Off the Media: Journalists Lie, Cheat, Wimp Out

DaveRabbit_insignia_sm.jpgJournalists sure are one lying, conniving, law-avoiding, panty-wasted bunch. Or at least that’s the impression we could come away with from listening to this week’s (engaging) version of “On the Media.”


  • are unwilling to call Iraq’s conflict “civil war,” even though they all, according to former Ambassador Peter Galbraith, know it is.
  • went into Sudan without a getting the required visa, and were held in jail for more than a month. (A
  • good look, by the way, at how foreign correspondents have to make tough calls in tough places, where getting a visa can be impossible, or mean you can’t do a real story. We’ve had our wrist slapped in China, though never been in jail).

  • lied and self-aggrandizingly framed a woman who wasn’t Tokyo Rose. She then spent more than 7 years in jail.
  • are too lazy to do real work on science articles, and instead happily lap up embargoed material, getting what academics call an “information subsidy” and in the process ignore valid science that’s not spoon fed. (We remember feeling a little odd putting that “Hold for Release” note on wire service articles we were sending out to thousands of editors.)
  • are, in the case of underground Vietnam radio guy “Dave Rabbit” (pictured, Radio First Termer, the name of his original show), cooperating with the military instead of fighting it. “Rabbit” is flying from Travis Air Force Base in California to Iraq to create a new version of the Vietnam-era show, only this time he’s got some a deal with the military he doesn’t want to talk about. (Will he be willing to say “civil war”?) We hope we can listen in the US. Meanwhile, here’s the writeup in Salon.

  • Since we often dissect the anchors’ performance, we’ll note Bob Garfield‘s surprisingly sedate and straightforward self for the second week in a row. This week, he could have gotten one of his belly laugh “hunh?” moments when an academic suggested a reporter tell his editor he can’t work on a science assignment because it would be only one dot in a pointillist painting and he’s working on the entire canvas. We can’t think of an editor (including ourselves) who’d buy that argument. (Then again, maybe that pointillist remark was all the belly laugh we needed.)

    And two weeks ago, Garfield missed a chance to ask one of his usual pointed questions when talking about a new wiki called Congresspedia. Here’s the question: If Congresspedia is a wiki that anyone can edit, then what’s to prevent congressional offices from going in and glossing over, deleting info, etc, as they got in trouble for on Wikipedia?

    Here’s the answer we got from their editor, Conor Kenny:

    “Congresspedia does not have the ‘neutral point of view’ policy of Wikipedia, which holds that people closely related to the subjects of articles (such as articles on yourself, a family member or your employer) cannot be neutral and thus should avoid editing those pages. Because Congresspedia has paid, fact-checking editors and a strict policy requiring an external, verifiable source for all edits, we are less concerned with congressional staffers making edits to their boss’ pages. As long as the information is correct and written in non-biased language (which we will correct if it is not), then they are free to edit away.”

    He also notes that the $1,000 bucks given if you can get a Congressional rep’s schedule on the site (the Punch Clock Campaign) we noted earlier is funded from the Sunlight Foundation, a new foundation funded largely by Washington-area lawyer and entrepreneur Mike Klein.