I never went to J-school; sat in on a few classes over the
years but never quite came to grips with the concept of a classroom as
journalistic birthplace. To journalize, a verb meaning among other
things, dated entries in a journal or notebook.
One could state that bloggers�those individuals around whom
presently such a storm is brewing�are journalists; they do after all make dated
entries in an electronic journal, this worldwide web which many of us flit
around in. I do not know if I am considered a blogger, I do of course write,
and make entries into web publications like Online Journal as well as others. In
the strict �professional� sense I don�t know if that makes me a journalist
either, though I am a member in good standing of the Society of Professional
Journalists (SPJ) as well as Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).
In my 20-plus years of working in the alternative news
business as well as freelance investigative reporting, I never referred to
myself as a journalist. I have been a writer, reporter, columnist, and
editor�does that make me a journalist? Many of us have mementoes, awards, and
other professional accoutrements hanging on our home office walls and shelves,
does that somehow mean that we belong to an elite class? A sacrosanct group in
which is vested the perspicacity to somehow make sense of those auguries
contained in a grain of sand?
I think not, we write, some of us better than others to be
sure but we all do our thing and write our particular take on political,
social, economic, or whatever we might view in the tea leaves of current
events. There is�contrary to J-school teachings�nothing objective about
it, each and every one of us has a particular axe to grind or an actual ox to
gore, and that is just as true on the Web as it is in corporate journalism.
Which brings us to Judith Miller of the New York Times,
erstwhile First Amendment hero as so dictated by NYT�s publisher
Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. The Times ran no fewer than 15 editorials in Miller�s
defense while she cooled her heels in the slammer for 85 days, never mind the
fact that Miller was shilling for the Bush administration while assisting that
administration in its criminal attempt to discredit Joseph C Wilson Jr. But
hey, Miller is a journalist, right?
To add icing to the saga of Judith Miller, that
aforementioned group�SPJ�of which I am a member honored Miller with a �First
Amendment award (supposedly for sticking to her First Amendment guns) at their
convention in Las Vegas. In a lukewarm defense of said organization I will say
that only about 100 people among the assembled 350 or so rose and applauded
Miller. Said honor, of course, calls into question my continued membership in
an organization that would bestow tribute on a reporter cum propagandist�think
NYT�s and Miller�s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) stories�with a top
security clearance and embedded within the Bush administration.
Miller, who�it is reported�refers to herself as �Miss Run
Amok� has apparently lived up to that self-descriptor much to the painful
embarrassment of top editors at the Times, who repeatedly questioned the
paper�s coverage of the pre-Iraq war hysteria. Those same editors placed much
of their concerns on five of Miller�s pieces during this run-up to Bush�s war,
it mattered not though once the weighty hand of publisher Sulzberger emerged
dipped in the same propaganda ink shared by Miller. But hey, journalism and
Ah, journalistic ethics, another weighty subject is it not?
Think of Armstrong Williams ($240,000), hand in the till shilling for Bush�s
�No Child Left Behind� propaganda. And to make matters worse this fucking
�ethical journalist� defended his sleaze ball actions by stating: �I wanted to
do it because it�s something I believe in.� Not mentioned of course is the fact
that $240,000 goes a long way towards reinforcing said belief. Perhaps SPJ
could come up with an honor for Mr. Williams?
In the interest of fairness I cannot leave out Maggie
Gallagher ($21,500) and her shilling for the �Support for Marriage� initiative,
I�ll just bet she learned all about ethics and objectivity in J-school.
Not to be outdone of course, we have those journalists who
owe their soul to the company store as well. I do not think this is taught in
J-school: journalists as corporate whores 101. The most egregious example of
this certainly is FOX News, but only because they are in your face with it and
make no apologies for it. Does anyone out there really think of Geraldo Rivera
as a journalist?
The so-called �mainstream� networks are just as embedded in
the corporate/political boardrooms, as is FOX News, they just try to be
discreet about it. ABC has its own Geraldo Rivera clone in John Stossel with
his pro-corporation and anti-enviro bullshit that ABC passes off as �news
specials.� Stossel�another ethically challenged piece of garbage�regularly
picks up �speaking fees� from groups like the Federalist Society (conservative
lawyers group), the American Industrial Health Council, which includes outfits
like DuPont, Pfizer, Proctor & Gamble, Squibb, and other corporate
bloodsuckers. Stossel�s �talks� before these groups are always on the recurring
theme of �junk science,� �freeloaders� and �the permanent government,� all
subjects dear to the heart of corporate and conservative America.
To be fair Stossel�as ethically challenged as he is�is not
alone in being compromised by the lure of financial gain offered by the very
individuals and corporations that they are supposedly covering in their �objective�
reportage. One of my favorites for inclusion in the Journalists as
Corporate Prostitutes Hall of Shame is Cokie Roberts whose talking head appears
almost daily somewhere out there in TV wasteland. Cokie garners as much as
$30,000 per speaking engagement from folks like the National Association of
Realtors, American Hospital Association, Mortgage Bankers Association�and this
is a good one�the Public Relations Society of America.
Sam Donaldson, Andrea Mitchell, George Will and a host of
other journalists/reporters all shill, for financial gain from those same folks
and corporations that they are supposedly reporting on. This amounts to�as we
ignorant bloggers and webphiles continually point out�corporate sponsorship of
the news media. This same news media that is supposedly �objective,� and
probing in their unbiased efforts to bring us �all the news that�s fit to
print� or view.
Each week we are treated to the spectacle known as
�political debate� that issues from the various talking head shows. Aside from
the cheerleading for the Bush Corporation the other common denominator these
agitprop exercises share is their preponderate sponsors General Electric and
Archer Daniels Midland, two of the worst corporate bloodsucking polluters on
the planet. I won�t hold my breath waiting for a journalistic expose on those
two paragons of evil.
In defense of the networks�ABC, NBC, CBS - it should be
noted that they have instituted guidelines (LOL) that prohibit their
correspondents from taking speaking fees from profit-making entities or groups
supposedly representing those that they may report on�wink, wink.
So, Judith Miller becomes a centerfold for the First
Amendment and she has spawned much editorial ink both pro and con as to whether
or not she is a �natural� centerfold or has been �digitally enhanced.� From
where this reporter sits, Miller is certainly a damaged envoy to have bestowed
upon her the mantle of First Amendment hero.
Pitz exercises his First Amendment rights from the high desert of the Mojave,
and you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.