Breaking Bread with the Watchdogs
While probably every journalism ethics code in the world says something about the need for journalists to put distance between themselves and their sources, the White House Correspondents’ Association insists on going against the grain. So, once again last May, politicians, celebrities and news people happily set aside their “adversarial” relationship by having dinner together, singing along and exchanging jokes about life and news in Washington, D. C.
For example, CBS had invited, among others, New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton, U. S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Senators Klobuchar (D-MN), Markey (D-MA), Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Rogers (R-MI), actors Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), David McCallum (NCIS) and singer Gloria Estefan.
New Jersey Governor Christie and Mrs. Christie, Texas Governor Perry, Republican National Committee Chair Priebus, U. S. Representatives McCarthy (R-CA) and Dingell (D-MI) and actress Diane Lane (Man of Steel), were some of the guests of CNN.
ABC had invited, among others, Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), Tony Goldwyn (Scandal), Chip Esten (Nashville) and Wendi McLendon-Covey (The Goldbergs).
Some of Fox’s guests were Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, actors Matthew Morrison and Renee Puente (Glee), Katherine McPhee (Smash), Chace Crawford (Gossip Girl) and ‘N Sync’s Joshua Chasez.
U. S. Ambassador to Israel Ron Dermer, Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, U. S. Navy Secretary Mabus, and actors Olivia Munn (The Newsroom), Darren Criss (Glee) and Madeline Stowe (Revenge) were some of Reuters’ guests.
Time’s guests included Uber founder Travis Kalanick, former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and actors Lupita Nyong’o and Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave).
USA Today’s guests included actors Jeff Goldblum (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Rosario Dawson (Sin City), Josh Gad (Frozen) and Jessica Simpson (Fashion Star).
Cartoonist Gary Trudeau (Doonesbury) was a guest of The Washington Post.
But New York Times Editor Dean Baquet said his paper does not participate because “it feels uncomfortable.” He said the event gives the impression that to “shuck their adversarial roles” sent the “wrong signal.”
Tom Brokaw said “Why do we think [that] to have a successful evening, you have to have Donald Trump as your guest of honor, for example, or Lindsay Lohan?” It gives the message that the system is a “closed game.” It sounds as though “what we are doing is saying…we are Versailles….We’ll let the rest of you eat cake,” he added.
[SOURCES: Many media outlets reported on this dinner. My list is from Huff Post, Politic and Deadline Hollywood.]
Chinese Journalism Ethics
It’s quite unusual for the Chinese government-controlled media to complain about non-ideological journalism ethics in their homeland, but this is what happened recently when eight people from the financial Web site 21st Century were arrested for seeking money from news sources for positive coverage.
The China Daily newspaper said this is “a dangerous sign of corruption in our profession” and “Such corruption worsens the atmosphere of distrust and severely erodes society’s moral fiber.” The People’s Republic of China’s official news agency, Xinhua, said “it is unbelievable that they went on the crooked path of news extortion,” especially in view of the influence of 21st Century and the high compensation of its staff.
This new generation of communist capitalists has learned fast.
“Style” Causes Positive Criticism to Backfire
Much has been said about a recent New York Times’ television criticism by Alessandra Stanley. It referred to Shonda Rhimes, the producer of the new ABC show How to Get Away with Murder. The Times’ critic apparently said, “When Shonda Rhimes writes her autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away with Being an Angry Black Woman.” Protests against the writer and the piece were many and loud.
The New York Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, said “The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story.” Although the piece was “intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was—at best—astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch,” she said. The critic’s editor said the writer used “a rhetorical device to begin her essay, and because the piece was so largely positive, we as editors weren’t sensitive enough to the language being used.”
The TV critic herself said she often used the style of “provocative ledes that are then undercut or mitigated by the paragraphs that follow.” She said she didn’t think “Times readers would take the opening sentence literally….” But, she said, clearly “this stereotype is still too incendiary to raise even in arguing that Ms. Rhimes had killed it once and for all.”
As attractive a vehicle this kind of “style” can be, it too, has to be subservient to substance, public perception, good taste and common sense.
New Russia Is Coming Back
As Russian media are spending considerable amounts of time and space rehabilitating KGB’s (the former USSR’s secret police) past and as they continue to unabashedly praise President Putin (a former KGB operative), an independent voice of Russian television news is about to be silenced. The BBC reports that REN TV, one of Russia’s largest private networks, which was founded in 1997, is cancelling The Week, a program dedicated to covering the news from an alternative viewpoint. This appears to coincide with the network’s leadership change, which went to the National Media Group, headed by Putin ally Yuriy Kovalchuk.
Since 2003, The Week has been produced and anchored by Marianna Maksimovskaya, a popular and respected journalist, who has been often lauded for offering news and views that might have been unpopular among those who run the Kremlin.
Long-time Russian satirist Viktor Shenderovich said "what is surprising is not that Maksimovskaya has been axed, but that she has been axed only now."
As the world has seen in the last few months, the newer “Novorossiya” (New Russia) tries to become, the older it looks...
- This column is a regular feature in Media Ethics magazine. Readers with verifiable contributions for future issues (all subject to editing), or comments on the entries chosen for this issue, should send them to Manny Paraschos, c/o Media Ethics.