It’s about trust

Judy Miller makes one lousy poster girl. So why does she keep ending up on posters? And what does this say about the poster makers? Don’t they care about her credibility and their trust?

: The Society of Professional Journalists chose to give Miller its First Amendment Award and also chose not to criticize her ethical lapses. Jenny DeMonte writes a great report on this for Pressthink; more on that in a minute.

: Pajamas Media chose to have Miller keynote their grand opening. I stated my puzzlement at this here, provoking a personal attack from one of their number and a phone call from PJ founder Roger L. Simon, who was amazed at my amazement. We couldn’t hear each other well on my cell phone (‘can you understand me now?’) but I told Roger that I said what I thought on my blog and I went to look for what he’d said on his blog or at Pajamas Media, though he hasn’t written about it. He praised her writing and reporting and said she’d be worth hearing on shield laws. I just repeated, “Judy Miller? Judy Miller?”, as I did with another of PJ’s number the night before. His reply, one word with a shrug: “Californians.”

: The California First Amendment Coalition invited her to give its First Amendment Award to Mark “Deep Throat” Felt.

: And, of course, The Times made her the poster girl for the First Amendment, a federal shield law, The Times itself, and even journalism. Nevermind.

I don’t understand how these players can separate her credibility and ethical behavior (as defined by such thing as SPJ’s code of ethics) from their own credibility and trust. Like it or not, we in journalism are judged by our worst work and what we do about it. When we circle the wagons to defend fellow journalists instead of defending the truth, we lose trust. I tell editorial organizations trying to improve quality that it’s more important to raise the bar at the low end than the high end because of this. I’m not even saying whether Miller should be fired or treated as a pariah — I said she should do the profession a favor and quit — but I certainly don’t think she should be held up as a paragon of anything. She messed up her reporting and didn’t fess up and still blames her unnamed sources and broke rules and, from what I can tell, made herself the center of a cause more for self-promotion or bullheadedness than for the cause itself. And we should trust her? And others should trust us for trusting her? Why?

I’m not writing this from a political perspective. I’ll piss off both sides here: I supported the war in Iraq, not on the basis of Miller’s and Bush’s WMDs but instead on our obligation to bring democracy and freedom to the people of Iraq, a goal I’m afraid we’re going to fail because of the incompetence of the party in power and the lack of humanitarian will of the opposition party. My issues with Miller are not political. They are journalistic. She is no longer credible. So why is she selected as a standard bearer for the First Amendment, shield laws, journalism, or any newspaper?

: At Pressthink, outgoing SPJ head Irwin Gratz explained his group’s award to Miller for Jay Rosen:

Judy Miller received a near standing ovation at her appearance before our attendees Tuesday. And our voting delegates, in a spirited debate, removed paragraphs critical of Miller from the resolution that spoke to our more general criticism of anonymous sourcing.

And that’s something to brag about? Jenny provides the details of what the SPJ voted for and against and what the organization stands for in journalistic ethics and how that compares with Miller’s behavior.
Jenny concludes:

This is another part of the slow rot that’s eating at the work of newsgathering and reporting and writing and producing. Journalism has, as its core, the trust between reporters and editors, and reporters and the public. As that erodes, the whole enterprise starts to crumble. People turn away from news and reporting. Other forms can rise and steal the hearts and minds of citizens.

I am quite disappointed that a professional organization, representing work I love, would have celebrated someone who appears to have stomped all over the highest values of the practice. If Stevenson and Keller are right about the “contract between the paper and its reporters,” where’s the contract between journalists and the public? That’s what the rules and codes are supposed to be. They tell us what journalists do to retain our trust without us having to witness every act of newsgathering.

: See also the Record of New Jersey’s editorial backing away from Miller: “We’ve been had.”

And see The Guardian’s report on Miller’s negotiations with The Times, which incredibly are said to include a non-disparagement clause. Oh, the disparagement’s not over yet.

: Unrelated to Miller but related to Pajamas Media: See PJ Media Unfiltered, an automated aggregation of blog posts from the PJers. Because: “When Pajamas Media goes live — under its new name — on November 16th, the front-page posts will be selected and possibly edited by its global team of editors. The purpose of this site is to show a complete selection of the PJ Media opinions from which the portal content will be derived.”

(Just for the record and to be clear: I have nothing against the PJ folks; some are friends, some I read. I have criticized their choice of keynoters for all the reasons here. And for the sake of full disclosure: I also did not hear what I thought was a sensible business model when they started and I told both Roger Simon and Mark Danziger that long ago. I chose not to participate.)

  • Mumblix Grumph

    There are people out there who think that Miller has started a domino effect that will eventually lead to Bush being impeached. I guess they believe that if Bush is gone, terrorism will disappear, gas will be 50 cents a gallon, hurricanes will stop and breast cancer will be cured…all in the first 2 weeks of President Hillary’s term! It will be like a Walgreens TV ad. It’s all thanks to Judith Miller’s bravery in not revealing a source who said she was free to do so.
    (SHRUG) Some dolts like Michael Moore too, so there’s no accounting for taste.

  • http://www.elflife.com/cgi-bin/txt.cgi/ Carson Fire

    I’m no fan of Judy Miller, but it’s really difficult to see the difference between her behavior and the behavior of the rest of the press corps.

    Let’s look at some of the SPJ Code of Ethics mentioned in the Rosen piece:

    Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
    See, it’s hard for a non-liberal, non-journalist to take this seriously from the very first item. Reporters constantly distort news to fit their ideology.

    Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
    SINCE WHEN??? Since when do journalists supply us with information backing up the credibility of “insider” whispers intended to destroy politicians they disagree with?

    Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
    This is a joke, right? Did I miss Dan Rather’s quick admission and correction of his forged memos? Did I miss Rather’s *late* admission and correction? No, he and Mapes are still defending the indefensible and sliming all of those no good lyin’ blogs for making it all up.

    Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
    Oh, yes, liberal journalists are really into exchanging views with red-state America. We know this one for the “code” it is, which is to listen to repugnantly leftist voices with sympathy, but to automatically portray actual political opponents as loons and kooks.

    Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
    Sigh. Does this even need to be commented on? Look at the articles on the French riots, and you’ll find lots of in-article editorializing.

    Talk about ethics — this “Code” is a collection of some of the biggest whoppers out there. It’s an ethical lapse unto itself. Apart from these humorous gags… what did Judy Miller really do that was out of step from her colleagues?

    In the end, “journalistic ethics” tends to be more PR than actual practice. Sorry to be partisan, but it’s quite clear that these ethics mean nothing when awards and honors are being dished out to ethically-challenged journalists clearly working for the cause of their correct ideology. Judy Miller is no better, but it’s clear that she has become a poster-child for Democrats and the left because her mistakes somehow aided the “wrong side”.

  • http://accidentalverbosity.com Jay

    I was excited by the original PJ concept. I grew more skeptical over time, and what it ended up being bore limited resemblance to the plan as presented to me in one of the early NDA invitations. Change isn’t automatically bad, as things sometimes don’t work out as expected or prove viable, but it looked too different, and lost the main incentive it had for many of us: shared revenue and clout for distributed advertising across many small blogs.

    I had pictured it as a way to sell blog advertising to mass marketers; companies that rely on saturation. Thus the possibility in my mind that hundreds or thousands of blogs might all display the same ad for, say, Coca-Cola, when no blog except maybe the very largest would ever get an advertiser of that size, with that spending power. I perceived it as a way for a blogger whose ads might not even be worth $10 a month through BlogAds, where they wouldn’t even talk to people that size anymore anyhow and were a chronic source of poor loading of some blogs that did have BlogAds, to perhaps dip a bucket in the ad ocean and come up with, say, 50 clams where the alternative might have been lucky if it’s 10. Bonus if sometimes quality writing on small name blogs could be syndicated alongside writing from larger blogs.

    TPTB behind PJ were perhaps more excited about the content angle, and walked away from the distributed advertising (in whatever form they had envisioned it that may or may not have resembled my perception of what the proposed) on smaller blogs as technically onerous. Which I could see it possibly being. I could also see it being killed by inside the box thinking or desires of monetary backers. Oh well.

  • http://www.windsofchange.net Marc Danziger

    Just for the record, while I wish the PJ’s folks every success (any- and everything that promotes the power of bottom-up discourse is good, in my view), I haven’t been involved in it for quite some time.

    Marc Danziger
    “Armed Liberal”

  • http://www.pjnet.org Leonard Witt

    Jeff you wrote: I also did not hear what I thought was a sensible business model when they started and I told both Roger Simon and Mark Danziger that long ago. I chose not to participate.

    Please expand on the above. Now that more blogs are being colonized, it would be good to hear the pluses and minuses of joining group blogs like Pajamas Media.

  • ZF

    Pajamas Media’s management now has two huge strikes against it, two completely unnecessary blunders disfiguring its brand. One, the G-D name… and now installing Judy ‘WTF’ Miller as their hood ornament.

    And, like you, I have never had anything against them or what they set out to do.

    They have turned themselves into a useful litmus test of the whole blog monetization phenomenon. If they can turn PM into a successful business despite missteps like this, which in most other industries would reliably prove fatal, then the hype will instantly be shown to have been understated!

  • Evil Progressive

    Judy Miller is no prize, but then, neither is the so-called liberal media.

    The New York Times and the Washington Post have been slavishly and cowardly giving Bush and his Administration a “P” for “Pass” for the past five years.

    Had a Democratic Administration done half of the quarter of the square root of the harm this Administration has caused to America and Americans, they would have been howling for blood and screaming impeachment.

    Under the cover of “balance”, the “liberal” media continues to sanction the dissembling of a demented Administration.

    No wonder readership is down at The NYT and WP. The readers are disgusted.

  • corvan

    Speaking of trust Jeff, I can’t help but ask, is the lesson a reporter wishes his audience take from his story more important than the facts of the story? Niether you nor Jay Rosen have ever answered that question.

  • http://francispage.blogspot.com Chris Francis

    >>> “I’m not even saying whether Miller should be fired or treated as a pariah — I said she should do the profession a favor and quit.”

    As should her editors. They’ve blown it twice now, counting Jayson Blair. And this whole sorry affair will not end until a head rolls.

    An uncle of mine, a union man, once told me “a good union cleans its own house.” And that’s what SPJ needs to do — stand up for the greater good of the profession rather than a person who is getting a pass because she presumably stood for principle… or appeared she was.

    I’m glad I don’t belong this organization. Their actions insult all of us who genuinely care about their integrity.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Corvan: I honestly have no idea what you’re trying to ask.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    It’s very clear why they’re launching with Judy Miller. She’s everything they really want to be.

  • corvan

    After the Katrina media debacle you lambasted Tim Russert for calling down a man who had lied to him on National TV. ( The man had claimed Fema’s incompetence had killed a grandmother, when in fact, her death was the responsiblity of the nursing home she had lived in.) At that time you admitted that Russert was correcting a false-hood, but you said, in effect, that he was in error for letting the facts obstruct the “lesson” of the story. I asked you repeatedly in that thread and others if the the lesson a reporter wished his audience to take from an even were more important than the facts surrounding the event. In repsonse you labled me a member of the Bernie Goldberg hit squad. I’m wondering if you will answer the question wihtout callimg me names and without tossing the f-bomb at me (like you did Bill Quick).

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Corvan:
    I’ve discussed that at length. The fact that there were mistakes or exaggerations in that particular story does not erase the facts that that woman died and that the response at all levels by all parties in New Orleans was unsatisfactory and if you were satisfied remind me not to vote for you, whoever you are.

  • Jorge

    Ms Miller in my opinion is linked to many others in the corporate media to form a plague like virus that is spreading throughout Truth In News. This decimating virus is not just limited to commercial news. It includes administration and foreign government propaganda machines.

    The News Media in this country could save itself a painful death from this virus if only it would prescribe for itself a huge dose of antiviral Truth medication.

    More as likely it will invite the virus to comsume it’s innards completely.

  • corvan

    You still haven’t answered the question. Instead you’ve taken another shot at me. This thread is about trust right? Well isn’t answering simple questions part of being trustworthy? Isn’t your audience entitled to know how you view the events you report on and comment about? Should your search for lessons trump your search for facts? Is journalism about reporting the facts or is it something else entirely? And if it is something else, then is there really any such thing as objectivity? For that matter who decides what lessons should be taught?

  • Gary and Abby

    So learned Mr. Jarvis was a proponent of war to install democracy (whatever he thinks that is) in Iraq. At over 100,000 dead, in a land 7,000 miles from our technocrat’s tears, with a king’s treasure poured into the whirlwind, I wonder how our reasoned host rationalizes away the blood on his hands. Simply repulsive.

  • corvan

    Look Jeff, I know you have to put up with people like Gary and Abby. That would make anyone cranky. And when I first asked the question regarding lessons and facts I was hacked off and probably more stringent than I should have been. That said, the question is important, and one all of journalism should ask itself and answer. Then it should share the answer with the rest of us. Most folks assume that journalism is supposed to be about collecting and reporting facts. Is that what it is about? Or is it simply a teaching opportunity? Don’t the consumers deserve to know that?

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Corvan: What do you think? I’d like to hear your own answer.

  • corvan

    I think first and foremost it should be a fact gathering, checking and reporting business. After that if you want to teach lessons fine, but clearly mark it commentary.

  • http://www.elflife.com/cgi-bin/txt.cgi/ Carson Fire

    I hate to say it, because I love Jeff Jarvis madly, but corvan does make an extremely good point. Jeff was reticent about backing away from the Katrina whoppers because they illustrated a truth that he believed in.

    Unfortunately, that is indeed the unifying fault of many journalists, and apparently the primary fault of Judy Miller in her WMD reporting. It’s what we “right wingers” complain about in liberal journalism… it’s not that they always take the liberal side of arguments, but that so often they write their stories ahead of the facts; facts are not evidence or building blocks for them, but twisty things to be made to fit pre-existing assumptions.

    This sometimes can be used to support more conservative positions, if a reporter has certain conservative ideas (it’s possible to have both liberal and conservative leanings on different things), but it’s equally wrong in any case. In the case of Katrina, journalists decided that FEMA was taking too long to respond, and so then every rumor and innuendo was used to build on that agreed-upon theme. The result was not balanced reporting of the real world that told us where FEMA was at fault when it *was* their fault, what was out of their hands, and what should have been the responsibility of others, but an exaggerated fiction — the “big picture” — that portrayed FEMA as the cartoonish demon behind every single problem.

    Same for WMDS. It’s not like Miller was the first reporter to cover that beat, after all. We know that many reporters before her wrote stories in a similar vein, relying on intelligence agencies, politicians, and… well, just everybody. Miller simply got the hot potato when US forces entered Bahgdad, and became an especial target of the left when they conceived the spurious tale that we went into Iraq on a false pretext of WMD alone, and so “Bush lied and people died”.

    I don’t think it would be fair to say that Jeff was unethical in his Katrina whopper position; like Miller, it’s not a matter of ethics, but simply a matter of being wrong, or, at worst, stubborn.

    The insistence of many that Miller is unethical because she was wrong really does seem not to be an ethical position, but a partisan opinion, and that strikes me as being fundamentally unfair.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    Carson, Corvan:
    My point is simple and I’ve admitted messing up making it. But it’s this: Just because that one story on Russert’s show was wrong does not mean that everything was OK in New Orleans. The facts of that story were wrong. But that wasn’t the bigger story. And I don’t want to see efforts to find out what was wrong and fix it get dropped just because one guy screwed up with his facts. As for Miller: Read the Pressthink post (take an hour) and you’ll see that the ethical issues there weren’t whether she got it right but offering to do such things as identify Libby as a hill staffer (which she didn’t do but agreed to do). Jenny contrasts here work in various instances against the SPJ code. In any case, Corvan, I do think that people have perspectives/biases on stories and always have and what I want to see is transparency about them. My perspective about New Orleans was that too much of it was a needless tragedy and officials at all levels in both parties must be called to account not to witchhunt them but to learn and not make the same dire mistakes again.

  • corvan

    The facts of the story were wrong because the man lied to Russert on his own show. You were angry with Russert then, and as far as I can tell, you still are, because Russert, by correcting the story, weakened your argument.
    It wasn’t the only fact that was wrong about the story either…ten thousand dead, cannabalism, forty dead bodies in a freezer, law enforcement being fired upon by looters, baby’s being raped.
    You want an invesitgation fine, call for an investigation. You think Michael Brown is a zero, fine, make your case. But don’t use information that isn’t true then get angry at the people that correct the false-hoods.
    I’m not trying to be snarky here, and I’m not castigating you, but this is the main problem with journalism as it is now practiced. Its point isn’t to inform people. Its point is to convince people that the reporter’s beliefs, not the facts, the reporter’s beliefs, are wise and good and true.
    Journalists are not functioing as truth-tellers. They have become lawyers arguing a case. In doing that, like lawyers, they belittle all evidence that is contrary to their pre-conceived notions, which is what you were doing to Russert.
    You’re also still arguing, whether you realize it or not, that advocacy is far more important than the truth with your current position.
    That’s fine, if that’s the way the game is played we can all live with it. But journalists should stop pretending that they’re objective. When a lawyer argues a case we know who he represents. When a politician argues for his program we know his party affiliation. We have a right to know when reporters have decided to take up a position rather than just report.
    Until that is taught in journalism school no one, but no one will respect much of anything journalists have to say.
    As far as Judy Miller goes I have read all of Jay Rosen’s posts, and Carson is right. If you want to take the position that Miller was out of control and running the NY Times, maybe you have a point. To treat her like Walter Duranty is somethin else entirely. BTW have you ever asked anyone at the Times why they’re holding on to Duranty’s Pulitzer? That’s an eorror thye haven’t beaten themselves up over much. Okay, that last was snarky. I apologize for it. But I hope you see my point. In journalism there are errors that are good apparently and errors that are bad. I think all errors should be bad.

  • http://www.elflife.com/cgi-bin/txt.cgi/ Carson Fire

    I promise I’ll go read the PressThink piece again, Jeff. I have to admit that I skipped over parts of it looking for just that: the actual meat of the allegations against Miller. I have to say, though, that things like offering to “identify Libby as a hill staffer” still doesn’t strike many of us as being out of the ordinary for what we know about the press in general. This isn’t a defense of Miller; I’m asking why journalists who condemn her think that they’re any better. We have had the revelations of journalists inserting their own quotes, pretending to be their own sources; we have instances of the press going to partisans hacks and identifying them in stories as non-partisan experts. There is no difference between this misidentification and Miller’s.

    Don’t dismiss too quickly the general distrust that the public has with the press. As soon as I left your site a few minutes ago, I found a brand new sample of dubious journalism that seems relevant.

    This is a great one: in brief, a gentleman named Jimmy Massey has been travelling with Cindy Sheehan, and has written a book called Kill! Kill! Kill! in which he outlines all manner of Kerryesque war atrocities committed by him and his marine buddies while in Iraq.

    From the St Louis Dispatch via Gateway Pundit (spot those journalistic ethics!):

    News organizations worldwide published or broadcast Massey’s claims without any corroboration and in most cases without investigation. Outside of the Marines, almost no one has seriously questioned whether Massey, a 12-year veteran who was honorably discharged, was telling the truth.

    He wasn’t.

    Each of his claims is either demonstrably false or exaggerated – according to his fellow Marines, Massey’s own admissions, and the five journalists who were embedded with Massey’s unit, including a reporter and photographer from the Post-Dispatch and reporters from The Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal.

    The details of Massey’s stories changed repeatedly.

    For example, he almost always told his audiences and interviewers of an event he said he’d never forget: Marines in his unit shooting four civilian Iraqis in red Kia automobile.

    In some accounts, Massey said Marines fired at the vehicle after it failed to stop at a checkpoint. In another version, he said the Marines stormed the car.

    Sometimes he said three of the men were killed immediately while the fourth was wounded and covered in blood; sometimes he said the fourth man was “miraculously unscathed.”

    (go to the article for EVEN MORE variations!!!)

    On reporting the Sheehan beat, reporters were too busy reporting on the story that they liked to be bothered with mere facts and truth. Why would they suspect the veracity of somebody who they agree with and who says things that supports their preconceptions?

    It’s not just a matter of transparency or point-of-view. There seems to be something extra that journalists suffer from. It’s a sort of denial of point-of-view. They really *do* believe that they are unbiased; the really *do* believe that the world is exactly the way they see it. This leads them to make bad choices; they give free passes to people the rest of us are suspicious of, and dig in like demons on others with the flimsiest and most irrelevant of evidence. Many of us were disappointed (but not surprised) recently when Ed Bradley “interviewed” Joe Wilson on 60 Minutes. Despite a long list of Wilson’s documented deceptions, veteran journalist Bradley mostly just “grilled” Wilson on the misdeeds of his political enemies.

    But being honest about Wilson’s actual veracity shouldn’t preclude continuing to probe the government if there’s really something there. But in this instance, the press is happier to continue being propagandists for their point of view than being reporters covering a story in a fair manner from a point of view.

    Like FEMA/Broussard, getting to the truth does *not* preclude holding FEMA accountable for *what they really did*. If anything creates a perception that FEMA should be let off the hook, it’s the erroneous, fact-challenged reporting in the first place, that was bound to be disproven and fall away, not the fact in itself that the record is corrected. Journalists created the mythology; if that mythology is shattered, that is not a fault to be laid at the feet of truth. Justice and propaganda are not the same thing.

  • http://www.elflife.com/cgi-bin/txt.cgi/ Carson Fire

    I guess I’m rubbing it in, but how about this recent deception from the NYT, printing an excerpt of a dead soldier’s last letter to his girlfriend out-of-context specifically to support the reporter’s point-of-view instead of the soldier’s:

    In her first public comments since the letter scandal erupted, Anonical [the girlfriend] told The Post that going public with the private letter was one of the hardest decisions of her life.

    Seeing it used by The Times to misrepresent her boyfriend’s beliefs about the war stung deeply, she said.

    “The reason I chose to share that letter was the paragraph about why he was doing this, not the part about him expecting to die. It hurt, it really hurt,” she said by phone from Seattle.

    I believe I have read that the editor’s defense is that the NYT was justified in excising the actual theme — the real meaning — of the letter because there was balance provided by *another* soldier’s words in the same article. But that seems to be a rather weak justification for distorting one soldier’s words to support the paper’s point of view. If ten soldiers say “A” and the NYT says “B”, pretending that 50% of the soldiers say “B” is not balance, it is purposefully deceptive propaganda.

    And I’m sure we can find hundreds of other examples of journalists behaving in what would seem to most people to be just as unethical or worse than anything Judy Miller did. Yet they are not held up for especial ridicule and scorn, and, unfortunately, that seems to be because such behavior is far more the norm than the exception.

  • http://www.elflife.com/cgi-bin/txt.cgi/ Carson Fire

    Oh, and that does come back to the central theme of the original post: “It’s about trust”. Yes, it is.

  • Menlo Bob

    As time passes I find my sympathy to be less with the host of this site. I stop by from time to time, but less often and with less value to show for it. Whatever it is that powers his reasoning is a source of wonder. Both Carson and Corvan have exposed Mr. Jarvis is a promoter of jibberish.

  • http://www.elflife.com/cgi-bin/txt.cgi/ Carson Fire

    No, I want to follow right up on that, especially since I was already worried that I might be helping to create that impression. Jeff Jarvis is one of the best media critics out there, and writes an engaging blog.

    We are all wrong about things from time to time, and it is human to find justifications for our beliefs. Jeff is actually far better than most writers in taking in feedback and revising and rethinking his positions… sometimes sticking by his guns, sometimes by acknowledging the arguments of others, and sometimes by admitting that he was wrong.

    Most writers don’t lay so much on the line as Jeff Jarvis does. I certainly don’t lay as many of my own personal beliefs out there to be squabbled over by people I don’t know.

    My critique is on journalism in general; I consider Jeff Jarvis to be one of the better front men for moving journalism in the right direction.

    If reading his blog was just about agreeing or disagreeing with him all the time, I wouldn’t read it. And it is one of the few blogs that I continue to read regularly, despite being a “wingnut”.

  • Jorge

    One man’s jibberish is another man’s free speech.

  • http://www.workingwithwords.blogspot.com John Ettorre

    You’re absolutely right about this, Jeff. I’ve been tough on you in the past, but you’re right on about this shameful situation. In fact, I’ve just resigned from SPJ over this very issue. The final nail in the coffin, after going back and forth about this in my head for a couple of weeks, was reading on Jay Rosen’s site that the SPJ delegates voted to take out some not-so-complimentary language from the award, which would have been a reasonable and honorable way to signal internal qualms. Shame on SPJ’s leadership for this.

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  • Bob Kasprzak

    Great blog. I stumbled upon you via crooks and liars. I’m impressed by the high level of debate that I find here between, shall we say, both sides of the political spectrum. I’m a 58 YO retired telco lineman and practicing fine arts painter as well as professional musician ( guitar and vocals ). Along the way I became a political junkie with decidedly liberal leanings although I’m not slavish in my relationship to the democratic party. However I really can’t find any thing to admire in the current gang in the white house. So what I’d really like to ask of the conservative leaning posters is their opinion of Fox news. If you’re going to take on the NYT for bad reporting, which they are certainly guilty of from time to time, then why does Fox tend to get a free pass. I don’t think a more egregious example of deliberately distorted news can be found, at least on TV. Admittedly I’m new to this site so you may have thoroughly excoriated them in the past. I’d like to hear your views.
    Good night and good luck.
    Bob

  • Bob Kasprzak

    I’D LIKE TO RESPOND TO:
    “Mumblix Grumph Says:
    November 6th, 2005 at 10:11 am
    There are people out there who think that Miller has started a domino effect that will eventually lead to Bush being impeached. I guess they believe that if Bush is gone, terrorism will disappear, gas will be 50 cents a gallon, hurricanes will stop and breast cancer will be cured…all in the first 2 weeks of President Hillary’s term! It will be like a Walgreens TV ad. It’s all thanks to Judith Miller’s bravery in not revealing a source who said she was free to do so.
    (SHRUG) Some dolts like Michael Moore too, so there’s no accounting for taste.”
    RESPONSE:
    Mumblix Grumph, as much as I’d like to see Bush and Cheyney in chains, ( appealingly alliterative is it not ) I do not think that Hillary is the answer to the countries problems. Your remarks about what people like me think and wish for are informed by your own prejudices and are patently untrue. Most of my friends are liberal and not one of them has expressed anything vaguely like any of your assertions. If you are a journalist then you have given a remarkably cogent example of specious reporting.
    As for Michael moore; I’ve met him and he is an intelligent person and a passionate advocate for justice. If you want to call me a dolt for liking, nay, admiring MM perhaps you should spend some time listening to the vocal ramblings of your hero W.
    ( “dissasemble, that means to not tell the truth.” ) Odds botkins, man;the entire planet knows who the dolt is. (SHRUB)
    As a veteran of 30 years on the back of a line truck I know that your remarks are sourced by a Patrician view of the lower end of the food chain that is made out of ignorance and hubris. The fact that a guy or gal wears a baseball cap doesn’t mean they’re stupid.
    Speaking of hubris; if W does get impeached, and I sure hope he does, then the credit/blame can be laid squarely at the feet of his VEEP, not Judy Miller! We didn’t believe in the “domino effect” during the vietnam war either. Of course if Ms Millers stupendous incompetence/perfidy should have anything to do with Ws leaving office in disgrace then so much the better. You might even call that poetic justice. (SHRUG)
    Good night and good luck
    Bob

  • Bob Kasprzak

    I’D LIKE TO RESPOND TO:
    “Mumblix Grumph Says:
    RESPONSE:
    Mumblix Grumph, as much as I’d like to see Bush and Cheyney in chains, ( appealingly alliterative is it not ) I do not think that Hillary is the answer to the countries problems. Your remarks about what people like me think and wish for are informed by your own prejudices and are patently untrue. Most of my friends are liberal and not one of them has expressed anything vaguely like any of your assertions. If you are a journalist then you have given a remarkably cogent example of specious reporting.
    As for Michael moore; I’ve met him and he is an intelligent person and a passionate advocate for justice. If you want to call me a dolt for liking, nay, admiring MM perhaps you should spend some time listening to the vocal ramblings of your hero W.
    ( “dissasemble, that means to not tell the truth.” ) Odds botkins, man;the entire planet knows who the dolt is. (SHRUB)
    As a veteran of 30 years on the back of a line truck I know that your remarks are sourced by a Patrician view of the lower end of the food chain that is made out of ignorance and hubris. The fact that a guy or gal wears a baseball cap doesn’t mean they’re stupid.
    Speaking of hubris; if W does get impeached, and I sure hope he does, then the credit/blame can be laid squarely at the feet of his VEEP, not Judy Miller! We didn’t believe in the “domino effect” during the vietnam war either. Of course if Ms Millers stupendous incompetence/perfidy should have anything to do with Ws leaving office in disgrace then so much the better. You might even call that poetic justice. (SHRUG)
    Good night and good luck
    Bob

  • miholo

    corvan:

    1) Russert was dealing with the details of one small story in a bigger story being wrong. The details should indeed have been corrected, but a simple statement would suffice. Aggressively challenging a man dealing with incredible stress and personal loss, just because right wingers demanded it for political reasons, was unseemly. And if the details of that one story were not quite right, it is still true that the woman died because of official negligence. And it is still true that several hundred other people, if not thousands, died because of FEMA’s incompetence.

    2) Miller didn’t just get the details of one story wrong. It’s not as if she said that the biological WMDs were in Basra, but actually that particular type of WMDs was in Tikrit. There were no WMDs, chemical, biological, or nuclear, anywhere, period. The whole thing was a fabrication, and she was a key member of the ‘cabal’ (to borrow Wilkerson’s term) that enabled that fabrication, repeatedly violating all ethical rules of journalism in the process. And tens of thousands died because of it.

    Sorry if you consider this ad hominem, but your fixation just sounds silly, and rather unintelligent.

  • Leo Dron

    “I supported the war in Iraq, not on the basis of Miller’s and Bush’s WMDs but instead on our obligation to bring democracy and freedom to the people of Iraq, a goal I’m afraid we’re going to fail because of the incompetence of the party in power and the lack of humanitarian will of the opposition party.”

    Our obligation to bring democracy and freedom to the people of Iraq? Now I understand why Americans were so hoodwinked. Because your premise is a fallacy and doomed to failure.

  • jill bryant

    On the Tim Russert discussion, additionally, is there the feeling this man intentionally lied? That isn’t what I got out of it. I believe the man was reciting the facts as he believed them. He was told the story by one person and, I’m assuming, in the light of everything that was going on, found no reason to doubt them—he was on the ground in the midst of all the incompetence (is there any disagreement on the incompetence?) So – the gentleman believed the facts (any disagreement there?) and Tim Russert reported them. As a reporter, shouldn’t Russert’s team have looked into the story BEFORE reporting but….it was crazy times so they apparently didn’t have a chance.

    What I then saw, as a viewer, was Tim trying to do some browbeating of a misinformed source of information (to show hard journalistic integrity??) against a man who had suffered through a disaster and seemed close to breaking and I don’t think that was the way to handle it. AND, I think this is Jarvis’s point – does anyone think that, because this story was misreported (it was definitely a story, at the least, against the horrendous actions of the nursing home), this meant the overall incompetence charge against FEMA was untrue? Tim could’ve done a piece on how, in the heat of the moment, there had been some unsubstantiated reporting going on, and this was one case of it — so, with a little bit of time and perspective, let’s take another look at the overall situation. I think it was improper to go after this man who was not a reporter and, as far as I could tell, was just passing on the facts as he knew them.

    Now, let’s look at a different case and find out what the feeling is – Pat Tillman. Where did this information come from and is there someone to put on Russert and hold accountable?

    BTW – I would like to hear what Carson Fire thinks Joe Wilson’s documented deceptions are. I have seen everything I’ve heard about be debunked by actually reading what Wilson wrote. But – maybe I’m missing a few things. Could we please hear what those are?

  • http://www.elflife.com/cgi-bin/txt.cgi/ Carson Fire

    Bob: So what I’d really like to ask of the conservative leaning posters is their opinion of Fox news. If you’re going to take on the NYT for bad reporting, which they are certainly guilty of from time to time, then why does Fox tend to get a free pass. I don’t think a more egregious example of deliberately distorted news can be found, at least on TV.

    “You don’t think” being the operative phrase, Bob.

    1. I have heard conservatives criticize FoxNews many times, just not for the ideological things you are probably concerned with.

    2. Unless you have an example or two, it’s difficult to offer a criticism or defense. Your opinion that FoxNews is an “egregious example of deliberately distorted news” holds no more weight than if I said the Guardian is a puerile liberal rag. Name calling doesn’t mean anything, which is why you’ll find the “wingnuts” attacking specific journalistic incidents (like the fact that journalists didn’t question Jimmy Massey’s tales) while the left speaks in large, sweeping generalities about what they do and don’t like about FoxNews (FauxNews! Media whores! Lying liars! Bill O’Reilly! Squee!).

    I’m sure you can find something specific; I’m not saying that FoxNews is a bastion of perfect, responsible journalism. They are not a conservative brain trust, but a sensationalistic cable channel who use fiery pundits to fit a neglected niche. That goes back to the first point. But you’ll have to say what exactly bugs you. My experience has been that leftist complaints about FoxNews are never about procedure or truth, but ideological disagreement (trying to redefine leftist opinion as incontrovertible fact).

    Jill: AND, I think this is Jarvis’s point – does anyone think that, because this story was misreported (it was definitely a story, at the least, against the horrendous actions of the nursing home), this meant the overall incompetence charge against FEMA was untrue?

    That is a fallacy to justify mythtelling.

    Get a grip… I can’t keep track of whether Jeff Jarvis has backed away from this or not, but the “Big Picture” argument stripped away of emotion is: lie to prove what you believe because what you believe is true. Even if you have to lie to make it appear true.

    FEMA’s incompetence should be borne out by *true* stories about their incompetence, not stories we made up that we wish were true because we want sooo bad to believe them. Simlarly, if the press wants to prove an MIA story about Bush is true, then they shouldn’t offer up lies in the form of forged memos and then claim that evidence doesn’t really matter because what they believe is true even though they apparently felt they had to lie to prove what they believe is true.

    The “Swifties” succeeded against John Kerry, not because they were lying (a key self-deception among Democrats) but because many of their charges turned out to be demonstrably *true*, and their detractors (including Jeff Jarvis) didn’t offer much to counter them except to scream “liar liar liar” at them.

    Back to Jimmy Massey… it’s bad enough the press gave a free pass to this proven liar (“proven” is key, as opposed to just yelling it generically at people you disagree with)… but apart from the one brave reporter (Ron Harris of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) who dared to expose the fraud, how many reporters do you think are going to follow up? Have you seen Massey’s debunking featured prominently on any TV news broadcast, despite weeks and weeks of trying to — falsely — build his pal Cindy Sheehan up as a national movement? Any reporters who happily passed along his sick propaganda going to report that they were wrong in believing him and wrong for not checking the facts like they always CLAIM that they do when they make big speeches about how great they are?

    The response of Harris’s colleagues who were duped by Massey? Mostly, a collective shrug. I e-mailed a reporter from The Washington Post asking if he would follow up. No response. A USA Today reporter told me he had no plans to do so. And I spoke with David Holwerk, editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee, which ran a lengthy freelance interview of Massey by an anti-war activist. “I don’t know what we’re planning to do,” Holwerk said.

    Harris noted in a television interview that Massey continues to sell books and DVDs that smear our troops. “[I]t’s been profitable for Jimmy Massey to keep telling this lie,” he said.

    Apparently, despite the newspaper industry’s plunging circulation figures and credibility, Massey’s media enablers believe the same thing.

    There you have it. We the press lied, but we don’t care. We like our lies, so even though our lies turned out to be lies, we stand firmly behind our lies. And Judy Miller sucks!

    Lying has become a bad habit for far too many among the press and the left, justified, apparently, by a fervent belief in What They Know and a maniacal fear that the Right Is Winning, and it doesn’t take a particularly right-wing ideological stance to see this. Average citizens see it in the press, which is why polling shows such a distinct lack of trust by the public in the press. We’re used to being lied to in order to preserve some “big picture” or other. And it was not encouraging to see a trusted blogger like Jeff Jarvis defend the preservation of lies with his own “big picture” argument.

    BTW – I would like to hear what Carson Fire thinks Joe Wilson’s documented deceptions are.

    Gladly.

    He lied about who sent him. He originally alluded to Cheney, but it was really the CIA via his wife.
    He lied about his findings. Iraq had indeed been trying to acquire yellowcake.
    He lied in saying that the “16 words” were debunked. They were not debunked by his actual findings, and were supported by other reports.
    He lied about Robert Novak.

    From the LATimes: Plamegate’s real liar

    The least consequential of these fibs was his denial that it was his wife who got him sent to Niger in February 2002 to check out claims that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence later stated, in a bipartisan report, that evidence indicated it was Mrs. Wilson who “had suggested his name for the trip.” By leaking this fact to the news media, Libby and other White House officials were merely setting the record straight — not, as Wilson would have it, punishing his Mata Hari wife.

    Much more egregious were the ways in which Wilson misrepresented his findings. In his famous New York Times Op-Ed article (July 6, 2003), Wilson gave the impression that his eight-day jaunt proved that Iraq was not trying to acquire uranium in Africa. Therefore, when administration officials nevertheless cited concerns about Hussein’s nuclear ambitions, Wilson claimed that they had “twisted” evidence “to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.” The Senate Intelligence Committee was not kind to this claim either.

    The panel’s report found that, far from discrediting the Iraq-Niger uranium link, Wilson actually provided fresh details about a 1999 meeting between Niger’s prime minister and an Iraqi delegation. Beyond that, he had not supplied new information. According to the panel, intelligence analysts “did not think” that his findings “clarified the story on the reported Iraq-Niger uranium deal.” In other words, Wilson had hardly exposed as fraudulent the “16 words” included in the 2003 State of the Union address: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” In fact, the British government, in its own post-invasion review of intelligence, found that this claim was “well founded.”

    Victoria Toensing, the expert who the left is desperately trying to smear and destroy, apparently with nothing more to go on than she is very credible and says things they don’t want to hear, makes clear that even the heart of Wilson’s tale is dubious, insomuch as so many rules and procedures were broken to get Wison on a national soapbox via Niger in the first place:

    Mr. Wilson was not required to sign a confidentiality agreement, a mandatory act for the rest of us who either carry out any similar CIA assignment or represent CIA clients.

    When he returned from Niger, Mr. Wilson was not required to write a report, but rather merely to provide an oral briefing. That information was not sent to the White House. [contradicting another Wilson claim]…

    Although Mr. Wilson did not have to write even one word for the agency that sent him on the mission at taxpayer’s expense, over a year later he was permitted to tell all about this sensitive assignment in the New York Times. For the rest of us, writing about such an assignment would mean we’d have to bring our proposed op-ed before the CIA’s Prepublication Review Board and spend countless hours arguing over every word to be published. Congressional oversight committees should want to know who at the CIA permitted the publication of the article, which, it has been reported, did not jibe with the thrust of Mr. Wilson’s oral briefing. For starters, if the piece had been properly vetted at the CIA, someone should have known that the agency never briefed the vice president on the trip, as claimed by Mr. Wilson in his op-ed.

    This is not the bold hero the left imagines, but like with Jeff’s insistence that we protect Broussard’s lie, and the inclination by the press to hype Massey then shrug when the truth comes to light, Joe Wilson’s lies are a “Big Picture” that many want so, so badly to believe, and so not only is every lie excused, every lie is promoted and defended in the face of facts and truth.

    Which is why all you got for Fitzmas was one guy, who you probably never heard of before, for nothing more than not being able to keep what were probably previously insignificant details of a story straight. The whole Plamegate thing is only a scandal if you really really believe that the government was trying to “get” somebody by outing Valerie Plame; but as the truth is more likely, the government was probably just defending itself against the hyper-political agenda of a loud, lying leftist (Wilson).

  • corvan

    Jeff, I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I have to ask I answered your question. Why won’t you answer mine? Is the lesson a reporter wishes his audience to take from a story more important than the facts?

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  • Katie

    I+have+been+looking+for+

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