Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Media Hypocrisy Overload

Lot of journalist vs. journalist stuff of late:  Last week was the Washington Post's Dave Weigel quitting/being fired over the outting of messages about other journalists (and conservatives he was covering) that he posted on a listserv called JournoList.  Weigel, who is somewhat conservative (though admittedly more on the cultural libertarian part of the spectrum) responded to the controversy over here. The issue got even more messy when liberal Ezra Klein (who still blogs for the W. Post) owner of the liberal-filled JournoList noted that one of the outlets that exposed Weigel's emails was Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller -- not so long after Carlson asked to join JournoList and was turned down.  

Now comes Lara Logan, CBS News' Foreign Correspondent.  She was on CNN's Reliable Sources over the weekend and castigated Rolling Stone's Michael Hastings for, in her view, unethical reporting in his explosive scoop on General Stanley McChrystal and associates mouthing off about the Obama administration. 

"What I find is the most telling thing about what Michael Hastings said in your interview is that he talked about his manner as pretending to build an illusion of trust and, you know, he's laid out there what his game is," Logan said. "That is exactly the kind of damaging type of attitude that makes it difficult for reporters who are genuine about what they do, who don't -- I don't go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else. I mean, I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life."
Hastings also said that beat reporters -- reporters, like Logan, specifically assigned to cover the military -- do not publish negative pieces about their subjects in order to assure continued access.
"I think that's insulting and arrogant, myself. I really do," Logan said, "because there are very good beat reporters who have been covering these wars for years, year after year. Michael Hastings appeared in Baghdad fairly late on the scene, and he was there for a significant period of time. He has his credentials, but he's not the only one. There are a lot of very good reporters out there. And to be fair to the military, if they believe that a piece is balanced, they will let you back."
"Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has," she added.

This would be the scoop that led to McChrystal being canned and President Obama handing over the Afghanistan assignment to Gen. David Petraeus.  In his Rolling Stone blog, Matt Taibbi eviscerates Logan for what he sees as her unhealthy -- and arguably journalistically unprofessional -- inclination to protect military sources such as the general and his aides:
When I first heard her say that, I thought to myself, "That has to be a joke. It's sarcasm, right?" But then I went back and replayed the clip – no sarcasm! She meant it! If I'm hearing Logan correctly, what Hastings is supposed to have done in that situation is interrupt these drunken assholes and say, "Excuse me, fellas, I know we're all having fun and all, but you're saying things that may not be in your best interest! As a reporter, it is my duty to inform you that you may end up looking like insubordinate douche bags in front of two million Rolling Stone readers if you don't shut your mouths this very instant!" I mean, where did Logan go to journalism school – the Burson-Marsteller agency?
Ground rules are ground rules and every organization has different ones with different media. However, as harsh as Taibbi is in going after Logan, he actually could have been even worse.  Why? It's in this lovely phrase that she underscored in the CNN interview:  "I don't go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else. I mean, I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life."

Oh, really?  This would be the same Lara Logan who put the "affairs" in foreign affairs correspondent.  While having a fling with CNN correspondent Michael Ware, she also had a relationship with State Department contractor Joe Burkett -- a liaison which allegedly broke up Burkett's marriage! Logan ended up pregnant, divorced her first husband and is now happily married to Burkett (they had their second child in March). 

Should a person's messy personal life matter when they're commenting on journalistic sourcing? Normally, no. But when said individual trashes another writer for getting a scoop (causing a major dramatic personnel change in the military, in the process) -- and suggest that she is completely above-board in her personal life, well, that's an invitation to examine the public record of her private life.  

Especially, when Logan, labels Hastings' professional actions as "egregious" -- which they, objectively, hardly are.  She cheats twice on her husband -- one with a married man, in an occupation that she is covering professionally.  Whether she's right or not about how Hastings presented himself to McChrystal and Co., she certainly has no standing to question anybody about ethics.  

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