Falling Off The Cliff Notes

Brian Lambert, writing at The Same Rowdy Crowd, laments the the state of journalism’s self-congratulatory, clubby order of high-priests-of-information that allowed Rolling Stone to “scoop” the establishment press (or should we say, the more-establishment-y press) on the McChrystal story; the idea that RS beat the NYTimes and the rest of the mainstream/dead-tree/agenda/establishment media to the story mortifies him…

…and strikes him as part of a larger pattern:

As bad/squirrely as McChrystal’s attitude was, as revealed in the Rolling Stone piece, I don’t know that it compares to the spectacular failure of what I facetiously refer to as “business journalism”. Talk about an off-site publicity/fanzine approach coverage. There’s no question the Pentagon and Congress will cut off access in a split second if they think you’re likely to print something negative. But on a Main Street level, where homey little Mom and Pop operations like UnitedHealth, Denny Hecker, Tom Petters, etc. operate, the coverage, until the moment of (shocking!) collapse is invariably one of uncritical reverence and, well, fanzine adoration. Jack that up to the national level and you see prevailing attitude toward AIG, Lehman Brothers, CitiGroup and Goldman, Sachs … prior to the implosion.

In other words, the “gatekeepers”, the Fifth Estate, the institution that it is claimed comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable, the one that constantly tells itself and whomever us us still pay attention that it is what keeps Democracy viable, isn’t doing its job.

Of course, if you’re a Twin Cities conservative, it’s not news; the entire weight of the Twin Cities media has been harnessed to the DFL’s needs for so long it’s hard to care anymore.

So if the “establishment” media don’t actually dig out the hard stories, and exist primarily to get their collective id in the form of Barack Obama or other such sonorous bobbleheads elected to office (and obstruct and defame their party’s opponents), then what early good do any of them serve?

Sullivan links to a blog post by ex-Marine and award-winning writer, Davis Morris, who says, “It’s an unfortunate staple of Beltway journalism that has bled over into war reporting that most reporters are loathe to burn their sources by writing derogatory things about them. To be blunt, most reporters are as career-obsessed as the officers they’re interviewing and they don’t want to poison the well. This is doubly true if the officer being interviewed is a four-star general. There is a simple reciprocity involved: if you want to be invited back to ride on The Boss’s helicopter, if you want continued access, you’d better not write about his soft spot for strippers and gin.”

Substitute “business reporting” for “war”, and “CEOS” for mere “officers” and “executive jet” for “helicopter” …

Or substitute “covering state senate and US senate votes” for business or war, and “Barack Obama” for “CEOs”…

…and you get the same idea.

Are we seeing a pattern yet?

Now, Matt Taibi, also over at Rolling Stone, (on the blog), weighs in ripping Lara Logan. (Does the title, “Lara Logan, You Suck”, tell you anything?) CBS’s implausibly good-looking Chief Foreign Correspondent for essentially accusing Hastings (of the McChrystal expose) of unprofessional journalism.

Taibbi, who has written some terrific stuff about Wall St. sharks (post-facto, alas), holds nothing back defending the “outsider” journalism game from the Revenge of the “insiders”.

“I have been there, when some would-be “reputable” journalist who’s just been severely ass-whipped by a relative no-name freelancer on an enormous story fights back by going on television and, without any evidence at all, accusing the guy who beat him of cheating. That’s happened to me so often, I’ve come to expect it. If there’s a lower form of life on the planet earth than a “reputable” journalist protecting his territory, I haven’t seen it.

Which is, of course, where we bloggers come in. We have beaten the stuffing out of the mainstream media so many times we’ve lost count.    And we’ve taken the MSM’s demonstrable lack of integrity from meme to joke to truism to weary bromide in less than a decade.

So – why should anyone care what they say anymore?

Can we finally stick a fork in the entire milieu of the “professional journalist”?   Extinguish the entire cult of the high priests of knowledge?  Acknowledge the fact that the “journalistic profession” (actually a glorified craft, even at its best) is a fossil?

11 thoughts on “Falling Off The Cliff Notes

  1. Still waiting for “professional journalist”s to cover change in NASA mission.

  2. I’ve had a first or second-row seat with the business media for the last dozen years or so as a business “flak”. Business reporters have a difficult job because a lot of warning signs of a scandal or malfeasance happen at such arcane levels that it is hard to recognize them or their significance at first. Most business writers have to be generalists and don’t have the time to specialize in certain industries, or within specific disciplines within an industry. Even if they develop this expertise the “audience” is limited because most people (includng, sometimes, their own editors) can’t readily grasp the story – until it blows up, that is.

    Like any reporters, business reporters develop a beat and people they contact regularly for tips and insight; as with any reporter and his/her sources, these people can have their own agendas. There are also relatively few business reporters so they have to change focus regularly, becoming an “expert for a day” on a topic, write the story and then tomorrow it’s something else in another industry. A major newspaper may have four to six sports writers who each focus on a couple of sports. The “Business” section usually has one reporter, “covering” all business. The specialized business publications, of course, can throw more resources at this, but as the publisher of one of the most prominent of these once told me, if a reporter is a great writer he likely won’t end up in business reporting, and if he has a keen mind for how business works there’s little reason for him to make reporter money when he could be an analyst or stock broker. That said, almost all the reporters and editors I’ve worked with have been “good” ones; tenacious and not easily swayed or diverted by fluff; it’s just that they don’t have a lot of time to really dig; especially when the news-makers have teams of people designed to keep them very well insulated from those who ask difficult questions.

  3. I confess to being unsympathetic to Lambert’s plight. What is the entity he calls “business journalism?” He seems pre-occupied with finding skeletons in the closets of the rich and powerful, and with good reason. If a reporter started hanging around drug dealers, armed robbers and car jackers and then reported on what he saw, his life expectancy would be measured in the order of milli-seconds. Usually reporters who produce pieces like that refuse to divulge the names of the criminals they’re writing about, and hide behind the cloak of the First Amendment if anyone calls them accessories. But take a gentrified white collar criminal like Petters and the brave reporters do nothing to protect their sources because they know they will not be squashed like bugs and they will be lionized for speaking truth to power.
    Regarding the “scoop” on McCrystal: was it good reporting or devious behavior to get the general and his staff to flap their mouths about their civilian bosses? Pretty classic “gotcha” journalism. None of the current crop of reporters (except Michael Yon) can hold a candle to the legends like Ernie Pyle, who lived in foxholes and took the same risks as the soldiers and marines he covered. He didn’t hold back on being critical of the top brass, but he didn’t kiss up to them and then write dirty dispatches.

  4. Kind of related….yesterday’s St Paul paper had a column by their victim columnist on how Obama is going to push for civil rights violation lawsuits. He brings out a parade of victims, yet doesn’t bring up one example of a civil rights violation.

  5. Chuck, just being a white male is a civil rights violation. Get with the new Group Think, dude.

  6. We now know that it is a violation of their civil rights to both deny and to give a minority applicant a home equity loan.

  7. Night Writer, wonderfully said – a better description of the genre of business news than most of what I have seen (including here). Applause, applause, AGAIN.

    Chuck and Kermit, you might want to do a little more background checking on civil rights violations; start with voter intimidation over the last 6 years. Fascinating what you turn up when you look:



    they provide an interesting context to a recent post here

  8. Google cache: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:Vgeu4KBDptwJ:www.tucsoncitizen.com/daily/local/31837.php+http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/daily/local/31837.php&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    Wyn Hornbuckle, spokesman with the Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the office has received some isolated reports of voter intimidation and other issues, such as voter fraud. However, he said, it would be premature to talk about those reports.

    Too soon for the U.S. Attorney to comment, but not too soon to be found guilty in the court of Dog Gone!
    Also note the mention of allegations of voter fraud.
    I’m not sure why Dog Gone accepts the word of the immigration activist lawyer in the piece. Maybe he went to Harvard?

  9. It occurs to me that, if the allegations of intimidation described in the Tucson Citizen are factual, a solution would be to post a policeman outside the polling place.
    WRONG! A police presence is also intimidating to certain type of voter! Maybe they could hire the Black Panthers or the Hells Angels as security?
    What I didn’t get from the story is whether any one else at the polling place was armed. This did happen in Arizona!

  10. Fascinating what you turn up when you look

    DogPrescorttPile steps in her poo – again. Innuendo taken as fact, wheres video and confession of the perp is not enough.

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