The thing about Page Six,
which if you read the New York Times or the New York Observer, is the
biggest story since, well, the president had sex with an intern.
I am not a prig about gossip, I eat it up, as a matter of fact, and
they sure do take it seriously at P6. What annoys me about the
page is that it is, like John Bolton, essentially a "kiss-up,
kick-down" enterprise, which is perfectly antithetical to my belief
that journalism should seek to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the
comfortable." In any case, I am about as low-level a celebrity as
exists anywhere. And yet whenever see my name on P6, it's always
something nasty and often something inaccurate. Once upon a time,
I went to the trouble to have an eyewitness to the events they were
describing write them to correct their false rendering of what took
place. (It's too complicated and silly to go into the details,
but because the eyewitness was also the allegedly aggrieved party,
there could be no doubt that the item was false.) But it didn't
matter, because I'm not important enough or powerful enough to make
trouble for them in places they care about. I suppose I could
have played nice and fed them items instead, but life's a little
crowded for that. That's why Monica was treated so badly
there. She had no way to make them pay, either by getting to
Murdoch, as Burkle did, or by doing a deal. My friend Katie
Rosman--congrats on the kid, Katie-- once wrote a profile of Richard
Johnson for Brill's Content that was all together too kind for my taste
as a matter of journalism, but still gets to the bottom of things--at
least until Stern. On the other hand, every time I've ever met
Richard Johnson, he's been quite decent. And I went to ski school
a couple of years back with his now wife, and she was nice too.
And compared with the ethics one sees in the rest of the Murdoch
empire, particularly Fox News, well, even Stern comes off looking
pretty benign. (So says Joe Conason too in a newspaper that is otherwise, one long Page Six....)
P.S. Too bad the Times is ending its Boldface Names column. It was only nice gossip, but still, some of the cleverest writing in the paper.
Speaking of journalistic ethics, things get murkier the closer you look. Take a look at this line on the front page of today's Times, here.
Police Seize Top Mafioso After 43 Years
... Corleone spawned a vicious Mafia family, currently led ..."
Now why is the Times characterizing an entire family as
"vicious." Isn't that, you know, libelous or at least really,
really unfair? Well, the answer lies in what the late J. Anthony
Lukas termed "the Afghanistan Principle." I'll let Victor Navasky
explain, as he does in A Matter of Opinion, here:
J. Anthony Lukas, then a staff writer for the magazine, identified what he called the Afghanistan principle. He formulated this principle while covering the 1969-70 trial of the so-called Chicago Eight. That was the trial where Judge Julius Hoffman brutally ordered the manacling of the black defendant Bobby Seale. When Lukas filed his copy, which reported that Judge Hoffman had brutally ordered the manacling of the black defendant Bobby Seale, his editor told him he couldn't use the word "brutally." Why not? Because that would be editorializing in the news columns and this was supposed to be an objective job of reporting. Lukas said he didn't understand: When he had been reporting from Asia he had frequently filed stories with leads such as "Today, the Wali of Swat brutally put down the uprising of 2,000 peasants . . ." and nobody on the foreign desk complained. The Afghanistan Principle held that at The New York Times, at least, one's ability to tell the truth was inversely proportional to one's distance from West Forty-third Street.
One more point on journalistic ethics: Not that Diane Sawyer needs any help from yours truly, but this
is a silly piece in the first place; a new low in the
How-to-over-cover-Katie-Couric sweepstakes, but I thought I'd point out
that within this article--linked to by both Romenesko and
Mediabistro--is a transparently dishonest journalistic technique.
Read this sentence: "The fact that Ms. Sawyer's name surfaced several
times in recent months for anchor jobs - in stories that looked
suspiciously like she'd leaked them herself - made clear her true
ambitions." Excuse me, accused in the first half of the sentence,
convicted in the second, but not a shred of evidence is presented in
between. If this were one of my students, that'd rate an "F."
OK, once more, back to Time and Joe Klein: Since I genuinely like and admire Jim Kelly, it pains me to point out just how unjustifiably unfair Time is to liberals, but there's no denying it. Klein, as I mentioned yesterday hates liberals and regularly slanders them. So, obviously, does Time blogger and columnist Andrew Sullivan, who questioned all liberals' loyalty in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and regularly uses the same "hate America" trope that Klein employs. So too, does its back-page columnist Charles Krauthammer. I don't feel like it now but this is easy to document and I've done so at length in both Sound & Fury and What Liberal Media?
OK, here's one Krauthammer quote from the days they thought they ruled
the world: "The only people who think this wasn't a victory are Upper
West Side liberals, and a few people here in Washington."
Then there was that horrific love letter on the cover by John Cloud to Ann Coulter, in which this evil McCarthyite liar--and read Al Franken here if you doubt any of those words--was celebrated as some sort of fashionable 'It Girl.' And then Margaret Carlson, who was only just a tiny bit liberal, but liberal nevertheless, was fired. What gives? And why is it justifiable to have only columnists who slander liberals and not one who defends them? Write to Time and ask them why this is OK
Since I was not BS-ing when I said liked Jim Kelley personally and
admired him as a journalist, I can't help mentioning that I do wish
he'd read Altercation a little more often, or at least pretend
to. In the past month, my buddy Jim has invited me to two parties
at his apartment: one in honor of Andrew Sullivan and one for Joe
Klein. Ouch! (Here is the column I wrote about Klein's methods that led him to call me lots of unpleasant things.)
And while I'm using the blog to speak to my misguided friends in high editorial places, hey Ben, giving Beinart's book to Hitchens is another sin of the same "Let's slander the liberals" nature. Let him show off his public school education on the classics all he wants, but keep him away from politics. But while we're on the topic of the May Atlantic, everybody should read Jim Fallows on why attacking Iran is insane.
Also on this topic, sort-of, is it just a coincidence that the smart, right-wing boys at The Note write that the right-wing New York Sun's Josh Gerstein is "showing his ownership of [the Fitzgerald] story"? I think any fair-minded, non-ideological reading of who owns this story would wish to give at least some credit to the incredible reporting of Murray Waas, (but that would mean The Note would have to give credit to a liberal, soo never mind)...
It's official, Baghdad is the worst place on Earth.
Quote of the Day:
"'We have found the weapons of mass destruction,' President Bush, May
29, 2003. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence
officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true." Here