Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 5:17 AM

Journalism Is ‘Having a Very, Very Pathetic Moment’

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

My disdain for what passes for journalism these days is well documented. And 60 Minutes, the reputed standard bearer of broadcast journalism, only reinforced my disdain on Sunday when public outrage forced it to issue a pathetic apology for reporting one man’s delusions of grandeur as facts.

Specifically, its highly touted October 27 report  (on the 9/11/12 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi) turned out to be rife with fabrications – all seemingly intended to further undermine the credibility of the Obama Administration.

7be283e0-ff5c-4e64-9018-f1204eab8c7a_16x9_600x338Frankly, one could be forgiven for thinking that 60 Minutes was reporting on events from a parallel universe where only the minds of rabid Tea Partiers meld. Not least because, like most allegations Tea Partiers make about Obama, it only took a simple Google search to debunk all of the material allegations in its report.

Most notable in this respect was the account its star interviewee (who I shan’t dignify by naming) gave about his heroic efforts to fend off the Benghazi terrorists. He claimed that he had no choice but to act because the Obama Administration “refused” repeated SOSs to send in the Marines. But again, to quote America’s preeminent media critic Jon Stewart, his account “was total bullshit.”

We realized we had been misled and it was a mistake to include him in our report. For that, we are very sorry.

(60 Minutes, November 10, 2013)

Let’s ignore the fact that (investigative) reporters apologizing for being “misled” by an interviewee is rather like criminal investigators apologizing for being lied to by a thief….

Because the real story here is that journalism has become the pursuit of TV ratings for corporate profits at the expense of journalistic truth. Nothing demonstrates this quite like 60 Minutes failing to mention in its original report or follow-up apology that this entire segment was little more than an infomercial for a book on Benghazi by its star interviewee, which its corporate parent CBS had just published through another of its media properties, Simon and Schuster. Talk about weaving a tangled web….

Apropos of which, here’s just a taste of my disdain:

Don’t get me started on the way journalists now troll social media for news and report on every tragedy as if it were the friggin’ Super Bowl. For journalism has become such a pathetic enterprise – so utterly bereft of principles like journalistic truth, professional independence, and duty to inform – that journalists think nothing of reporting what they think the public wants to consume as news instead of informing the public about what is newsworthy. Some purported news organizations even generate sensational, “viral” headlines and then have creative writers produce stories to match those headlines. Sadly, journalists are becoming just like investment bankers who think nothing of packaging a junk bond as a triple-A stock and selling it for a quick buck.

(“Nixonian” Obama Right to Spy on Associated Press,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 13, 2013)

News International Newspaper ApologyNot to mention that journalism’s phone-hacking scandals represent an even greater breach of the public trust than banking’s sub-prime and Libor scandals do.

After all, at an innate level, expecting bankers not to cheat is rather like expecting bees not to sting. By contrast, journalists breaking the law to find easy fodder for new stories shocks the conscience almost as much as priests sexually molesting boys as part of their pastoral prerogatives.

But my pet peeve these days is the malpractice inherent in TV journalists wasting hours every day with idle-minded speculation about the 2016 presidential election – three years before any such speculation could have any news value or relevance. Their malpractice is made brazenly hypocritical by the fact that these are the same journalists who, just months ago, were presenting snarky, indignant reports about retailers promoting Christmas wares in August – three months before any such promotion would seem appropriate.

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 4.07.05 PMThis is why I was so heartened on Friday when I read that no less a person than the doyenne of journalism has acquired a similar disdain:

Tina Brown, outgoing editor of the Daily Beast and former editor of the New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Newsweek, doesn’t even read magazines anymore — nor does she think too highly of journalism at all.

Brown told the audience of a THiNK conference in Goa, India on Friday that she is basically done with journalism, which she said is currently having a ‘very, very pathetic moment’ and has turned into advertising in order to try to make a profit.

‘Editorial outfits are now advertising agencies,’ she said.

(Huffington Post, November 8, 2013)

Welcome to the real world, Tina. After all, far from having a very, very pathetic moment, journalism has been in this pathetic state for years – as news programs interrupting reports on the crisis in Syria to bring viewers “BREAKING NEWS” on Lindsey Lohan’s latest arrest will attest. What’s more, I see no end in sight.

Related commentaries:
Phone hacking
Nixonian Obama

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