Rant of the Day, Monday, May 9, 2005
"Bloggers may need to institutionalize ethics policies to avoid charges of hypocrisy. But the real reason for an ethical upgrade is that it is the right way to do journalism, online or offline. As blogs grow in readers and influence, bloggers should realize that if they want to reform the American media, that is going to have to include reforming themselves."
Adam Cohen, New York Times, May 8, 2005.
Opinions are like assholes – everybody's got one and you've got to wash them once a day or they start to stink. Independent citizen-blogs are a direct result of the poor intellectual hygiene of the corporate media. Bloggers blog and readers read blogs because the corporate media needs a bath.
Citizens are dissatisfied with the corporate media because they have failed to perform their essential function as a Fourth Estate within a participatory democracy. A Fourth Estate performs that function by challenging authority, holding politicians accountable to the electorate, keeping voters informed on substantive issues and giving a voice to all members of that democracy. A Fourth Estate does not
accomplish those goals by featuring non-stop coverage of runaway brides and Michael Jackson or by hosting a two-week Pope-a-thon.
If the corporate media was accurately reporting the War in Iraq, nobody would read this blog. Nobody would read Juan Cole. Contrast the CNN coverage of a recent car-bombing in central Baghdad with citizen-blogger Juan Cole's analysis of the same incident:
A suicide car bomb targeting an SUV convoy exploded at a busy intersection in central Baghdad and killed at least 22 people, according to the chief spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Spokesman Bob Callahan said two U.S. contractors were among those killed and "a couple" of other contractors were wounded.
The large-scale assault in Baghdad was the latest in an intensifying wave of attacks. Strikes have killed nearly 300 people since the new transitional government was announced last week
On Saturday, Guerrillas in Baghdad targeted a convoy of vehicles of the sort used by notables with a massive bomb that tossed armored SUVs about like toys, and left 29 dead and 54 wounded, as a small mushroom cloud billowed into the sky. Two American security guards were among the dead. A school bus also appears to have suffered damage, but the casualties among the school children had not been reported when this Tribune story was filed.
Few commentators, when they mention such news, point out the obvious. The United States military does not control Baghdad. It doesn't control the major roads leading out of the capital. It does not control the downtown area except possibly the heavily barricaded "green zone." It does not control the capital. The guerrillas strike at will, even at Iraqi notables who can afford American security guards (many of them e.g. ex-Navy Seals). If the US military does not control the capital of a country it conquered, then it controls nothing of importance. Ipso facto, Iraq is a failed state
CNN tells us a car bomb exploded in central Baghdad and a bunch of people got killed and wounded. But as Professor Cole points out, they fail to explain the significance of the event while Cole does precisely that on his blog. CNN minces words. Independent citizen-blogger Cole does not.
Poor media coverage of the Iraq war is only one reason there is a growing distrust of the corporate media, and that distrust grows despite the rules of ethics Adam Cohen lists in his article. Meanwhile, more people turn to citizen-bloggers for trustworthy news and opinion despite our lack of a published set of ethics.
It really pisses me off when the corporate media comes preaching to me about "journalistic ethics" because that set of ethics is always trumped by the ethics of the corporate boardroom. Profit, not participatory democracy, is the prime objective of the corporate media. We find little foreign affairs coverage in the corporate media because foreign news bureaus are expensive to maintain. Corporate ethics emphasize bottom-line profit, foreign bureaus are closed and citizens are less informed as a result.
And what about TV and cable news? In these news media, the corporate culture views all programming, including news, as a mechanism to simply connect audience and advertisers. If corporate market research indicates more viewers will tolerate advertising if viewers find a juicy sex scandal more entertaining than a disasterous Presidential economic policy, guess what we'll see on the corporate news. Please explain which journalistic ethic prevents this corporate algebra.
Personally, I'd like to see less
separation between editorial content and advertising. In fact, I wish every time some politician, special-interest group or Swifties run TV advertisements distorting facts, offering a smear-job, or just plain lying, I'd like to see the editorial board rip 'em a new poop-chute in a ten-minute segment on the 6:00 News. Now that
would be fulfilling a Fourth Estate function, but then the scumbags paying for those ads would simply take their freak shows and their money to the next network. Corporate ethics trump journalistic ethics every time.
Did somebody mention disclosure? How many corporate media outlets saved a few bucks by airing Karen Ryan’s reports without disclosing they were government produced? How, exactly, did a journalistic code of ethics prevent nationally-syndicated “journalists” Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus from accepting taxpayer payola to hype Bush administration policies?
Speaking of disclosure, I'm sure it's just an amazing co-inky-dink
when the NYT’s David Brooks, John Tierney and WaPo's Charles Krauthammer all spout GOP talking points in their columns over a three-day period supporting Lieutenant AWOL's Social Security indexing plan through the same data distortions and outright falsehoods. How many more of these Imperial purple-pissing bastards are on the take?
And then there’s the mother of all disclosure scandals: Jeff Gannon, a.k.a. James Guckert, a former male prostitute who posed as a journalist and worked for a political front organization that posed as a media outlet. For two years, Gannon/Guckert received unprecedented White House access and tossed out softball questions at Presidential press briefings, in apparent coordination with the White House staff.
The corporate media has never adequately examined any of these disclosure scandals; in fact the Gannon/Guckert story broke because suspicious citizen-bloggers researched this clown’s background, political connections and bogus White House press credentials. Gannon/Guckert pulled off this two-year scam while openly operating as a member of the elite White House press corps, who were either too stupid to spot a phony or didn’t consider a covert political plant in their midst a breach of journalistic ethics. It seems to me the only ethic operating in any of these disclosure scandals is the ethic that dictates professional courtesy among whores.
Citizen-bloggers might have - gasp! - conflicts of interest! That cracks me up. Back when the corporate media was lobbying Congress and the Bush administration to loosen FCC rules on media consolidation we heard nary a peep on this public policy issue in the corporate media. I’m sure that corporate media silence had nothing to do with the fact that media consolidation would greatly enhance corporate profit at the expense of diversity of opinion and Fourth Estate obligations. But while the corporate media was AWOL, independent citizen-bloggers covered this story and organized a citizen campaign that forced the FCC to back down. That‘s called “speaking up to power.” (Maybe that’s why the corporate media hates citizen-bloggers. We pissed their soup.) Yup-per, journalistic ethics certainly prevent conflict of interest issues in the corporate media.
Take your journalistic ethics and stick ‘em where the sun don’t shine. Your ethics are your problem.
What really pisses me off is the implication that bloggers are without ethics if we don’t subscribe to a corporate journalistic code. Corrections? If I make a mistake, I pull the post. Does the New York Times pull the article when the writer makes a mistake? If so, the NYT wouldn't have jack-shit in William Safire's archives. And I'll be damned if I'll personally call a corporate media organization for comment before I call bullshit on their journalistic standards or call out a journalist who offers me swill. They already had their say. If they can't handle criticism they can shoot me an email.
I’ve got a code of ethics. It’s the ethical code of a citizen who enjoys the benefits of living in a participatory democracy and a citizen who recognizes the obligations of participatory democracy. I have the obligation to keep myself and others informed. I have the obligation to examine and debate issues on their merits, free from corporate, ideological, or political considerations. I place the health of my country’s democratic process above my personal interests or the interests of my employer, because democracy has a delicate health.
I blog because the corporate custodians of our Fourth Estate, an essential element of participatory democracy, have left their journalistic and democratic obligations laying tits-up in a ditch. You corporate journalists start functioning like a Fourth Estate and I'll shut down this blog because nobody will read it.
Instead of demanding that citizen-bloggers adhere to a failed, broke-dick set of journalistic ethics I suggest the professional corporate scribblers like Adam Cohen take a long, hot bath. Use lots of strong soap. You guys stink.
P.S. Adam, stop calling Wonkette a blogger because she's not. She's a wannabe corporate slut who wants your job. Watch out.