Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rolling Stone and journalistic integrity...

Too late to save his job, but as more comes out it appears that some of the material in the Rolling Stone magazine article about Gen. Stanley McChrystal (link) were supposed to be off the record. It should send a huge message to those who like to make comments off the record where they want to be "an un-named source" or "Senior White House staff" that your ability to keep a job and to not face consequences solely remains in the hands of the media and they are not always going to be fair.

As someone who is a fact checker for a weekly newspaper, reading about the fact checking questions that were asked (link) raises some troubling issues. Especially where it was made clear that comments were not supposed to be included. This does tend to suggest that the accusation by some media sources, including the Telegraph (link) that:
So far from this being “terrific journalism” as my colleague Harry Mount put it, the Rolling Stone piece now looks much more like a disgrace to the profession.

The worst thing about this is it won't matter in the long run, Rolling Stone got what they wanted with this story, sensationalism. And it cost someone their job...which only adds to their story. It's also helped add to the impression that President Obama is very thin skinned - (link):
But what do McChrystal's and BP's defenestration tell us about the president of the United States? Barack Obama is a thin-skinned man and, according to Britain's Daily Telegraph, White House aides indicated that what angered the president most about the Rolling Stone piece was "a McChrystal aide saying that McChrystal had thought that Obama was not engaged when they first met last year." If finding Obama "not engaged" is now a firing offense, who among us is safe?


Nunzia Rider said...

Not so fast. Rolling Stone has said from the start that the material it included in the article was said on the record -- it's not good journalistic practice to let your subject (or in this case, your subject's press aide) to tell you after the fact what you can and can't print. What bullshit from the Telegraph, really. Boothby, the fired press aide, never said any of the comments were untrue, he just tried to keep them from being printed. And while he said some things were "off the record," he didn't say that in his emails with the magazine fact checker -- he just said not to print it. He also implied, in his anonymous comments to CNN, that he was upset he didn't get to preview the article, also not good journalistic practice.

What I see is not a lack of journalistic integrity, but a military that figured out too late that it had screwed up and tried to make Rolling Stone take the blame.

You can't come back after the fact and say, oh, that's off the record.

Lisa Renee said...

Not sure I agree with you, if you during the fact checking process confirm that items were supposed to be off the record and use them? That's not journalistic integrity.

Making off the record statements happens in many interviews, it's off the record for a reason.

Lisa Renee said...

That's also of course without even going into there needing to be that many items confirmed. That to me was a huge warning sign since it's not common to have to go back and ask for that much clarification for an interview. I'm not a "professional" and I know that much...