Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Solution for the Sunday Morning Shows

The Sunday Morning Shows may be laughable with their lack of serious questioning, but they are not supposed to be comedy programs.    When a politician makes a statement asserting something truly astounding, such as when a politician states a country poses an imminent threat to the United States or a politician says Edward Snowden was encouraged by a foreign power, a journalist isn't supposed to just sit there like a human microphone stand.

Regardless of the topic, any journalist who is a journalist and not a lapdog says something like, "what evidence do you have of that," or, "upon what do you base that" or,  "how do you know that is true?"

When the politician admits he has no evidence, the journalist needs to confirm that fact, saying something like, "So Mr. Rogers, you sit here and suggest that Edward Snowden has been encouraged by Russia to provide information and you have absolutely no evidence of that at all, correct?"   Then the journalist would ask why the head of the House Intelligence Committee would make such an outrageous assertion with no evidence.   

Our Sunday Shows (and now 60 Minutes) have demonstrated the network hosts and producers are in need of basic journalism training.   They're certainly welcome to come to Kent State, but here's another solution. 

Charter a plane.   Fly them all to sit in the studio for BBC's Hardtalk.   Be sure David Gregory sits in the front row.   Tell them to pay attention to how the journalist asks direct questions.   Tell them to pay specific attention to what happens when the subject sidesteps the question or makes what appears to be an assertion unsupported by any facts.   They'll witness the journalist holding the subject accountable.   Had American journalists done that with politicians, we never would have had a war in Iraq.

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Snowden: Time for Reporters to be Journalists, not Human Microphone Stands

With the New York Times and the Guardian editorial boards calling for clemency for Edward Snowden, it's essential for reporters to stop being human microphone stands for politicians.   

Reporters know what certain politicians are going to say, that Snowden should have made his complaints through official channels.   Previous whistleblowers who took that route did not get rewarded for doing what was right; they got punished.   It's essential the reporter point that fact out to the politician.   It's essential the reporter actually ask the logical follow up question.   Why would any thoughtful person knowing the history of what had happened to whistleblowers trying to do the right thing, take an action that he knew would be a waste of time?

So when someone like Rep. Rogers says, "He didn't use any of the whistleblower protection avenues laid out before him. None. Zero" the reporter can't just sit there and fail to put such a comment in proper context, i.e., that the whistleblower protections don't work and that government officials who don't provide whistleblower protections are not being held accountable.

Any news organization writing about such a comment should link to the articles reminding America's citizens how the secret government has beaten up those trying to do the right things.   USA Today did an excellent piece, so did US News. 

Reporters need to ask politicians to explain why they're more upset with Edward Snowden telling the truth than they are with the Director of National Intelligence lying to Congress.   

The only way to hold the secret government accountable is for the American press to follow the example set by the Guardian.    It's time for the American press to stop being such lapdogs.   It's time for American reporters to start being journalists and stop being human microphone stands.