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June 25, 2010

Bob Somerby Has the Day Off

Hello everyone, I'll be filling in for Bob today.

Jeffrey Goldberg is celebrating the firing of writer Dave Weigel by the Washington Post:

[This is] sort of a happy day at The Washington Post, for the dwindling band of writers and editors there who value such old-fashioned traits as temperance in the expression of personal views; forthrightness; and fairness...

The sad truth is that the Washington Post, in its general desperation for page views, now hires people who came up in journalism without much adult supervision, and without the proper amount of toilet-training. This little episode today is proof of this. But it is also proof that some people at the Post (where I worked, briefly, 20 years ago) still know the difference between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior, and that maybe this episode will lead to the reimposition of some level of standards.

Here's Eric Pooley of Time describing a 1999 debate between Bill Bradley and Al Gore:

...the 300 media types watching in the press room at Dartmouth were, to use the appropriate technical term, totally grossed out by it. Whenever Gore came on too strong, the room erupted in a collective jeer, like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd.

Jake Tapper, then of Salon, now of ABC, describing the same event: the first debate between Bill Bradley and Al Gore, there was hissing for Gore in the media room up at Dartmouth College. The reporters were hissing Gore...

Howard Mortman of Hotline describing it:

The media groaned, howled and laughed almost every time Al Gore said something...

To be clear, I have no problem with any reporter sneering at any politician. It would be a better world if they all sneered at all of them (as long as it was for things like claiming the power to assassinate U.S. citizens, or making assertions about Iran's nuclear activities that go beyond official U.S. intelligence, rather than not being cool enough). But it's unbearable to have Jeffrey Goldberg lecture the universe about proper journalistic standards.

P.S. It would be interesting to ask the Washington Post ombudsman whether its reporters who were at Dartmouth for this debate, Ceci Connolly and Dan Balz, Michael Powell and David Broder remember and/or participated in this.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at June 25, 2010 07:06 PM

Right on as ususal, Jon. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: cemmcs at June 25, 2010 08:29 PM

I love FAIR too.

Journalists always have been fired for the best things they do and promoted for the worst. you can read the first book of I.F. Stone's hero George Seldes online now.'t+print+that&source=bl&ots=xE5E4yDuil&sig=bh7IHVKXlwYTLw_6NkSofGaXe3k&hl=en&ei=A3AlTIqVNYS0lQeoz5SUAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CDUQ6AEwCDgK#v=onepage&q&f=false

Posted by: N E at June 25, 2010 11:23 PM

The tendency for the Goldbergs of this world - and we have more than a few local equivalents here in Oz - to remain employed despite their extraordinary and longstanding talent for being wrong reminds me of Tom Lehrer's joke about New Math: "Remember, it's more important to understand what you're doing than get the right answer." Though here, of course, "what you're doing" is clearer as "who you're working for".

Parrot the orthodoxy and you'll never lose your gig. You can get sacked for being subversive and wrong, but if you really want a speedy trip out the door try being subversive and right. The Goldberg ilk will go blue calling for your head on a stick. They take accurate dissidence as a personal insult, which, of course, it is.

If it's any consolation, Goldberg is clearly getting a kicking for this, which, among other things, allows us the fun of watching him attempt to, for some reason, defend the notion that Saddam Hussein had links to Al Qaeda.

Posted by: weaver at June 26, 2010 05:19 AM

See also.

Posted by: weaver at June 26, 2010 05:54 AM

weaver--"You can get sacked for being subversive and wrong, but if you really want a speedy trip out the door try being subversive and right."


Posted by: N E at June 26, 2010 01:29 PM

When I canceled my delivered to my home subscription to the Atlantc, I wrote them a note saying I would not pay for a magazine that employs Goldberg while the Iraq war waged (and truthfully, even if it ended tomorrow, I would not resubscribe.) That was over 2 years ago. They never responded.

Posted by: Matt at June 28, 2010 10:04 AM