Patterico's Pontifications


Questioning Ethics…Some Of The Time

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:53 am

[guest post by Dana]

Last week I put up a post about George W. Bush and his art exhibit opening in Dallas. The post included a video of Bush’s daughter Jenna Bush Hagar interviewing the former president about his paintings on NBC’s The Today Show.

Last night, I stumbled upon a link to a story entitled, “The Ethics of NBC Letting George W. Bush Be Interviewed by His Daughter”. While acknowledging the segment on Bush was a commercial success for NBC, the people at Think Progress were troubled,

[A]s a journalistic outlet, what are the ethical implications of turning over an interview with a former President to his own daughter?

Citing the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which states, “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived”, three experts in ethics and journalism were contacted by the publication. According to Think Progress, all three “raised substantial concerns with the segment”.

Marc Cooper , professor at the Annenberg School For Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, said the segment,

“helps erode any lingering hope the public might have that these powerful news organizations have much intention to hold the powerful accountable and instead prefer to cater to their children and play patsy with their parents.”

Cooper added that “networks long ago abandoned any serious ethical standards, especially for its morning shows.”

From Todd Gitlin, professor and chair of the Ph.D. program at the Columbia University School of Journalism,

“The disgrace of network broadcasting is always making new bottoms.” He noted that there were any number of serious questions NBC News could and should pose to former President Bush, including for example the Iraq War, the collapse of the financial system, and his inaction in the face of catastrophic climate change. Instead, according to Gitlin, NBC “pretties up the self-indulgence of the president… those are the journalism ethics in charge… as satire, this is rock-bottom stuff.”

Bill Reader, a professor of journalism at Ohio University, seemed less concerned,

“I am thinking it is really not much different than when NPR reporters interview their parents for cutesy Mother’s Day or Father’s Day features. Rather his concerns center on the energy spent “on a pointless puff piece about ‘daddy’s painting hobby’” which he calls “a vapid waste of time.”

At the end of the report, Think Progress dutifully informed readers that Chelsea Clinton’s hiring as a special correspondent at NBC’s Rock Center also resulted in criticism being lobbed at NBC, and they provided a link to several brief New York Magazine pieces commenting on nepotism and incestuous privilege. I was, however, unable to locate any question of ethics regarding the Clinton hire in Think Progress archives.

In light of said experts and their comments, if we are questioning ethics, should the ethics of an overtly left publication seeking out the journalistic opinions of several overtly politically like-minded professors be questioned?

After all, if the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics warns, “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived”, shouldn’t Think Progress have considered that a conflict of interest might easily be perceived by readers upon noting the politics of the go-to professionals? Especially, as ultimately, this is about politics. Because Bush.

Clearly, Think Progress questioning the ethics in this, and the subsequent statements of Cooper and Gitlin confirm that partisanship was a motivating factor. Being generous, whether intentionally or not, their statements rallied the troops and got the righteous indignation motors revving again. Why else go after a former president who has intentionally avoided the public eye since leaving office and has subsequently protected his private life? If Think Progress were seriously interested in ethics, they would do well to focus on the political power players currently making noise and news, rather than on those who have clearly avoided the spotlight and have no intention of seeking public office.

As I am not a professional journalist, I sought out one who decades ago graduated from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and has worked in journalism for most of her professional adult life, including as a contributing editor at a major metropolitan newspaper. She made the following observations,

Puff pieces have always been a part of EVERY news organization. This was a feature and they likely only got Bush to do it because his daughter works there. Isn’t that why they hired her?

And it wasn’t even a feature that deeply explored whether his art was good or what influences he has been inspired by. It was puff pure and simple. Every TV news organization does PUFF pieces. The question is, do they do them right before a major election in favor of the candidate their puffing about or in front of passing a huge and hated-by-the-population law?

It’s kind of like Michelle Obama on the cover of Home and Garden. Or the Obama family on the cover of People. Or Michelle Obama at the Oscars. Do a search on their critiques of that journalism and … what do you find?

Ironically, after doing a good faith search of Think Progress archives, as well as articles specifically by author of this article, Judd Legum, I was unable to locate any questioning of ethics when Chelsea Clinton interviewed her mother, Hillary Clinton, which aired on ABC News in 2011. At the time of the interview, Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State, and the opening questions from Chelsea to her mother, were, “What in the 21st century is the appropriate role of government? What is the appropriate role of civil society? What can and should government do? What can and should civil society do?”

In closing, it should be noted that author Judd Legum’s bio reads in part, “Judd was the Research Director for the Hillary Clinton for President campaign.”

Ethics, anyone?


22 Responses to “Questioning Ethics…Some Of The Time”

  1. Well Cooper was Allende’s speechwriter, Gitlin was a founding member of SDS, although I don’t think he migrated over to the Weathermen,

    narciso (3fec35)

  2. I guess people generally have to complain about something, and if we aren’t concerned about the right things we’ll be concerned over something not important.
    Are these people really so narrow sighted to not realize that Bush’s daughter interviewing him was the draw, and that it was about something of “general human interest”, and not a slanted way of presenting some important information? Or do they realize what it was, but since George W. was involved they had to find a way to make a complaint?
    I think real conflict or interest only occurs when it is hidden, if it is not hidden, people should know to take into account the potential conflict. In medicine for example, if a doc is getting paid by a company to give a talk or write a paper, they are asked to disclose that info, not refuse the support. I think that is reasonable.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  3. It’ Soros’s flying monkey, he set the talking points on the Zimmerman case, of course they were wrong, often aggregiously, and a hundred other wurlitzer

    narciso (3fec35)

  4. Oh, shadddup up, liberals.

    Your credibility is pretty much kaput, now more than ever before.

    Mark (14c5d3)

  5. Ethics?! What the hell is ethics? I’m far more concerned about compassion for compassion’s sake. I also think that a feeling of self-entitlement is a nice thing too.

    Kumbaya., April 10, 2014: #1 Approximately one-third of the entire population of the United States (110 million people) currently has a sexually transmitted disease according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. #3 America has the highest STD infection rate in the entire industrialized world.

    #8 The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the entire industrialized world. #10 At this point, one out of every four teen girls in the U.S. has at least one sexually transmitted disease.

    #13 18 percent of all women in the United States say that they have been raped at some point in their lives.

    #22 It has been estimated that 89 percent of all pornography is produced in the United States.

    #24 The marriage rate in the United States has fallen to an all-time low. Right now it is sitting at a yearly rate of 6.8 marriages per 1000 people. #26 Not surprisingly, an all-time low 44.2 percent of all Americans in the 25 to 34-year-old age bracket are married at this point.

    #27 America has the highest divorce rate in the world by a good margin. #28 America has the highest percentage of one person households on the entire planet.

    #31 For women under the age of 30 in the United States, more than half of all babies are being born out of wedlock. #32 At this point, approximately one out of every three children in the United States lives in a home without a father.

    #39 The United States has the highest abortion rate in the western world. #40 It has been reported that a staggering 41 percent of all New York City pregnancies end in abortion.

    #53 An all-time high 59 percent of all Americans believe that the traditional definition of marriage needs to be changed.

    #54 The number of sexual assaults in the U.S. military is at an all-time high, and the majority of them are male on male. #55 During 2012, more than 85,000 military veterans were formally treated for sexual abuse that they suffered while serving in the U.S. military. #56 The number of active members of the U.S. military that kill themselves each year now exceeds the number that are dying on the battlefield.

    #61 According to a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, nearly 70 percent of all Americans are on at least one prescription drug. An astounding 20 percent of all Americans are on at least five prescription drugs.

    #71 It is hard to believe, but 56 percent of all Americans now have “subprime credit”.

    #75 Corruption is rampant throughout our society. In fact, America leads the world in money given to fake charities.

    #80 Average SAT scores have been falling for years, and the level of education that our kids are receiving in most of our public schools is a total joke. #81 At this point, 15-year-olds that attend U.S. public schools do not even rank in the top half of all industrialized nations when it comes to math or science literacy.

    #82 We live a time when most employers no longer care about their employees. As I wrote about the other day, a company that Warren Buffett has a controlling interest in has decided to shut down a factory in Kentucky and move it to Honduras just so that he can make a little bit more money. As a result, 600 workers are going to lose their jobs.

    #85 Nearly one-fifth of all U.S. adults have no religious affiliation whatsoever. Back in 1972, only 7 percent of all U.S. adults had no religious affiliation. #90 The religiously unaffiliated now make up 24 percent of all registered voters “who are Democrats or lean Democratic”.

    Mark (14c5d3)

  6. The travesty of the ensconced, authorized lecturers on PC propriety is not escaping the notice of their captive audience.

    I’ve asked working teenagers and young adults how their Final Four brackets have fared and reliably been answered there was no time to care.

    The only one we are all aware that had such leisure was Urkel.

    That the professors, CEOs, newsreaders and pols constantly holding forth on right belief are the fat cats, the Man, the 1% is now become axiomatic.

    What goes around is now tottering up the street.

    gary gulrud (e2cef3)

  7. Ethics does not apply to self-righteous people.

    Amphipolis (d3e04f)

  8. That NBC and “ethics” appear in the same sentence is a peculiar combination.

    Mike K (decf3d)

  9. The epic hypocrisy of the left strikes again.

    Ezra Klein of JournoList fame continues to be an out and out Democratic party operative. He actually briefed Congressional Democratic staffers at a meeting about the Supercommittee a few years back. This is unheard of; it’s supposed to be the other way around. He may have been strategizing with them. Gee, I know, hard to believe. Ezra Klein strategizing with the Democratic party.

    Ezra Klein Isn’t a Reporter

    Now, I haven’t the foggiest idea why Klein was briefing Democratic chiefs of staff about the inner workings of Congress. If there’s a scandal there, it’s that a 27-year-old blogger is apparently more clued in to the workings of our legislature than the people heading up Senate offices.

    But here’s the thing: I just doesn’t matter. Klein isn’t a reporter. He just isn’t. He’s an opinion writer. Yes, he’s now doing wonkier work on certain aspects of domestic policy that he’s interested in. Still, he’s not trying to hide the fact that he’s a die-hard progressive.

    Per Powerline’s masterful work, other remaining Democratic party operatives masquerading as journalists at the Democratic party’s organ, the WaPo, have been caught apparently colluding with other branches of the Democratic party apparatus to advance a Democratic party talking point.

    The Washington Post Is Still Stonewalling

    It is now 20 days since Washington Post reporters Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson published their infamous hit piece that tried to fool readers into believing that the Keystone Pipeline, the bete noire of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors, is somehow all about Koch Industries, which has nothing to do with the pipeline and would, in fact, be damaged by it economically. It is 14 days since Sheldon Whitehouse and Henry Waxman wrote their letter to the President of Koch Industries, asking a series of questions and requesting production of a large number of documents about Keystone, with the letter’s allegations footnoted to the Post’s article and the juvenile left-wing report on which it was based.

    For two weeks we have been asking Juliet Eilperin, Steven Mufson, Sheldon Whitehouse, Henry Waxman and the editors of the Washington Post whether the Post’s March 20 article was a put-up job, developed in coordination with Whitehouse, Waxman, or other representatives of the Democratic Party–like Eilperin’s husband, who is a “climate” official in the Obama administration, or Tom Steyer, who has pledged to donate $100 million to Democratic candidates who oppose Keystone, a project that would threaten his “green energy” scam empire. So far there has been no response. Both the Washington Post and the Democratic Party–but I repeat myself–are hoping that we will go away and the controversy will blow over.

    And Think Progress is wrapped around the axle about the “journalistic ethics” of a sweet father-daughter interview about an innocuous topic like art? A non-scandal in which NBC wasn’t trying to hide the connection between the reporter and the subject. As opposed to, dunno, at the WaPo where the “reporter” who wrote the hit piece on the Koch brothers is actually sleeping with a guy connected to the Obama administration?

    Is there a word for something that goes beyond hypocrisy?

    Steve57 (e3957b)

  10. the poor thing should’ve gone into a respectable profession i think

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  11. He tried, Mr. Feets, but that Vegas stripper/hooker thing just didn’t work out.

    Steve57 (e3957b)

  12. Is Colbert in the same time slot as Letterman now?

    nk (dbc370)

  13. Right now, yes, CBS plans to keep the show in the same time slot.

    Steve57 (e3957b)

  14. Ferguson, who has the 12:30, is disturbingly funny, whereas Colbert is just disturbing,

    narciso (3fec35)

  15. “We interrupt the non-stop sloppy Obama is getting from NBC to question the Bush segment.”

    CrustyB (5a646c)

  16. Wonder whether the MSM will question if Preezy Sleazy was at a Beer Summit, smoking some weed, or torching a crack pipe today before uttering the following words:

    President Obama: “We are here today because we know we cannot be complacent. History travels not only forwards, but backwards and sideways.”

    On second thought, they will not even think to question our first time traveling president.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  17. There is a word for this kind of behavior by the left . . .projection.

    Mark L (da8bb9)

  18. I don’t believe there was a loud noise from the left over CNN Democrat Operative Cuomo brother interviewing Democrat office holder Cuomo brother.

    Amazed_476 (78a5e8)

  19. How do they feel about Maria Shriver? She’s a Kennedy and has been a “reporter” for NBC from 1987-2004. She stepped down while Schwarzenegger was governor, but she returned to NBC in 2013.

    Anon Y. Mous (8ec442)

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