Rickert’s main point was that both Ruff and Kemble engaged in “guilt by association” by pointing out some of the allies of Kaleem Caire, the chief proponent of Madison Prep. Those allies include the Koch Brothers and the rightwing American Legislative Exchange Council.
Rickert quoted Kemble as saying that the people behind Madison Prep are interested in “obtaining a secure stream of public funding to attract more private investment in what are essentially private ventures outside of the scrutiny or accountability systems of democratically elected school boards.”
And he dismissed that assertion with a snide, “Well, OK…”
Well, snide is pretty much your only defense when you’ve gotten your ass kicked on a story. Snide is pretty much all you have left, and so snide’s what you go with. Rickert, the columnist, supposedly has “got his laser-like perspective trained (mostly) on all things Madison,” but as Rothschild points out, is whining about the unfairness of reporting on actual facts because … stuff.
He confessed, “I’m not saying either author had the facts wrong.”
And he conceded that “certainly it’s important to consider what connections or interests motivate people in power.”
If that’s the case, he should be praising Kemble and Ruff, not slamming them.
And he, as well as the readers of the Wisconsin State Journal, should be wondering why that paper itself didn’t uncover some of the connections that Ruff and Kemble so diligently unearthed.
Instead, he sneered at citizen journalism: “In an online world with easy access to reams of information, the danger isn’t a little knowledge, but little perspective on knowledge.”
If that access was so easy, why didn’t we find out about it in the State Journal?
True story: I once “broke” a story that was supposed to be an exclusive to the New York Times. We had it at the same time. I ran into the NYT reporter at a press conference and when he mentioned he’d scooped everybody, I politely pointed out that we had the story the same day he did. “Oh, well,” he said, and kept right on talking about his amazing journalistic feat. Because his press pass had a cooler name on it, he didn’t have to care. I used to see my stories on the evening news, read my leads on the AP wire, and hear entire paragraphs on the radio word for word. Very RARELY did I or my colleagues ever have our original reporting credited. Not so much as one of those newfangled “link” things the kids were coming out with. Nada.
This argument gets hauled out every time some big-city reporter gets spanked by a little guy. Whether that’s a reporter at a student paper, at a smaller paper, at a magazine, at a radio station, whatever. I’ve always worked the smaller news org in a market and almost always, the bigger competitor’s response is to either dismiss your scoop as not being “that important” or steal the thing outright and “re-report it” by calling all the initial sources you identified and giving you ZERO credit.
Now there’s a third thing we’re doing, which is to argue against the standing of the person who broke the story to even break a story at all. As if you have to have a fucking Cracker Jack Real Life Reporter prize to make a difference. As if you EVER had to have that. As if there haven’t been small papers and independent publishers since the beginning of goddamn time.
And it should make me angry but it really does just make me sad. Every single minute we spend talking about who’s got the right to be called a journalist and who’s “really” doing the “real” work in the “real” world for “real” money is a minute we’re not spending talking about what nefarious shit was uncovered and what should be done about the dishonest assholes who run the world. Every minute we spend wanking on and on about how awful it is that so many people think they’re journalists is a minute we’re not spending thinking about how great it is that so many people want to do journalism at all.
As if that’s not a goddamn gift. As if we shouldn’t be celebrating and learning from one another. As if it’s not like holding a big sign over your head that says I AM INSECURE AND NEEDY SOMEONE HOLD ME PLEASE, this whining about how much information there now is, in the world.