Jun 9, 2008

Fowler power

Should Mayhill Fowler have identified herself as a journalist before reporting Barack Obama's "cling" to guns and religion comment and Bill Clinton's "scumbag" rant?

No, according to Marc Cooper, Fowler's editor at Huffington Post. He commends her ethics to a skeptical Joel Bellman, ethics chair for the LA chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

My two cents: Journalists identify themselves when asking tough question not out of some duty to be polite or show deference, but to ensure that when someone gets got, the story is airtight and above board. It's a rule designed to protect the integrity of the story, not the feelings of the story's subject. You don't want someone saying they were tricked or fooled or quoted out of context when they give up a doozy. You don't want your reporters and editors getting bogged down in explanations and defenses; you want the story to stand on its own.

That's why I see Fowler as a good source, rather than as a journalist. To properly report on what Obama and Clinton said, the reporter must include background and context on how the quotes were obtained and by whom. In other words, Fowler, her politics and her methods, become a part of the story. A reporter who had identified herself first and then recorded Obama's speech or asked Clinton about the Vanity Fair piece could then remove herself from the action and let the words speak for themselves.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with your post. I have been following this ever since fowler, along with her starry-eyed editors, two professors of journalism--and what does that say?--sent the "bitter" post to Lou Dobbs. They wanted to use this "gotcha" scoop to bring fame and notoriety for their OTB project. This fact is transparently stated in Rosen's initial remarks after the story broke--"From Off the Bus to Meet the Press." Anyone can gather information in this technological age, but what usually stops these kinds of scoops is an innate ethical framework. Fowler clearly has none, but most disturbing, is the fact that Rosen and Cooper are smitten by this woman and encourage her "espionage journalism." It is Fox News methodology and drives hits and comments to the HuffPo--and that is what they are looking for. She has now been made a "national" correspondent for both campaigns by OTB. What is interesting is that this woman, when she is not "scooping" for the Huffpo receives very few comments--her writing is folksy and contrived. And, the good writers, citizen journalists, who also work for OTB don't get the hits because they do not reduce themselves to her tactics.

The comments Bill Clinton made were deliberately gleaned by fowler's question: "what did you think of the hatchet job by Vanity Fair?"--not as she first wrote when she said I asked him if the article was weighing on his mind. The public is no better or worse off because of this information--it is meaningless, front page national inquirer "news".

But the way in which fowler obtained Obama's "bitter" comments was downright calculated, self-serving, and most destructive to Obama's campaign and ultimately the democratic presidential primary. She was not invited to the fund raiser, but wrangled her way in by asking someone who knew her from following Obama's campaign around. They trusted her not to report or do anything which would hurt Obama's chances. She claimed to be an Obama supporter which she was not. She concealed the tape recorder and, in her post, she did not reveal the CONTEXT of the comment. He was speaking casually and empathetically to two volunteers who were going to canvas for him in Pennsylvania. He had made similar comments on the disaffection of rust belt voters to Charlie Rose in 2004. If fowler had given the context of these comments, as any person, let alone any journalist would do, there were have been no story. But Rosen and Cooper wanted to be part of the MSM. Rosen just couldn't understand why Tim Russert didn't mention Huffpo the following Sunday. There were two posts later that weekend by two people who had attended the fundraiser but the media wolves were not to be denied their narrative. One of the attendees from San Francisco told me she sent her comments to at least a hundred media outlets, but was totally ignored. This "unethical scoop" could have had a more disastrous effect on the country had Obama not been the candidate he is. In a time when America is in such need of vision and leadership, Rosen stated that he knew the "scoop" could possibly bring down Obama's campaign. All because of "citizen hack" and MSM wannabes and an outright lie since no context to Obama's comments were given. "New" media with no standards, no ethical structure, is far worse than what we have now, because people do not have an appropriate lens through which to view it yet. Rosen says it is "uncharted territory." Ethical standards in the arena of national discussion is uncharted territory?

The last point I would like to make is that there are many of us who have attempted to post about fowler's tactics, as well as rosen/cooper's total endorsement of her, regardless of her lack of ethics. We are consistently censored despite no abusive language or personal attacks. I have watched at least 10 posts go from "pending approval" to oblivion. Fear of legitimate criticism by the OTB team, on a progressive blog, seems to indicate there is something rotten going on, despite rosen's and cooper's protestations. For example, look at the negative comments about fowler on the LATimes piece--almost all negative against fowler and her tactics--which proves your point that a lack of journalistic ethics in stories that are put out for public consumption gives us stories that cannot stand alone. There are some of us trying to get the word out. Could you help us in this area? Could Joel Bellman help keep this very important issue alive until we convince people like rosen and cooper that the uncharted territory, the "gotcha" scoops, have no place in the "new" media, and may in fact destroy it before it is properly born.

Thank you,
Joanie

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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