Archive for ‘journalism’

August 9, 2009

MoDo Covers the Jesse Griffin Scandal

“Gryphen” gets an extension on his 15 minutes of fame courtesy of the New York Times columnist:

Palin is still obsessed with the blogosphere, which recently lit up with a rumor — started by a fellow mavericky Alaskan, who also no longer has his job — that she and Todd were Splitsville.

Excuse me, Ms. Dowd, but is Palin “obsessed with the blogosphere” or is it the other way around? And don’t you share that obsession? Furthermore, ma’am — speaking of “Gryphen” a/k/a former Anchorage kindergarten teaching assistant Jesse Ray Griffin — is it the usual practice of the New York Times to ignore, in its news pages, events which are significant enough to merit commentary from its Pulitzer-winning columnists?

This is from my Thursday account of Griffin’s resignation from Trailside Elementary School:

“Sarah is finished with Todd and has decided to end their marriage,” Griffin wrote at “Immoral Minority” Saturday morning, saying that “one of [his] best sources” had told him the Palins were divorcing. Griffin’s story was immediately promoted by Dennis Zaki’s “Alaska Report” site, which claimed that “multiple sources” had confirmed the report.
Jeanne Devon, an Anchorage Democratic activist who had previously blogged anonymously, also promoted Griffin’s “exclusive” at the Huffington Post. As a result of this promotion, by Saturday afternoon Zaki’s headline, “Todd and Sarah Palin to divorce,” was the lead item at the popular Memeorandum political news site, even though it had already been officially denied by Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton.
Griffin wrote on his blog Wednesday, “I stand by every single word” of the original report, which accused Sarah Palin of attempting “to hide a broken relationship” with husband Todd.

You see, Ms. Dowd, how this “exclusive” got boosted up the online food chain so that, within a few hours of an unverified blind-source rumor being posted by “Gryphen” on his Immoral Minority site, it was the hottest story on the Internet. And it was his claim to have an “exclusive” — as if his sources were more reliable than mine — that drew my interest.

Given your Pulitzer-winning reputation for thoroughness, Ms. Dowd, I’m sure you’ll be interested in reporting the whole story about what “Gryphen” wrote on his blog:

“I think that this trend toward real people having real sex is definitely the way to go. . . . when you see a video of an amateur couple having sex you can tell that they are simply doing it for the sheer excitement of sharing their passion with a bunch of middle aged pervs who are going to wank off to their sexual exploits.”
— “Gryphen,” 6/3/07

“If sex is not naughty then it is almost not worth doing. I love kids, but in my opinion they are just a side effect of a healthy sex life.”
— “Gryphen,” 6/14/07

“And your penis will respond more readily if you take it out and put it through its paces more often. Duh! So the next time your girlfriend/wife/mother bust you for watching porn on your computer, simply tell her that you are exercising and you would appreciate some privacy.”
— “Gryphen,” 7/7/08

Yesterday the no-longer-pseudonym-protected Griffin was back to “just asking questions” mode:

My question is. who pays for this? Who sent money to the websites that attacked me to spend so much time trying to cut and paste bit and pieces of four year old posts together in an effort to “prove” I am a bad guy?

It would be embarrassing to admit that the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy hasn’t been hitting the tip-jar with enough frequency lately to keep up with my expenses. So if it suits Griffin’s pathological imagination to suppose that Big Pharma or Halliburton are footing the bill, why spoil the illusion?

I’m sitting here in my silk pajamas, smoking Cohibas and sipping Dom Perignon, all of it paid for by GOP fat-cat donors who don’t mind my slagging John McCain, dissing Charlie Crist and voting for Bob Barr. Meanwhile, Dan Riehl has spent his VRWC loot to rent a beach house in Ocean City and hire the second runner-up in the 2007 Miss Ukraine pageant to attend to his domestic needs. (“No, Katerina, I said very clearly I wanted my sandwich with mustard, mayonnaise and pickles . . .”)

What might arouse the curiosity of a Pulitzer-winning columnist like Ms. Dowd is this question: Why can’t Griffin, who claims to have sources who give him the “exclusive” lowdown on the state of Todd and Sarah Palin’s love life, get his sources to tell him who’s paying Dan and I?

Frankly, despite denials of a Palin divorce, I can’t even get my sources to share the intimate details of the couple’s romantic activities. (7:04 p.m. Thursday: “Todd gives Sarah a playful squeeze.” 8:17 p.m. Thursday: “Sarah sneaks up behind Todd while he’s watching ESPN and nonchalantly begins rubbing his shoulders.” ) So if I, who am supposedly on the Palin payroll, can’t get that kind of dish, why is it that Jesse Ray Griffin’s sources are so reliable, so ubiquitous, so omniscient?

Check the timeline of the “Gryphen” investigation, Ms. Dowd, and see if you can resist the Pulitzer-worthy conclusion that Jesse Ray Griffin is a lying sack of crap with less journalistic credibility than Jayson Blair.

Oh, BTW, Ms. Dowd, we’ve met, although I’m not sure we were properly introduced. When you arrived at CPAC 2007 to cover Dick Cheney’s speech, it was I who volunteered to escort you to the media sign-in table. After the speech, my young friend Ian Schwartz asked me to get you to pose for a photo with him.

Since we’re already acquaintances, Ms. Dowd — shhhh! my wife might get jealous — perhaps I can speak to the funders of the VRWC and ask them to cut you in on this action. Just send Dan Riehl an e-mail and ask for the Griffin dossier, then catch the next flight to Anchorage. Remember to bill it to “Arlkay Overay.”

I’ll phone the Pulitzer Committee and tell them to keep an eye out for your next big scoop.

(Note to regular readers: “Arlkay Overay” is a notorious cheapskate, so please hit the tip jar.)

UPDATE: Dan Riehl links, and remarks:

Nice try, Jesse. But you don’t get to ring the bell to end the fight in this one. There are no referees’s arms for you to flee into, no corner to crawl up in and hide. But you’ll likely find that out for yourself this week. I’m not done with you . . .

Ruh-roh. And Dan quotes Griffin’s latest expedition into Trig Trutherism:

Sarah Palin has used this heartrending diminutive prop with such careless abandon, that even people who once supported her are embarrassed at her apparent disregard for the well being of this baby.
Leaving behind all of the questions about Trig’s parentage, the question we must now ask ourselves is how well is he currently being cared for?
I believe that many people have very powerful concerns for this child.We see him trotted out when Sarah wants to make a political point, or create the warm motherly image for the cameras, but who cares for him while there are no cameras to record the event? (Emphasis added.)

And — who knew? — Jesse’s a huge MoDo fan!

The fact that she wrote about my situation in her column absolutely makes my day.

Stay tuned to RIEHL WORLD VIEW. Meanwhile, the VRWC just sent me a new minion to supervise.

UPDATE II: Now linked at Memeorandum.

August 6, 2009

Libertarian Skinny-Dipping in Daytona: Hayekian Facts vs. ‘Journalism Ethics’

To the commenter who accused me of committing a “travesty of journalistic ethics”:

  • Your comment was rejected. If you want to run me down, do it on your own blog. Flame wars are good for traffic, but you do not have permission to use my bandwidth to malign me.
  • Ethics, shmethics. Truth may not be a journalist’s only duty, but it’s massively more important than whatever’s second most important. If I accurately report the facts, I’ve done my job — and just getting the facts right is hard enough.
I learned this as a sports writer. Simple question: If I’m covering a high-school baseball game, does accepting free food from the booster moms at the concession stand constitute a breach of “journalistic ethics”?

If so, then I kissed ethics good-bye in 1986. But I always got the final score right and you could probably count on one hand the times I committed the true “travesty” in small-town journalism: Misspelling a kid’s name. (Hey, when a kid’s mom calls you up to cuss you out, you remember a thing like that.)

Get the facts right, and how many free hot dogs you eat is your own business. Nobody cares about your opinion of the Calhoun High starting backfield — if this year is like most years, they’re a tad on the slow side — but you’ve got to accurately report the total rushing yardage. (Which, if this year is like most years, won’t be much.)

Because most journalists are Democrats, the political journalist who is not a Democrat tends to be viewed with disdain by the rest of the profession. I’m fine with that. But my political opinions — “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Bob Barr!” — are not a license for other people to give me lectures on “ethics.”

You Can Quote Me On That
“Ethics, schmethics,” as I told Bob Barr while we walked to the Fish On Fire seafood restaurant from the crappy fleabag hotel (“International Conference Center,” my foot) where the Libertarian Party held its March 2007 national conference of state party chairs.

Certainly, I was no less ethical than Dave Weigel, my co-panelist in the “How to Deal With Media” discussion, which was the purpose (or pretext, if you prefer) of our expense-paid junket to Orlando.

Our publications (Dave was then at Reason magazine) got exclusive coverage without having to pay for our travel, which is a pretty cool deal. Of course, under such an arrangement, you’re not going to do a rip-the-lid-off exposé — “Fear and Loathing in Orlando: A Savage and Decadent Saga of Libertarian Depravity” — but neither are you required to do a total puff piece.

In a universe of facts, not every fact can be reported, and what happens in Orlando stays in Orlando. That’s what I tried to explain to Bob Barr, afterI excused myself from dinner with the LP brain trust, went back to my hotel and returned with a stack of towels.

“You were serious?” said the former member of the House Judiciary Committee.

“Serious as a heart attack, Bob,” I answered, reiterating the plan I’d been discussing with the LP brain trust. “Look, it’s almost 10 o’clock now and it’s about an hour drive to Daytona Beach. We could stop by a fireworks store along the way, head to the beach, go skinny-dipping in the ocean, shoot off about $200 worth of fireworks — have some real fun!”

Did I mention that it was March? Spring break in Daytona, skinny-dipping in the Atlantic with the first member of Congress to bring charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors” against Bill Clinton — and that was before Lewinsky — man, what a story!

However, as I promised Bob, the Daytona expedition would remain strictly off-the-record. If the first three rules of journalism are “Accuracy, accuracy and accuracy,” then the fourth rule is: A good reporter never burns his sources.

So I can’t tell you whether or not the Libertarian Party brain trust took me up on that Daytona road-trip suggestion. (Don’t worry, Mrs. Barr. Bob was accompanied by a professional journalist the entire time. And I’ve got family values.)

However, I remind you of an important corollary to the Fourth Rule of Journalism: A good source never burns a reporter. When I call Bob Barr on his personal cell phone, he takes the call. IYKWIMAITYD.

Hayekian Journalism
This is the kind of keen journalistic insight necessary to advance from being a $4.50-an-hour staff writer for a 6,000-circulation weekly to become a top Hayekian public intellectual.

In a universe of facts, not every fact is sufficiently important to merit inclusion in a 700-word news story. Political news consumers in March 2007 were interested in the Libertarian Party’s prospects for . . . well, anything, really. When the Libertarians have nerds like George Phillies, stoners like Steve Kubby and fanatical purists like Mary Ruwart seeking the presidential nomination, and when the party’s 2008 convention requires six ballots to decide Barr is the better candidate, you can’t be blamed for wondering if they’re really serious about politics.

However remote the chance that the LP could influence the outcome of the 2008 election, serious political news consumers were interested in that stuff. Certainly, those readers had no interest in the trivial matter of whether, shortly after 11:30 p.m. on the evening of Saturday, March 17, 2007, Bob Barr and the Libertarian brain trust were cavorting nude with a half-dozen Purdue University coeds in the Atlantic surf of Daytona Beach.

That’s the kind of sleazy, sensational tabloid stuff that no serious political journalist would be interested in reporting. For less than $10,000.

Neither Confirm Nor Deny, Bob
Hey, I write for money — that’s what it means to be a professional, as opposed to an amateur clown like Dennis “Bozo” Zaki, who actually lied about being a CNN stringer. In the Hayekian universe of facts, a reporter must exercise judgment about which facts are important enough to include in a news story, but I wouldn’t knowingly publish a lie for any sum you could name.

Speculation about the sex lives of Republicans seems to be a full-time career for some people, but until there’s actual proof — a court document, an arrest report, a flight to Argentina — such gossip is no more newsworthy than baseless innuendo about whether Barr and the LP brain trust took me up on that Daytona road-trip plan.

If some “source” ever tells you over beers that, shortly before dawn on Sunday, March 18, 2007, Bob Barr was passed out nude in the back seat of a rented Chevy SUV, while the other members of the LP brain trust were so hopelessly hammered that they’d taken the desperate measure of agreeing to let me drive back to Orlando — well, in a circumstance like that, you’d be obligated to let Bob have a chance to give you an official denial before you’d even dream of reporting such potentially defamatory gossip.

(“No comment,” Bob. Neither confirm nor deny. This will be the most priceless “no comment” in the history of political journalism. And a good source never burns a reporter.)

Likewise with Todd and Sarah Palin. As far as I’m concerned, their love life is not news. But it gets mighty cold in Wasilla sometimes, and there’s a Phantom Fireworks Superstore a block south of Silver Beach Avenue in Daytona, so if the Palins ever want to get some advice from a savvy media professional . . .

Well, should anybody feel the urge to hit the tip jar, don’t fight the feeling. I’m a professional. I write for money. Photography? That’s just a hobby. IYKWIMAITYD.

August 6, 2009

Dr. Barbara Oakley revisited: does this tinfoil hat make my head look fat?

by Smitty

Stacy, as an actual journalist, responded to Dr. Barbara Oakley’s survey of journalistic motives here. As neither a journalist nor a psychologist, and an amateur student of history at best, allow me to opine on some of the drivers that have tipped journalism in the Democrat, or Progressive, direction.

Dr. Oakley’s article begins in Soviet Russia, and is justifiably critical of academia:

Most journalists take a number of psychology, sociology, political science, and humanities courses during their early years in college. Unfortunately, these courses have long served as ideological training programs—ignoring biological sources of self-serving, corrupt, and criminal behavior for a number of reasons, including lack of scientific training; postmodern, antiscience bias; and well-intentioned, facts-be-damned desire to have their students view the world from an egalitarian perspective. Instead, these disciplines ram home the idea that troubled behavior can be fixed through expensive socialist programs that, coincidentally, provide employment opportunities for graduates of the social sciences.

For those interested in connecting the dots, you can read about the Cold War interactions of the Soviets and the US, on a political level in Blacklisted by History. Hint: it was a full-on ideological war, which those sycophants of the Soviets did everything they could to disguise. While she mentions the cretin, she appears unfamiliar with Roger Simon’s expose on Walter Duranty.

Eric S. Raymond makes the discussion of Soviet ideological war waged against the US quite explicit in Gramscian Damage:

Americans have never really understood ideological warfare. Our gut-level assumption is that everybody in the world really wants the same comfortable material success we have. We use “extremist” as a negative epithet. Even the few fanatics and revolutionary idealists we have, whatever their political flavor, expect everybody else to behave like a bourgeois.

We don’t expect ideas to matter — or, when they do, we expect them to matter only because people have been flipped into a vulnerable mode by repression or poverty. Thus all our divagation about the “root causes” of Islamic terrorism, as if the terrorists’ very clear and very ideological account of their own theory and motivations is somehow not to be believed.

Further on:

In a previous post on Suicidalism, I identified some of the most important of the Soviet Union’s memetic weapons. Here is that list again:

  • There is no truth, only competing agendas.
  • All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
  • There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
  • The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
  • Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
  • The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
  • For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
  • When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.

Ask Lt. Gen. Pacepa about the related effort to discredit the POTUS. The point is that the Cold War was, indeed, a war. If that point eludes you, refer to ESR: “Americans have never really understood ideological warfare”.

Thus, in addition to the growing native affinity for Progressive thought, as explored by Goldberg, there was significant external effort to destabilize the country, possibly roping in current members of Congress.

Of course academia was a target of all this, and the decay produced results explored by Alan Bloom, and wonderfully rendered as a talk at Heritage by Evan Sayet.

Coming full circle to Dr. Oakley’s piece, I think she bears witness to some horrible intellectual damage that has been done to the country’s academic system. However, addressing the scope and historical roots of the problem with any degree of honesty would trigger a hemorrhage. It just will not happen. A community is just a little lest honest than the worst cretin within. It’s tempting to call the current crop of journalists a bunch of Sophists, except that the ancient Sophists probably knew more and thought more effectively.

However, let’s not go wasting our hate on these weenies. A proper capitalistic answer, like PJTV to the networks, is to locate and support conservative universities. Learn facts. Understand reasoned arguments. Make liberal heads ‘splode. Let’s finish on the hyper-cynical note of Don Henley on Dirty Laundry:

August 5, 2009

Dr. Barbara Oakley: ‘Why MostJournalists Are Democrats’

OK, I spent 22 years in the newspaper business, the first nine as a Democrat, but I’ll set aside my know-it-all attitude and listen to this:

Unsurprisingly, self-selection plays an important role in choosing a job. People choosing to do work related to prisons, for example, commonly show quite different characteristics than those who volunteer for work in helping disadvantaged youths. Academicians have very different characteristics than CEOs—or politicians, for that matter.
Harry Stein, former ethics editor of Esquire, once said: “Journalism, like social work, tends to attract individuals with a keen interest in bettering the world.” In other words, journalists self-select based on a desire to help others. Socialism, with its “spread the wealth” mentality intended to help society’s underdogs, sounds ideal.
Most journalists take a number of psychology, sociology, political science, and humanities courses during their early years in college. Unfortunately, these courses have long served as ideological training programs . . .

Read the whole thing. To young people, I would say, if you have a “keen interest in bettering the world,” and are looking for a job with low pay and little prospect for career advancement, how about you join the freakin’ Peace Corps and stop messing up the news business?

Dr. Oakley’s observations about self-selection are right on target. So what explains me? Why am I not “bettering the world”? My original career plan was to become a multimillionaire rock star, but my Dad insisted I go to college, just in case I needed “something to fall back on.”

After college, I was a nightclub DJ for about six months, then got fired from a job — honestly, how was I to know that blonde dancer was the bouncer’s girlfriend? — and signed up with a temp agency, doing warehouse work on Fulton Industrial Boulevard in Atlanta. That led to a full-time job for nearly 18 months as a forklift driver, paying the bills and saving up money for a P.A. system.

Falling Back
In college, I’d been entertainment editor and rock-music columnist (“Flock of Seagulls: Threat Or Menace?”) for the student paper. The faculty advisor urged me my senior year to do other assignments — sports, news, features — so I’d have a more “balanced” portfolio of clippings. But I hadn’t been able to land a newspaper job right out of school, and didn’t really look for one after that. Before the Internet, you see, the business of looking for a job was much more time-consuming, and the rock-star thing was my real passion anyway.

One day, a buddy of mine, an amateur photographer, was out at Sweetwater Creek State Park and it just happened there was a radio-controlled model sailboat club having a regatta. He got some pictures and thought it was pretty cool, and said he talked to the club members and they’d asked him to send the pictures to them for the club newsletter. He was pretty excited about this.
Well, it happened that, driving through the nearby town of Austell the past few weeks, I’d noticed a new sign on a building downtown: “Cobb News Chronicle.” That Austell could be a two-newspaper town was explained by the fact that a local businessman had gotten mad at the publisher of the town’s original weekly tabloid (The Sweetwater Enterprise) over ad rates and decided he’d start his own paper.

Seeing this sign while driving through Austell en route to see my girlfriend (who lived in Marietta), I’d been thinking maybe I should see about getting a job there. Compared to forklift driving, being a newspaper writer might be more useful to my rock-star ambitions. And here was my buddy with these model sailboat photos, excited about having them published in a club newsletter.

“Hey, cool, but I tell you what. There’s a brand-new newspaper that just opened up in Austell. If you’ve got these photos, I could do a freelance article to go with it, and maybe we could get paid.”
Well, I wasn’t going to write for “spec,” see? I was first going to find out if they would pay me before I would bother writing the article.

Two Big Things I Never Forgot
So the next day, I put on the blue pin-stripe three-piece suit my grandmother had bought me for my mother’s funeral in 1977 — hey, bell-bottoms were cool! — took my portfolio and the photos, and drove down to the Chronicle office. Walked in the front door, with my blue suit and rock-star hair, and the green-eyed girl at the front desk had a spectacular rack. (Forgot her name long ago, but I never forget a great rack.)

So I tell the green-eyed girl with the spectacular rack I’d like to speak to the editor. She goes back and gets Chris Barker, the news editor. He walked me back to his cubicle, where I showed him my photos and the clips and pitched the idea of doing a freelance photo feature. What would they pay for that?

Well, he wasn’t so interested in this feature idea, but my clips looked pretty good . . .

“Tell you what,” he said. “There’s a city council meeting tonight. You want to go cover that for us?”

“What does that pay?” I asked.

“If it’s any good, $4.50 an hour.”

That was in April of 1986. The story needed a good bit of editing — Chris Barker was both a great editor and a great teacher — but I got $4.50 an hour for four hours’ work. When we were through with the story, Chris offered a full-time job at the same rate. A couple weeks later, they’d hired my buddy as a photographer, too.

Rock On, With Boy Howdy!
So the point of that story is this: My career in journalism had nothing to do with any “keen interest in bettering the world.” I was just looking to make some money until the rock-star career took off. Bounced around a bit, then met my wife in the fall of 1987, had our first kid in 1989 and . . well, if the rest isn’t history yet, it’s only because I’m not finished yet.

I never wanted to be Woodward and Bernstein. Maybe I admired the late, great rock critic Lester Bangs (does anyone remember the old Creem magazine?) and I’d been a Hunter S. Thompson junkie since I was 19, but it never occurred to me, in 1986, that I’d end up as an award-winning political journalist in Washington. (Hey, Jesse, how’d you like that pony?) Far less did I expect to become a top Hayekian public intellectual.

Here’s the thing: When I was starting out, nobody offered to pay me to write political opinions, and I didn’t have any interest in doing that egghead pundit crap anyway. Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet, so we hadn’t reached the glories of the Information Age, when every random loser with a laptop can tell the world their opinions of stuff they know nothing about. I didn’t go to Harvard, so it wasn’t like National Review would ever offer me an internship to go skinny-dipping with Bill Buckley.

So I made my living by skill, not opinion. And because of that, I realized the only way to get ahead was to work hard every day to improve my skills.

I like the blogosphere, especially when regular people do real journalism (Look, Jesse, Santa brought you a pony!) and as a means for regular people to talk back to the media. But merely having an opinion wasn’t worth $4.50 an hour even in 1986. You can’t succeed merely by having an opinion — much less by trying to “better the world” — whether it’s in blogs or newspapers or anything else.

Well, that’s my story. Dr. Barbara Oakley’s article is also excellent. Read the whole thing.

July 28, 2009

Every day, I check a blog called . .

. . . Memeorandum, which is not actually a blog, but an aggregation site. And when I logged on this morning, the item at the top right of the page was David Brooks’ latest column:

Every day, I check a blog called Marginal Revolution, which is famous for its erudite authors, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, and its intelligent contributors. Last week, one of those contributors asked a question that is fantastical but thought-provoking: What would happen if a freak solar event sterilized the people on the half of the earth that happened to be facing the sun? . . .

You can read the rest, which only serves to highlight the “fantastical but thought-provoking” question that has haunted American journalism for years: “Why the hell is David Brooks getting paid to write a column?”

My pet theory is that Brooks has a cache of photos, acquired by nefarious and clandestine means, showing New York Times publisher Pinch Sulzberger in compromising situations with someone who is not Mrs. Sulzberger.

Casting no direct aspersions upon Tyler Cowen and the gang at Marginal Revolution — it’s certainly not their fault Brooks reads their blog — theirs is hardly the most “thought-provoking” hypothetical ever entertained on a blog:

Swear to God, if they ever want a Gentile prime minister, my first order . . .

Just a thought experiment, you see. Whatever follows such a fantastical “if” is no more to be taken seriously than that Marginal Revolution question was to be considered a hopeful wish that half the earth’s population would be sterilized.

Furthermore, if one is going to write a column on such a theme, the diffident, philosophical approach taken by Brooks is the least interesting way to go about it. No, by God, make it passionate and intensely personal:

When he was 16, Bill McCain told his mother, “You won’t ever have to worry about me again.” He left the family farm in rural Randolph County, Alabama, and moved 40 miles away to West Point, Georgia, where he went to work on the night shift in a cotton mill.
You’ve heard of people who worked their way through college? My father worked his way through high school. Most of his cotton-mill pay went for room and board and books — in those days, public-school students in Georgia had to buy their own textbooks — at the school where he became a football star. . . .

You can read the whole thing and, if you do, consider what was intended by the final sentence of that little essay. In an era when the newspaper industry is laying off newsroom personnel to the tune of a thousand people a month, David Brooks is paid a full-time salary by Sulzberger. In return for this salary — his compensation package is rumored to be in the neighborhood $300,000 annually — Brooks is required to produce only two 800-word columns per week.

Do the math, and this amounts to 104 columns per year, at nearly $3,000 per column, so that Brooks’ rate is somewhere around $3.50 a word — and yet he apparently cannot be bothered to do any actual reporting.

Byron York breaks news every time he files for the Washington Examiner, a tabloid that is distributed free on the streets of the nation’s capital. Yet that ungrateful wretch Brooks is indulged as he wastes 804 words — yes, I counted — doing philosophy, rather than journalism. To borrow a phrase from Hunter S. Thompson, it’s “enough to make a man wonder what newsprint is for.”

My grievance with Brooks is not merely because, as Sister Toldjah says, he’s a phony political chameleon. Politics aside, Brooks is a goddamned disgrace to the profession of journalism.

Last week, I filed 3,000 words about IG-Gate for the September print edition of The American Spectator (subscribe now) and readers can rest assured that Al Regnery isn’t paying $3.50 a word or whatever preposterous sum Sulzberger pays David Brooks for his predictable expeditions into newsprint wastage.

Frankly, if it weren’t for generous readers hitting the tip jar, I couldn’t afford the gas to drive back and forth to D.C. for my “shoe leather” trips to Capitol Hill, to say nothing of such other necessary expenses as cigarettes, coffee and $1.29 chili cheese dogs. (Legitimate tax-deductible expenses, I hasten to add. The IRS may not understand the vital role that chili cheese dogs play in investigative journalism, but I’ve got witnesses. And receipts.)

Meanwhile, with the filthy lucre he receives from the Sulzberger empire, Brooks can actually afford to live a $12 cab fare away from the Capitol. Yet the only time Brooks can be bothered to do anything remotely resembling reporting is when he’s sucking up to Obama administration hacks at those Atlantic Monthly salmon-and-risotto soirees.

Last week, SIGTARP Neil Barofsky raised hell in a House Oversight Committe hearing, but I suppose that Brooks was too busy pondering existential philosophy to bother grabbing a notebook and hailing a cab over to the Hill.

Me? My e-mail inbox is overflowing and my wife cleaned my desk so that I lost the paper on which I’d printed out Gerald Walpin’s phone number. Therefore, in between everything else I had to do yesterday, I spent a couple hours plowing through my e-mail until I finally retreived that number.

Brooks isn’t merely wasting his time, he’s wasting mine, and I’ve got important work to do. Why expend more than 700 words on him today? Everything that needs to be said about that disgusting stain on the soul of American journalism was summed up three months ago by an award-winning blogger:

Fuck you, David Brooks.

Please hit the tip jar. I’m planning another trip to DC tomorrow, and I’ll need more chili cheese dogs.

June 10, 2009

Holocaust Museum shooter:A journalism major?

Why am I not surprised?

The shooter has been unofficially identified James W. von Brunn, of Annapolis, Md.
The gun-battle occurred in the museum lobby and started when the attacker began shooting with a “long gun,” said Sgt. David Schlosser.
Mr. von Brunn has a Web site that includes anti-Semitic and racial statements.
The site also states Mr. von Brunn has a journalism degree from a mid-Western university . . .

When I had breakfast with Obi’s Sister and her family last week, her son said he was considering a major in journalism. I cautioned him strongly against it. As a general rule, with few exceptions, journalism majors don’t amount to crap in the news business.

Major in journalism, and next thing you know, you could end up like Rev. Wright: “The JOOOOOZZZ!”

UPDATE: You could have won $20 by betting $10 against the initial house odds at The Jawa Report, which has a good rundown on Von Brunn’s kooky rantings.

UPDATE II: Bloggregating at Michelle Malkin has a good round-up, including this from Donald Douglas:

The spin on the left is that the suspect, James Von Brunn, is an agent of the GOP’s “Christian-fascist” base. The truth is, via Melissa Clouthier, this guy’s a deranged Holocaust denier. He represents no one on the conservative right – not me, nor any of those with whom I associate.”

Exactly. The Left gets to decide what qualifies as “right-wing,” and nothing any conservative says in contradiction can be taken seriously.

BTW, I guess I should link Melissa Clouthier, sort of as an afterthought. I hope she doesn’t take it personally or anything like that.

May 18, 2009

‘The Fourth Branch of Government . . ‘

“The kind of journalism that inhabits the New York Times, the Washington Post, the major broadcast-news organizations and CNN will not disappear. The government needs it too much, because national news is how the government does its PR. As the media business embarks on a bruising process of transformation, professional journalists will become a fourth branch of government in reality as well as in their own minds. Somehow, but inevitably, today’s mainstream news organizations will become government-sponsored entities funded with taxpayer dollars.”

April 10, 2009

Dept. of Dumb Headlines

Media Insiders Say
Internet Hurts Journalism

The media insiders were also asked about coverage of President Obama. Of 45 respondents, 71 percent say it has been “about right,” 22 percent say it’s been “too easy” and 7 percent say it has been “too tough.”

So, who counts as a “media insider”?

Respondents to the Atlantic/National Journal Media Insider’s Poll: Peter Beinart, Gloria Borger, David Brooks, Carl Cannon, Tucker Carlson, Jonathan Chait, Roger Cohen, Steve Coll, Sam Donaldson, Bob Edwards, James Fallows, Howard Fineman, Frank Foer, Ron Fournier, Jeffrey Goldberg, Jeff Greenfield, Glenn Greenwald, David Gregory, Mark Halperin, Christopher Hitchens, Al Hunt, Mort Kondracke, Jim Lehrer, Ruth Marcus, Joshua Micah Marshall, Chris Matthews, Jane Mayer, Doyle McManus, John Micklethwait, Dana Milbank, Markos Moulitsas, Katherine McIntire Peters, Todd Purdum, Cokie Roberts, Eugene Robinson, Tom Shoop, Roger Simon, Scott Simon, Ray Suarez, Nina Totenberg, Linda Wertheimer, Leon Wieseltier, Juan Williams, Judy Woodruff, Fareed Zakaria.

Commenters are invited to research that list and tell me how many of those people make their living as news reporters. (Excuse me: Glenn Greenwald? Markos Moulitsas?) Also, dig the special pleading:

The Internet has some plusses: It has widened the circle of those participating in the national debate. But it has mortally wounded the financial structure of the news business so that the cost of doing challenging, independent reporting has become all but prohibitive all over the world. It has blurred the line between opinion and fact and created a dynamic in which extreme thought flourishes while balanced judgment is imperiled.

In other words, any technological development that reduces revenue to “the news business” is a bad development. Why? Because for people in “the news business,” reduced revenue means that they have to economize. And since the “media insiders” are being squeezed, this is bad. Yeah, things are tough all over. Just ask Gunnery Sgt. Hartman.

March 31, 2009

There is only one word . . .

. . . to describe the New York Times’ latest disgrace to the profession of journalism:


It’s almost Tuesday. How long until Easter?

March 29, 2009

Let’s play ‘You’re the Editor’!

This sentence from a Washington Post story Saturday is 52 words long:

Officials said the death toll could rise to more than 70, a grim and dramatic reminder that Pakistan, a Muslim nation of 160 million that shares a porous 1,500-mile border with Afghanistan, has not been able to quell terrorist attacks despite the efforts of a large professional army and other security forces.

Your assignment is to edit it into two or more concise sentences, eliminating the gaudy and unnecessary phrase, “a grim and dramatic reminder.”