I’ve got a new Think Again called “Follow the Money” here.
David Broder passed away this week. I interviewed him once over twenty years ago for my first book, and have written about him quite a bit since. I am not one to comment on Broder the man based on a single one-hour conversation. But here are some of my assessments about his work and his influence. I link to them here for the sake of the public record.
Jerry Ceppos—dean of the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism and Advanced Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno and a former VP of Knight—was troubled by the last of these columns and got in touch with me about it. He gives a fair summary of our exchange here.
Now here’s Reed:
If you have the time and aren’t completely saturated by the coverage of the hidden-camera NPR fundraising fiasco, I recommend checking out NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard’s Washington Post webchat. It presents a near-perfect distillation of the current conventional wisdom about modern media ethics and its obsession with hiding reporters’ personal beliefs. Indeed, read through Shepard’s answers to the online questions and it becomes evident that her real beef with NPR executive Ron Schiller is his violation of this supposed code of journalistic omerta, so much so that she revisits the point three separate times:
“Who blabs to total strangers in public about their personal biases?” […]
“That is what baffles me most. When you first meet a complete stranger do you share your personal feelings about conservatives, liberals, politics? UNBELIEVABLE.” […]
“I still can’t believe you would divulge so much to a stranger. That’s what I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around.”
Just to emphasize: what Shepard finds baffling and unbelievable is that Schiller and his fundraising colleague, Betsy Liley—who, it should be pointed out are neither journalists nor did they work in any news capacity at NPR—shared like-minded personal political opinions with people they might want to solicit for a large cash donation during a business lunch. Stephen Glass or Judith Miller, they ain’t. Granted, Schiller was certainly guilty of making broad stereotypes about Tea Party members and asserting that certain media outlets employ a “Zionist” editorial outlook and they both let a lot of prejudicial banter wash over them unchallenged. But whatever your feelings of the pair’s smarmy behavior and viewpoints, their sins here were venial rather than cardinal ones, as what they notably did not do was offer the phony Muslim group some kind of unethical or illegal quid pro quo, like a promise that the $5 million donation would guarantee favorable coverage or equate to special access.