Journalist: Ethics or Elitists?

First... thanks to Cavalor for the leadership & insight - developing a Digital Press Club may be the hottest thing since the discovery of Bull Riders!!! Greetings to the rest of you... I am looking forward to reading all your stuff!!!

Certainly, there is an abundance of news covered without investigation or proper disclosure of political alliances, personal dalliances or outright relationships. Without proper context the news might as well be placed in the recycle bin. As domestic politics encroaches on the habitat of Hard News... fewer and fewer reporters/producers are objective.

The Scooter Libby trial demonstrates a weird phenomenon akin to the death of the Extreme Right Wing. The midterm elections put Extremists (outfitted with Ostrich suits) into a Terri Schiavo-esque electoral coma. They don't know it yet. Likewise, the truce that has existed between the press corps and government came to a close when Opening Arguments began in the Scooter Libby trial.

The Washington Press Corps enjoys a dominance and stature, built on the shoulders of honorable men & women like Bob Woodward. The current crop has benefited from the truce that exists between the federal government and the press. News copy gets written because reporters have access to newsmakers. For many years, the press operated on a 'trust but verify' model where confidential sources were protected BECAUSE reporters got the information independently verified. The Scooter Libby trial has put many reporter/source relationships on the rocks.

NBC's Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert proved a convincing witness for the prosecution. On cross examination, however, he was gruff and defensive. Despite his public protestations, Russert played Judas on the stand. In a moment eerily similar to the re-defining of "is" - Russert tried to claim that talking to the FBI was different than talking to the Federal Grand Jury. Except that once you have already provided a sworn affadavit, the cat is already out of the bag. Russert didn't want to be cited for contempt - so he played nice with Mr. Ambitious himself, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

As DC Bureau Chief for NBC News, Russert had it both ways. He threw away the Holy Grail of Journalism (confidential sources) to avoid a contempt citation by chatting with the FBI. Once the cameras were on, he cried foul - refusing to acknowledge a sworn affidavit he provided.

Pettiness litters the transcript. Russert claims the whole conversation began because Libby was complaining about Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC, Russert claims he didn't watch the show and couldn't be helpful. First, why is the DC Bureau Chief not doing a quality check on programming from his own bureau? Second, is Russert simply pissed off that Matthews enjoys the elitist-inside track with pols and the press? Russert's political career as a staffer was/remains lackluster. Matthews, on the other hand, is seen as fair and affable. Matthews has a infectious smile and gregarious personality that wins him many more allies than Russert could dream of. Russert is respected but feared. Matthews respected and liked. Both are worthy achievements.

Thankfully, Libby's lead attorney, Ted Wells, went for the jugular. The press must live up to the standards they profess, and hold others to. One glance at the defense witness list and I can't help but lick my chops. NBC's Andrea Mitchell, who is married to former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, will ostensibly be rebutting Russert's testimony. Her hubby has ties to Cheney going back more than 30 years. Her testimony is informed by her life. Just as Russert's was. The defense team also plans to call the NYT Managing Editor to contradict Judith Miller's testimony for the prosecution. Vice President Cheney may testify as well.

The jury will have to weigh more than the evidence. They will weigh the circumstances that led to a trial in the first place. The pettiness extends to battles between West Wing staff and the Vice President's staff. They will weigh who has more credibility, reporters with a political axe to grind, or competing political staffers who failed to realize they were on the same team.

--- Media Lizzy

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Blogger Cavalor Epthith said...

It will come down to ethics I think. Now that I am back on a semi-regular sleeping schedule I will have more time to devote to the DPC and make it grow. There are a couple more people of equal calibre to those here waiting in the wings.

February 22, 2007 at 10:58 AM  

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