Thursday, February 10, 2005

Talon-Gate examined

See today's C-4 Story in the Washington Post by Howard Kurtz on this debacle. Interesting reading with something for everyone. Since most of what will be reported/talked about will undoubtedly lean left, I pick out a few of the nuggets that break the other way.

Note: I always enjoy reading Howard's column and seeing him on "Reliable Sources" and other shows. I think he plays it pretty much as even as can be expected.

First of all, this was a BAD idea. No question. Each party should realize that you live by the Web, you die by the Web.

The amazing thing is that people this high up in whatever position think this is something that they could get away with. Aren't they supposed to be the "best minds" out there? Geez. The process that approved this guy for credentials should be examined, especially given the pen name.

But then again, there are probably some reporters working in the press corps with "ethnic names" that have been shortened/American-ized for purposes of climbing up the media food chain, so who really knows. Like all those double given names, or first + middle names (i.e. Glenn Allen, David Scott or Sam Roberts--there's gotta be a few "Rabinowitz"-es or "Kazerinski-'s" or Berezansky's in that bunch. But, I digress....)

Still, bad idea and it deserved to be exposed. Too bad a guy's career and family get trashed, but that's hard ball politics.

Does that link it to some cabal involving the "compensated commentaries" by two "conservative" columnists? Apparently so, cause it got a letter generated to the White House by some Congresswoman. I guess that in the WH press corps, he stood out like a sore thumb. What does THAT say to you? Should be enough right there.

Next, what strikes me as very out of the ordinary is the use of "Liberal" and "Conservative" here. Looks like when referring to Web sources, these lables are OK to use in polite society. Don't mind this at all and it's something ALL media should adopt. Rather than marginalizing the Web sources, I actually think it liberates them.

Used to be (and for the most part, still is) that the label "conservative" gets applied, but never the counterweight "liberal" when modifying a person or policy or position. If you read a lot of Mainstream news, you might think there are only three positions:

  1. Extreme Right (sometimes called "Far" or simply "Extremist")
  2. Conservative, and
  3. The correct way (which is by some common sense the position taken by anyone with a Big "D" after their name.)
Think about it, have you ever heard something discussed in the media descibing something as "extreme Left" if is wasn't repeating what a Conservative or Republican said? Now think of how many times you seen/read/heard "conservative" tossed around.

And I'm not even saying that's "wrong"--somebody should have the courage of one's convictions. But it's fun to notice the differences in application. Anyway, ... back to the story!

We'll allow that -- for the sake of brevity -- Kurtz or his copy editors probably left a bit out of this article (like that reference to Guckert/Gannon's report on Kerry being "the first Gay president." I haven't read the post in question, but one can assume the CONTEXT of that characterization could have come in comparison between the infamous "first Black president" title applied to Bill Clinton and how Kerry was faring with L/G/B/T folks.) Let's grant him/them that OR you can track-back that article if you can find it since a lot of Guckert/Gannon's stuff has come down.

Here's another point that I think will get overlooked (and if a reporter out there really wants to be "unbiased" they should think about following up this angle):

Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor who writes on, said the tactics used against Gannon "seem to me to be

"If I were a member of the White House press corps, I'd be
worried," Reynolds said. "If working for a biased news organization
disqualifies you, a lot of people have a lot to be worried about. If
involved in a dubious business venture is disqualifying, I suspect a
lot of
people have a lot to be worried about. I guess I don't see what all
this has
to do with his job."
--Wash. Post, Howard Kurtz, Feb. 10,

Reynolds is probably right, except where but the Web are people going to hear about the results of such an examination? What is even more intriguing is the prospect of one news organization investigating and reporting the backgrounds of ANOTHER news org and "outing" them for either being on the Left or the Right. There could be wars going on. My guess the first news org on the list will be Fox.

Regarding "outing" journalists' and their political leanings.... I've often thought that this should be standard practice. George Stephanopolous as an employee of ABC News and Bill Moyers formerly of PBS are two prime examples.

How these guys can be presented as "journalists" without being identified as former Democrat staffers is a crock! And I don't mean once in four years when reporting from a Convention or Presidential/Mid Term elections--I mean EVERY time they sign on. It should be, "Good evening, I'm Bill Moyers. A former speechwriter for Pres. Johnson...."

There are kids just coming into voting age who might not know their backgrounds, or those people with short memories, the uncaring/uninformed, and unfortunately, there are some among the elderly, who think that because they are on TV or in the newspaper, they are true "unbiased" journalists.

Now--I think "journalists" who get involved with organized politics at the volunteer or paid staff level have pretty much cast their die. Not that they can't do a good job reporting and that they are incapable of being truthful or honest, but they need to let people know from whence they came. Guess it's like being a recovering alcoholic--you never really "get clean" but stay clean one day at a time. I think they owe it to people who watch/read/listen to them and extend to them an aura of "journalistic credibility." Reporters/journalists of BOTH political stripes should have no problem with doing that.

Here's the next one:

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), welcomed the news. In his question at the presidential news conference, Gannon had said that in an effort to disparage the U.S. economy "Harry Reid was talking about soup lines," which is not accurate and which Gannon later acknowledged was a characterization he picked up from Rush Limbaugh. "New media or old media, the fact is the question he asked was based on a lie, and that's unacceptable," Manley said. "Fundamentally, what he was reporting was not truthful."
--Washington Post, Howard Kurtz, Feb.
Boy, if that's not the pot calling the kettle black. Do I even need to bring up Memo Gate again? Explain to me how this is any different, Mr. Manley.