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That journalism as a profession is falling by the wayside, and that there are so few jobs available, might be the reason why young journalists essentially censor themselves. But I have to say, I've seen this throughout my career. I've always been puzzled by the reporters who sucked up to sources but simply refused to report what was actually happening, right in front of them. Did they think it would hurt their careers? I don't think so. I think they were ill-suited for journalism because they were conflict-adverse. The best reporters I knew just let politicians rant on while they went ahead and did their jobs:
Andrea Seabrook left NPR [ed. note: Known to blog readers as Nice Polite Republicans] this summer to start her own venture, DecodeDC, and she’s letting fly about what it’s like to “collude” with politicians as a daily news reporter.
As Seabrook explained to Politico: “I realized that there is a part of covering Congress, if you’re doing daily coverage, that is actually sort of colluding with the politicians themselves because so much of what I was doing was actually recording and playing what they say or repeating what they say. ... And I feel like the real story of Congress right now is very much removed from any of that, from the sort of theater of the policy debate in Congress, and it has become such a complete theater that none of it is real. … I feel like I am, as a reporter in the Capitol, lied to every day, all day. There is so little genuine discussion going on with the reporters. … To me, as a reporter, everything is spin.”
Peter Hart of FAIR put it this way on Twitter, “Ex NPR reporter says politicians lied to her every day. That would have been a great thing to, I dunno, report.”
This reminds of several years ago, when a group of Philadelphia bloggers were invited to do a panel before local journalists. They were quite belligerent toward us, and were mostly interested in how you could possibly make money by blogging. The part that really bugged them? "Who do you answer to?" Our readers, we told them. But they didn't understand. "What about fact checking?" one foreign correspondent huffed.
"Who did Judy Miller's fact checking?" I responded.
"Oh, Judy Miller! Everyone knew not to take her seriously!" she replied.
And I thought, gee, I wonder how many lives could have been spared if someone shared that with their readers. The only reason I didn't say it out loud was just that afternoon, they found out their papers were up for sale and I didn't want to kick them when they were down.
I should have done it. Oh well. Time for another bloggers ethics conference!