just a whisper in the air.
Yesterday morning, though, the coastline was roaring like it was just across the street. Environmental noise is real peculiar.

Journalism nowadays is peculiar, too, and just ain’t got the touch anymore: The famous tear that Cronkite brushed away as, removing his glasses, he announced President Kennedy’s death could serve as a commentary on modern reportage. Technology has made journalism so intrusive and “in the moment” that it has erased the boundaries of ethics and good taste. Today’s journalists need to renew their vow to get it right — from the first.
Uncle Walter would cry like Nora Desmond if he could see the sloppy, careless state of his craft — 24/7 news cycles and celebrity worship has turned journalism into near shit.

(Illustration: Salvador Dali’s ‘Alice’s Evidence’ found here).

Last night, I watched Jon Stewart interview Doris Kearns Goodwin on the Daily Show about her new book, ‘The Bully Pulpit,’ which covers the love/hate relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, and during what’s been described as the “golden age of journalism.” (Actually, the interview was Monday, but I only have Hulu).
Goodwin: “In a time when political leaders fought for things, when the journalists had a mission and a calling, when the country was righting ancient wrongs…”
Not now.
Neither Cronkite nor TR would recognize America in its current state — a time of President Obama’s version of transparency and whatnot.
For instance, just this year when AG Eric Holder’s boys secretly seized files/phone records from the Associated Press, Holder claimed “It put the American people at risk, and that is not hyperbole.” A statement that turned out to be worse than literal.

And another case with implications US journalists opened this week in New York — and another “sources” case.
From Aljazeera:

New York’s highest court began hearing arguments Tuesday over whether state law protects a Fox News reporter from being forced to reveal confidential police sources behind leaked information about James Holmes, the accused killer of 12 people in a suburban Denver movie theater.
The decision could have an impact on reporters in New York and nationwide.
Holmes’ lawyers want Jana Winter, who works at New York-based Fox News, brought to a Colorado courtroom to name two law officers who told her Holmes had mailed a notebook depicting violence to a psychiatrist.
They argue the sources violated a gag order, may have later lied under oath about it, and won’t be credible as trial witnesses.

New York has a strong so-called “shield law” protecting professional journalists from having to disclose their confidential sources and preventing courts from finding them in contempt if they don’t disclose them.
Colorado has a similar law, but with an exception to subpoena information “directly relevant to a substantial issue” that cannot be obtained elsewhere.

A lawyer for Winter put it differently in her team’s legal brief, saying the debate went to the very heart of investigative journalism
“A journalist’s ability to go beyond official press releases and uncover the facts that authorities, corporations, or even just private individuals might prefer be kept hidden — the very definition of an investigative reporter — depends almost entirely on the journalist’s ability to cultivate and maintain relationships with sources,” attorney Christopher T. Handman wrote, according to the Times Union.
“If a New York reporter can be stripped of her protections under New York’s public policy simply because the reporter crossed state lines, New York’s robust public policy in favor of confidential sourcing will become a dead letter for all but the most parochial stories.”
A lawyer for Winter told the paper that she is prepared to go to jail before revealing her sources.

In this age of the NSA, government jailing leakers and bullshit news reporting, Uncle Walter would be ashamed as we all tumble down the rabbit hole..

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