Politico’s Roger Simon: Journolist Sullies 'Holy Calling' of Reporting

July 29th, 2010 5:54 PM

Roger Simon's Wednesday morning column ("Journolist veers out of bounds"), an item Rush brought up on his show this afternoon, may be one of the most delusional items ever written by a journalist attempting to defend his profession.

Rich Noyes at NewsBusters covered one aspect of Simon's column on Wednesday, namely the deliciously hypocritical outrage of NBC/MSNBC reporter Chuck Todd over how the Journolist scandal "has been keeping him up nights, and he's especially frustrated that 'the right' would use it as 'a sledgehammer' against everyday journalists, 'those of us who don't practice advocacy journalism.'"

I'll suggest that Simon's rendition of journalistic history is at least as offensive as Todd's reaction, in that it's laughably and obviously false on so many fronts (numbered tags are mine):

... when I became a reporter, it was almost a holy calling. (1)

We really believed we were doing good. We informed the public and helped make democracy work. We exposed wrongdoing wherever we found it. (2)

... We were proud. We felt — I am just going to go ahead and say it — honorable.

There were wrongdoers. Fakers, plagiarists, those with private agendas who wished to slant the news. When found, they were often fired. Even when they were subjected to a lesser punishment, their sins were made clear as a lesson to the rest of us. (3)

Somewhere along the way, things have gone terribly wrong. Journalism has become a toy, an electronic plaything. I do not blame technology. (4)


(1) -- I'm really tempted to give Simon a pass on the "holy calling" characterization. After all, doing any job well, no matter what it is or how the public perceives, is a "holy calling." But holiness is a religious and a decidedly non-secular concept. Previous Media Research Center studies have shown that journalists in general aren't just indifferent to religion. All too often, they're openly hostile to it, as seen in Tim Graham's 2006 report, "The Trashing of the Christ," where he concluded:

Network television news stars may boast at seminars that they are tough on everyone, "without fear or favor," but in real life, their devotion to secularism is almost religious in its intensity.

Especially since several surveys have shown that "Between 6 and 8 percent (of journalists) attended religious services regularly, a tiny fraction of the corresponding rate for the public at large," I'm entitled to a high degree of confidence that Simon's "holy calling" characterization is not religion-based. Absent contrary evidence, Simon's free pass is revoked. In any event, even if Simon is religious, the vast majority of his professional colleagues aren't. Thus, his use of the word "holy" is wholly out of bounds.

(2) -- I'll supply just a sample here of wrongdoing found or suspected and not exposed or investigated:

  • I'm still waiting for the hard-hitting coverage of blatantly obvious wrongdoing in the management of Barack Obama's campaign donations made via plastic in 2008.
  • I'm holding on for someone, anyone, to get out the year-by-year details, with the names of the people who orchestrated it and the dollar amounts involved, of the 15-year campaign of mortgage quality misrepresentation to the securities markets by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
  • On a very recent matter, I'm wondering when if ever we are going to find out whether Shirley and Charles Sherrod have actually done anything in the past year with their seven-figure Pigford settlement that would involve actual farming, or whether Mr. Sherrod's infamous statement that "We must stop the white man and his Uncle Toms from stealing our elections" will be carried anywhere besides Fox News and center-right blogs.

Surely readers can supply a myriad of other examples.

(3) -- Since their perpetration of the Rathergate phony documents scandal that was obviously ginned up and timed to have maximum impact on the 2004 presidential election, Dan Rather and Mary Mapes have been defended by people like Ted Koppel and others who should know better, and don't.

(4) -- It's a good thing Simon doesn't blame the existence of technology for the advent of Journolist. In proper historical perspective, as I showed last week (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) when the story first broke, story coordination by establishment journalists isn't a recent tech phenomenon. Instead, it's a time-honored tradition. Between the early 1990s and 2005, when Editor & Publisher exposed it and appeared not to recognize its impact, the Washington Post and New York Times shared at least their front-page headlines before putting them on paper. Someone should ask them if they're still doing it today, and if it goes beyond headlines. The fact that WaPo was fine with having head Journolister Ezra Klein on board would seem to indicate that the words "journalism" and "ethics" don't spend a lot of time together in conversations there.

All in all, because Simon is writing a column and not reporting straight news, his pathetic prose doesn't quite rise (or actually sink) to the level of gems like the June 2008 item I called the "Worst AP Story Ever" ("Everything seemingly is spinning out of control"). But it's pretty close.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.