Once More Into The Abyss

Each Day

Probably the most confounding thing about the majority of modern journalists is their unsupportable claim to objectivity. They hold themselves out as above the fray, elusively detached from the world around them except as impartial observers designated to convey the “facts.” Writers’ determination to be uninvolved with the subjects of their stories and to restrain themselves from behaving in a manner that would alter the course of the events the reporters are covering is chalked up to an inviolable “journalistic duty.” Of such paramount importance is this duty that two former giants in the field declared they would not warn our soldiers of an impending attack should the intrepid newsmen be lucky enough to be covering the story in the company of our enemy (subscription link here; excerpt from Armed Liberal):

Then Ogletree turned to the two most famous members of the evening’s panel, better known than William Westmoreland himself. These were two star TV journalists: Peter Jennings of World News Tonight and ABC, and Mike Wallace of 6o Minutes and CBS. Ogletree brought them into the same hypothetical war. He asked Jennings to imagine that he worked for a network that had been in contact with the enemy North Kosanese government. After much pleading, the North Kosanese had agreed to let Jennings and his news crew into their country, to film behind the lines and even travel with military units. Would Jennings be willing to go? Of course, Jennings replied. Any reporter would-and in real wars reporters from his network often had. But while Jennings and his crew are traveling with a North Kosanese unit, to visit the site of an alleged atrocity by American and South Kosanese troops, they unexpectedly cross the trail of a small group of American and South Kosanese soldiers. With Jennings in their midst, the northern soldiers set up a perfect ambush, which will let them gun down the Americans and Southerners, every one. What does Jennings do? Ogletree asks. Would he tell his cameramen to “Roll tape!” as the North Kosanese opened fire? What would go through his mind as he watched the North Kosanese prepare to ambush the Americans? Jennings sat silent for about fifteen seconds after Ogletree asked this question. “Well, I guess I wouldn’t,” he finally said. “I am going to tell you now what I am feeling, rather than the hypothesis I drew for myself. If I were with a North Kosanese unit that came upon Americans, I think that I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans.” Even if it means losing the story? Ogletree asked.

Even though it would almost certainly mean losing my life, Jennings replied. “But I do not think that I could bring myself to participate in that act. That’s purely personal, and other reporters might have a different reaction.” Immediately Mike Wallace spoke up. “I think some other reporters would have a different reaction,” he said, obviously referring to himself. “They would regard it simply as a story they were there to cover.” “I am astonished, really,” at Jennings’s answer, Wallace said moment later. He turned toward Jennings and began to lecture him: “You’re a reporter. Granted you’re an American”-at least for purposes of the fictional example; Jennings has actually retained Canadian citizenship. “I’m a little bit at a loss to understand why, because you’re an American, you would not have covered that story.” Ogletree pushed Wallace. Didn’t Jennings have some higher duty, either patriotic or human, to do something other than just roll film as soldiers from his own country were being shot? “No,” Wallace said flatly and immediately. “You don’t have a higher duty. No. No. You’re a reporter!” Jennings backtracked fast. Wallace was right, he said. “I chickened out.” Jennings said that he had gotten so wrapped up in the hypothetical questions that he had lost sight of his journalistic duty to remain detached. As Jennings said he agreed with Wallace, everyone else in the room seemed to regard the two of them with horror.

That was from a roundtable discussion in 1987, but things have not changed much in the world of the mainstream media, although some independents are trying.

I noted the L.A. Times article on Michael Yon, and the author’s (and, to be honest, most of the audience’s) distaste for Yon’s not-well-considered actions in picking up a rifle and attempting to get involved in a firefight. What journalist would do anything like that?
What journalist would have, as the writer put it,

…ignored the barriers that traditionally separated the press from its subjects. He openly rooted for soldiers and helped them collect the wreckage after roadside bombings.

Well, I suppose you have to admire the devotion to impartiality exhibited here, eh? A willingness to divorce oneself from the vagaries of the world to such a degree as to leave one without a national allegiance of any sort must be a difficult way to go through life. We should all be awed by the sacrifice of such brave men and women.

Or not.

Did a liberal television network correspondent cause the 2000 Florida recount debacle?

When all eyes were on Florida and it wasn’t looking good for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, his campaign was warned by a senior network correspondent that conceding on Election Night would be a bad idea. That intervention stopped Gore from conceding the election according to a top Democratic strategist.

Interviewing Shrum about his new book, titled No Excuses, CNN host Howard Kurtz brought up Shrum’s revelation that he was warned by a “senior network correspondent” to stop Al Gore from giving his planned concession speech on the night of the 2000 election.

“A senior network correspondent, you said, called you and warned, ‘The Florida numbers are wrong. Don’t let him concede.’”

Shrum confirmed: “Someone I knew … I think this happened not only with me, someone else called Carter Eskew and, who was in a different place than I was at that point.”

So warning a Presidential candidate that conceding the election at at the time might be hasty: A-OK in the book of journalism.

Warning American soldiers they’re about to be ambushed by the enemy: serious dereliction of “journalistic duty!”

And if you didn’t have enough contempt for journalists already, Shrum waves off any objection to the journalistic intervention perpetrated during the 2000 presidential election with this howler:

I don’t, I don’t, I actually think that if the situations had been reversed, there would have been correspondents who would have called the Bush campaign and said, “The numbers are wrong, don’t let him concede, you shouldn’t concede,” something like that. I don’t think it was in the nature of giving advice, actually.

Yeah, I’m sure that’s how it would have worked out. [/sarcasm]

MORE: Gateway Pundit highlights how European Media bias serves to foster anti-Americanism there.

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3 Responses to “Once More Into The Abyss”

  1. on 20 Jun 2007 at 4:28 pm ChrisB

    So warning a Presidential candidate that conceding the election at at the time might be hasty: A-OK in the book of jourmalism.


  2. on 20 Jun 2007 at 5:17 pm MichaelW


  3. on 20 Jun 2007 at 11:48 pm Brian H

    Where did this meme come from that hidden and covert bias was better than an acknowledged stance with open efforts to compensate as needed come from? Oh, I guess the question answers itself; covert implies hidden motives, and they’re what’s starting to stick out like a sore thumb, aren’t they?

    The insertion of conclusions and judgment and opinion stated as fact into news reports seems to have become so standard, though, that it’s doubtful it can be expunged or halted. Reading most “reports” makes it clear that data and detail is inserted just to set up the generalizations and evaluations.

    When reporters start reporting rather than writing essays, they can make some claim to “objectivity”. Until then, the process of building up choirs to preach to will continue or accelerate. Too bad.

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