Fat Steve's Blatherings

Friday, May 27, 2005

Someone Gets It

      The Blogfather points out a story in Editor and Publisher about Linda Foley, the Newspaper Guild President who said that "being targeted for real" in Iraq by the U.S. military" in Iraq.

      The author, Thomas Lipscomb, points out that hardly anyone in the MSM has called Foley on her statement.  Why should we believe her?
      Foley had the advantage of seeing what happened to Jordan and, as the head of a powerful union of 35,000 journalists and media workers, she knew anything she said about targeting journalists would likely be scrutinized.  So one would expect that she has a pretty solid case for her revival of the discredited Jordan charges?  But one would be wrong.  Her spokesperson, Candice Johnson, told me Foley can provide “no evidence” to support her charges either.

      So what's the reaction, to an explosive charge with no evidence to support it?  Nothing:
      Sherlock Holmes’s key clue to who stole the racehorse in “Silver Blaze” was a dog in the stall that didn’t bark.  And something equally odd happened on the way to the Foley firestorm: To date, not a single pundit, editorial writer, or newspaper ran anything, with the exception of the Chicago Sun-Times story I wrote, a St. Paul Pioneer Press column by Mark Yost, and a Washington Times column item.

      Clearly Foley was correct in assuming the Right was the only danger to her repetition of the statement that got Eason Jordan canned.  The Mainstream Media couldn’t be bothered to cover “Easongate: The Sequel.”  And positioning Foley as the gallant defender of the lives of journalists targeted by the U.S. military was inspired PR.  After all, Sherlock Holmes’s dog didn’t bark because he was good friends with the thief.

      The end of the piece gets right to the point, in a way even the dishonest can understand:
      The average circulation decline among 684 US daily papers is averaging 1.9% in the past year.  In some places it is catastrophic.  This is the biggest drop in the last five years.  And no one is forecasting a turnaround yet.  In case it hasn’t occurred to anyone, that means fewer slots for Newspaper Guild workers.  Media credibility is in the toilet, even if the Koran isn’t.

      The Manchester Guardian’s Peter Preston explains where the circulation is going—-“the defectors are packing up and moving out of newsprint: to broadcasting in tiny measure (though radio and TV news are losing customers, too) but overwhelmingly to the Net.”  And it isn’t the Right or the blogosphere that are doing this to us, although that is what the MSM would prefer to believe.  We are doing it ourselves.

      If the most basic tenets of Journalism 101 are now no longer important enough for the media itself to honor and defend against their own members who violate them, where is the professionalism and the authority that is our main claim to writing the indispensable “first draft of history” – much less its value for sale?  And if we lose sight of that irretrievably, who needs us?  There are bloggers out there today with more credibility than Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, Eason Jordan, and Linda Foley combined, and their audiences are growing.

      If Foley is allowed to walk unchallenged from what Mencken might have called “a clear, simple, and” unproven statement, it will only accelerate the speed at which her members lose what is left of their credibility--and then their jobs.  (Look at The New York Times newsroom downsizing this week.)  If the press isn’t going to take its own standards seriously, it is hard to think of why anyone should take the press seriously enough to pay for it.  In the meantime, Rupert Murdoch’s and Roger Ailes’s success offers a constant unpleasant reminder: the media market prefers dogs that bark.



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