To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Must Be The Season of the Truth: Lara Logan Calls Out Double Standard On Media Bias & 'Absolute Horseshit' Reporting

Must be the Season of the Truth, to filch a line from Donovan's 1960's psychedelic hit, Season of the Witch. 

Just this month there’s been the unmasking of the Jussie Smollett racial hoax, and revelations that many journalists, many of them black and gay like Don Lemon, were “too woke to work,” prolonging the hoax by hesitating to ask tough skeptical questions. There’s also been the libel suit announced against the Washington Post for misleading big league journalists like James Fallows and many others into believing the MAGA hatted Catholic school boys were the equivalent of the nasty racist segregationists spitting on black students in Little Rock circa 1956. Likewise the truth that former top New York Times editor Jill Abramson is an extremely sloppy journalist/author who let an even sloppier researcher do too much of the the actual reporting, interviewing and even the writing of her deeply flawed book about the media, Merchants of Truth. We might also think of the honesty of new congresswoman Ilhan Omar who had the temerity to actually say out loud that AIPAC, a pillar of the loose network of pro-Israel organizations called the Israel Lobby, actually has a financial role in influencing American legislators to vote in favor of the Jewish state over the interests of the USA. (Ya think?) Likewise the truth about Omar’s freshman colleague, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who let the whole world know what a nit-wit she is by championing Amazon’s decision to pull out of New York City as a triumph of progressive political organizing.  

Now comes former 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan who will be called much worse than a "witch," for breaking the conspiracy of silence on how “Political Bias Is Destroying People’s Faith In Journalism,” as per the headline of her recent opinion piece in the New York Post. The Post's introductory note explained how Logan had caused a stir the week before when she explained to a podcast called "Mike Drop" that too many in the media have become “political activists” or worse, “propagandists,” whose anonymous, or single-sourced reporting is simply "horseshit." Logan maintains that this one-sided reporting, shaped by liberal bias, has undermined the credibility of the press. She didn't say so explicitly, but in the process of making this case, she’s also explains why such accusations as Trump’s “Enemy of the People” and “Fake News” resonate with so much of “The People.” As Logan puts it, “We live in a free country. Yet as journalists we are not free.” 

Here, below, is Logan’s op-ed piece in its entirety. She's basically echoing the arguments made some years ago in both Coloring the News and Gray Lady Down, as well as in Bernie Goldberg's Bias and in his follow-up Arrogance, the latter of which took quite a few leaves from CTNStill, it’s nice to see someone say the obvious about a problem that has only grown worse over the years due to the intellectual cowardice, ideological obsession and professional denial of most of our elite media. I think we have a very strong nominee here for the CTN Journalistic Courage Award for 2019.   

I was a working journalist before I could legally drink. On Saturday nights in Durban, South Africa, when most kids in high school were partying with friends, my last job was to hand deliver first-edition copies of the Sunday newspaper where I worked to the police station, the fire station, the hospital and the morgue.

It was a violent time in South Africa. The people had risen up against the injustice of Apartheid to fight for freedom and the region where I grew up was one of the bloodiest. So I persuaded the guys on night shift at the morgue to break the rules and tell me how many dead bodies they had received. I asked so many questions, they gave in and let me count the bodies myself. It mattered because no one knew how many people were dying every night in the political violence. The police had a habit of clearing the dead from the streets so the government could hide the truth.

But on that one night, every week, in that one place, I knew the truth. And no one could take it from me because I learned it first-hand. 

I do my job today, some 30 years later, the same way I did it then: with an open mind, an open heart and a million questions. There is nothing more human than opinions and bias. To say we have none is dishonest. But what we do have as professional journalists is a simple standard to get us past that: two first-hand sources — question everything and independently verify. I didn’t invent this — I inherited it from people like Edward R. Murrow and I will keep passing it on.

Journalists are not activists. We may share the passion for a particular cause, but our job is to follow the facts wherever they may lead. We can’t ignore something that reflects badly on a noble cause, as an activist might. We have to care about the means as much as the end because our duty is to search for the whole truth.

Nor are we lawyers in a court of law, cherry-picking facts to prove our case. Fortunately, there is only one truth. How we feel about it, how we perceive it, those things are subjective but the truth itself is not.

Above all, we are not propagandists or political operatives. That is not our job.
I have profound respect for my colleagues and for what we as journalists are at our best. Today, as a whole, we are not at our best. Just ask people in towns and cities across this country, as I do. Everywhere I go, people tell me they have lost faith in journalism. It comes from all people, all walks of life and all political stripes.

Frankly, I don’t blame them. Responsibility for this begins with us.

It is a fact that the vast majority of journalists in this country are registered Democrats. The colleges we come from are similarly dominated by one political ideology. This matters today because the reporting has become so one-sided. As we try to figure out why people have lost faith in our profession, let’s start by being honest about who we are.

I would feel the same way if the media were tilted in the opposite direction. It is the one-sided nature of this fight that disturbs me. Is that what the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the first amendment?

We dismiss conservative media outlets for their political bias, but we don’t hold liberal media outlets to the same standard. Many journalists who claim to be objective have publicly taken a political stand, saying the urgency of the time justifies a departure from journalistic standards. Yet they ask us to believe their reporting is still unbiased?

It is not hard to find examples of how far we have strayed from reporting standards in the Trump era. A simple example is Time Magazine falsely reporting on President Donald J. Trump’s first day in office, stating that he’d removed a statue of Martin Luther King from the Oval Office. The news went viral. But the writer did not follow the most basic rule of journalism — pick up the phone and ask the White House if it was really gone, and why? The writer late wrote a correction on his Twitter account, stating “The MLK bust is still in the Oval Office. It was obscured by an agent and door.”

Did this feed a racist narrative Time and the reporter wanted to advance and believe, so no fact check was needed? I don’t know — did it? We all make honest mistakes and I am no exception. I’ve made a few of my own in three decades of reporting. But consider this mistake alongside 70 other examples on a running list compiled by independent investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who is one of the bravest journalists I know. Is it a mistake when media outlets keep beating the same drum over and over? With our credibility as low as it is today, it’s a question worth asking.

I will be attacked for writing these words. But I welcome these attacks because it tells me my words matter. And I speak on behalf of all journalists who believe in standing up for the truth and honest, independent reporting. Most do not feel free to speak publicly. We live in a free country yet as journalists we are not free.

They can’t attack the substance of our work, so propaganda machines like David Brock and his staff at Media Matters for America, smear, manipulate and invent false narratives driven by their well-funded political agenda. With armies of bots and a stable of journalists that parrot their talking points, they silence and intimidate. They use our criticism of unfairness and bias to falsely accuse us of being conservative. But all of us know, the louder the attack, the closer we are to the truth.

No one owns me. No party, no organization, no corporation. We are free because freedom lives in us. No one gives it to you or takes it away.

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