Standards

Via the crack den, here’sJudy being an ignorant news twink again:

While she advocates a federal shield law to protect mainstream journalists from divulging their sources, she doesn’t favor extending that to bloggers who don’t follow the standards and ethnics [sic] of the journalism industry.

Still, she wouldn’t restrict a blogger’s right to publish online. She said some bloggers have been invaluable in uncovering government flaws.

“I’m glad to welcome them as long as they agree to the standards,” she said.

And the hyposrisy of it is self-evident, but here’s what bugs me. It’s not that unusual a statement in the mouths of print journos, even good ones, that bloggers lack “standards.” What nobody ever seems to follow up and ask them is exactly what those standards are.


Is Judy referring to “X number of people read your story prior to publication?” Is she referring to “every reporter is required to submit to fact-checking?” Is she referring to “X number of sources required for every factual assertion in a news piece?” Is she referring to “X amount of credentials required to opine about issue Y?”

The reason there’s so many X’s and Y’s in the above paragraph is that those standards vary wildly from one print outlet to another. And I think this is a misconception most journalists have about themselves, that there’s an overarching code everybody remotely associated with the craft signs on to and upholds, which is then enforced by some kind of Journalism Central Authority. There’s no such code, and no such authority. Industry to industry, medium to medium, these things aren’t agreed on; what’s more, they’re seldom even discussed.


Take newspapers alone, for example. One newspaper might require you to turn in phone numbers for every source used in an article. Another could give a shit so long as they get the thing in on time. Still another hires fact-checkers who essentially re-interview everyone you talked to to make sure you quote them accurately. An editor at one paper might demand to know who your anonymous sources are before he or she gives permission for you to use them; another editor might trust his or her reporters to make those kinds of determinations.

So saying bloggers don’t have the same standards as print journalists … Some web sites adhere to one or more of the above, while the New York Times under Howell Raines appeared not to have the slightest idea why any of that is at all necessary.

For what it’s worth, I think there’s only a few “ethics” standards journalists need adhere to and the rest of it is bullshit designed to give university professors something to wank about while drawing a paycheck. 1) Don’t fuck your sources. 2) Don’t make stuff up. 3) Don’t take presents from people you cover. Sign something, don’t sign something, but don’t pretend that needing to put common sense “quit being such a fucking idiot” rules down in writing makes you better than anybody else, because, no.

Attempting to make it more complicated than that just allows people like Judith Miller to talk about how we’ve got no standards while violating rules 1, 2 and 3 all at once.


A.

8 thoughts on “Standards

  1. Uhm, why are we even supposed to care what Judith Miller thinks about anything, let alone her thought on ethical journalism? That’s like hearing Joe Lieberman discuss party loyalty, or Mark Foley hold forth about the danger sexual predators pose to our children.
    Judith clearly knows an awful lot about violating the most fundamental rules of good journalism (like, don’t make shit up), but that doesn’t really make her an authority on the subject.

  2. >>she doesn’t favor extending that to bloggers who don’t follow the standards and ethnics [sic] of the journalism industry.
    the logical follow-up to that statement (remember logical follow-ups? sigh) would have been, ‘well, ms. miller, which bloggers, in your opinion, follow those standards?’ her answer or lack thereof would have been telling.
    my wife doesn’t follow this crap nearly as obsessively as we do, but on the day of miller’s infamous front page nyt story about wmd being found in iraq – her source being a guy in a baseball cap glimpsed from fifty yards away pointing at a hole she wasn’t allowed to dig up – she came charging into the house waving the times yelling, ‘who the hell IS this miller person? what the HELL are they doing publishing crap like this?’
    one of these days some disgruntled times reporter will write a memoir about what on earth was goin on in that newsroom during the miller reign of error.

  3. Mind you, I don’t defend Judy. But I find this point interesting.
    First, as you well know, the ability of a journalist (even the traditional, Murrow, style) to protect their sources is under attack in recent years. I think that we’ll agree that the ability of a journalist to get information is vital to journalism’s ability to provide information vital to the democratic function.
    Assuming that journalism’s ability to gather information, at some point there is going to have to be some legal definition which both identifies who is a journalist and excludes who isn’t. That is going to be an interesting discussion.
    For myself, I see many bloggers who most definitely are providing information – in fact they are providing information that the (so-called journalists who just pass along the white house propaganda without question) dimwits fail to gather. Is Rush a journalist because he has a TV News show.
    So how do we decide who is in or out?

  4. Well, you could start by holding up a picture of miller and saying, “Don’t do what she does, she lies, makes shit up, sleeps with her subjects, and profits from her lies and fictions and bias’ (sp?).
    And for el Pigbo, who doesn’t have a teevee newshow, but a propaganda entertainment radio show, well, if he reported something, you know did the interviews and research and reported the facts, well then, he’d be covered. But since he doesn’t, he just spews rhetoric and rumors and fiction, we don’t need to worry about that, now do we?
    maybe we need one of those blogger ethics panels we hear so much about?!?!?!
    And I don’t think we need a legal definition that defines who is or isn’t. The product should provide the definition. Not the person.

  5. It’s safe to assume that many bloggers don’t have any standards of ethics at all. Let’s be fair. Just because some do doesn’t mean they all do.
    While standards do vary from paper to paper, there is a system of checks in place at every paper. Usually a group. Your average blog has one person. The standard of checks for your average blog is whether the software is going to upload the post or not. At least in the newspapers, there are editorial meetings and, yes, ethics are discussed on a daily, if not hourly basis.
    I say this because I worked on an editorial staff for a weekly for four years that consisted of just three people, and we had knock-down drag-outs all the time about what we should or shouldn’t do with even the most insignificant stories. So the ethics are certainly there. Not always, but more often than not. And the unethical ones (in the print media that is) are usually exposed before too long (Jayson Blair).
    Beyond all that, I fail to see the outrage. Is it because Miller is questioning the integrity of bloggers? If you are a blogger with said integrity then her statements don’t apply to you and you move on. People say all the time that there area bunch of drunks in New Orleans, I don’t regard them because I’m not one.
    If the gist is that bloggers have just as much integrity as print journalists do, I’m just not buying it. ANYone can have a blog. And ANYone can write what ever they want on it. Truth or not.
    “For what it’s worth, I think there’s only a few “ethics” standards journalists need adhere to and the rest of it is bullshit designed to give university professors something to wank about while drawing a paycheck.”
    You said it man.

  6. What I’d like to know is the reasoning that led the Topeka Capitol Journal to decide Judith “I was fucking right” Miller was the person to be interviewed for this story.
    Aren’t there a number of working journalists who could present a much more timely, and less hypocritical, take on this whole issue?

  7. I’d definitely agree that the product (and the proceedure used to produce it) is much more important than the person / personality factor.
    I’d also tend to agree with the person making the point that even in a small paper you can have some knock-down fights over where the ethics are (and I’d even hold that it is extremely hard for one person to discuss ethics because everyone is convinced that they are infallible).
    But even if I ignore Rush (which I do. BTW – love the “el Pigbo”) I can’t help but notice that the 30 minute network news (pick a network, any network) and even the 1 hour news, in-depth programs in the 20/20 vein are continuously following a path of fewer time devoted to news stories (vs. glamor shots and stories designed to get the blood boiling) and even their “hard hitting” news items seem less well researched.
    So are the staff at NBC / ABC / CBS news journalists? How much is transformation of the profession and how much is becoming less journalists and more parrots?

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