26 July 2010

When Does Sympathy Become Something More?

The saga continues surrounding the release on The Daily Caller of Journolist archives and emails, that suggested remarkable cohesiveness at the best, collusion at the worst, among the liberal bloggers, journalists and academicians that were its members.  On the one end we have the argument that the Journolist members were only like-minded partisans who kicked ideas around but never followed through.  This argument, epitomized by HuffPo, winds up with sentiment that '... IT'S ONLY THE FINAL PRODUCT THAT GETS REVIEWED. You're not supposed to be held responsible for the things you test behind the scenes, and then never follow through on.'  This conclusion presupposes that once a central message is discussed and largely agreed upon, that message won't be promulgated.  Possibly this is true, but I doubt that many members of any profession would be so restrained.  Emails such as these have been used to push through settlements with companies in the past, on the presumption that they are incapable of refraining from following through on a plan for collusion once it has been thoroughly discussed.  Opinions expressed at the Dallas Morning News, NewsBusters, Politics Daily, RCP, and the LA Times have all expressed deep alarm at the apparent interest by liberal news-makers and analysts in bolstering the campaign of now-President Obama while finding ways to denigrate his opponents.  This is certainly not illegal, but it is also not ethical or honest.  While bloggers almost never pretend to objectivity, the journalists who participated do.  And citizens depend on them at least attempting to put aside their own biases and opinions to objectively report the news.  In reality, few would believe that this really happens - the very selection of which stories to report expresses bias and a worldview.  However, the emails already published on the Daily Caller (today's batch deals with nasty speculation about Trig Palin), clearly go beyond even the pretense of objectivity.  Nor does their release rise to the level of clever editing, a la Sherrod and Brietbart, although Tucker Carson certainly runs the Daily Caller based on his own opinion and background.  What they do show at best, is that many participants in media and messaging are unwilling to put aside their personal beliefs long enough to see where facts lead them.  David Warren at RCP called this mind-set 'Journolism,' and attributes it to the insular, not to say incestuous, nature of most media organizations:
'I would say, no, they don't have to. These are all things they (er, "we") can do instinctively, without any need of formal co-ordination. All that is required is a profession whose practitioners form a self-recognizing class; who share a settled (and rather conformist) view of the world; and who spend most of their lives in each other's company, hardly ever meeting, let alone mixing socially with, people of other classes with other points of view.'
Here is where the real problem lies - it's impossible to tell the difference after awhile between real collusion and simple sympathy when so little distance lies between the two.  Perhaps it would be better for the media to adopt the long-standing principle taught to military officers and government officials: avoid the appearance of wrong-doing as well as actual wrong.
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