♣ Apparently Getting It Right isn’t what sells these days…♣
“In Journalism, there has always been a tension between getting it first and getting it right.”
— Ellen Goodman, 1980 Pulitzer Prize winner for Commentary
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — In the Fall of 1980, an incredible piece of writing hit the front page of the Washington Post. The story was so incredible that it held the city and country on the edge of its seat. It was a piece called Jimmy’s World. It was written by Janet Cooke, an extremely talented Black writer who spoke multiple languages and went to some of the best schools in the world. The story was about an eight-year-old boy in Washington, D.C. who was a heroin addict, often shot full of smack by his mother’s live-in boyfriend. The boy was a product of a rape. In the aftermath of the story being published, people in DC were aghast and outraged. Dr. Alyce Gullattee, who was the director of the Institute of Substance Abuse at Howard, claimed to know the boy and his family. DC Mayor Marion Barry claimed that the city knew Jimmy’s identity (irony abounds on that one). The story was so riveting that it was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. On April 13, 1981, Cooke won the Pulitzer. On April 15, 1981, she admitted she made the entire damn thing up. From start to finish, it was all a lie, from the boy, to the family, to the name. Hell, she even lied about speaking multiple foreign languages, and attending Vassar and the Sorbonne. She gave back her Pulitzer and was forced to resign from the Post (Then-Executive Editor Ben Bradlee wrote in his book “I can’t explain now why I let her resign rather than fire her on the spot for the grossest of negligence”). She became a pariah in the industry, never to be heard from again. No paper would ever think of hiring her. That was 1981. In 2010, she’d have been given her own blog and one hour special on Fox News. Let’s Go.
I first got into Journalism when I was in 7th grade at U of D. I’ve always enjoyed writing and asking questions. While I have preferred to cover sports, any and all kinds of news worked for me. As I progressed into Renaissance High School, and eventually Michigan State (where I have already mentioned how that turned out) my love of being a writer grew. But so did my skepticism of this business. I came up in the 80s and 90s when Cable news (namely CNN) made a massive push. It made the networks step their proverbial games up big time. There were reporters who went out there and got stories. But there were also the shows hosted by pundits who weren’t actual reporters. They were more along the lines of being columnist with mics. Little by little, that’s what Journalism has turned into. And I hate it.
The notion of there having to be news networks that adhere to one specific political agenda would’ve been seen as outrageous 20 years ago. Now it’s the norm. What’s even more laughable is that one of them would have the gall to play dumb about being biased. I’m not talking about MSNBC either. At least they admit it. You already know who I’m referring to. But the sad thing is that’s the network that gets the highest ratings. I have used this platform to put Fox News on blast on numerous occasions, such as this one or this one, but what has occurred recently has made me really question the collective intelligence of my fellow Americans. Of course I’m referring to the entire Shirley Sherrod fiasco.
What happened with Shirley Sherrod wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago. This country was sufficiently smarter back then. The fact that a large amount of this country, including the Obama Administration, actually bit on the pump fake by a Conservative (Right Wing) blogger named Andrew Breitbart for even a few hours is scary. The ferocity with which Fox News pounced on the story was almost embarrassing. Whenever I hear them use the catchphrase “Fair & Balanced“, it’s hard for me to restrain laughter. It was like the perfect storm. An older Black woman doing something racist to an elderly white man. See! Rush Limbaugh is Right! Those Niggers are the Real Racists! Let’s just be real, Fox News knew that video was an edited clip, and not the whole thing. They and Brietbart, who amazingly tried to act as if he didn’t know the tape was doctored, set this whole thing up. The right wing made Breitbart out to be a hero. The NAACP threw Ms. Sherrod under the bus, and the USDA (not the one with Young Jeezy either, simpletons) ran her over repeatedly. Everything was fine and flippin dandy…until, you know, someone actually did about 15 seconds of research. Now the USDA is back-peddling like an NFL cornerback. Fox News is trying to play dumb like they never called her racist and basically used the spector of Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly to blackmail the USDA into firing her. Breitbart still insists that the video proves she was racist. He went as far as to say that if this was back in the day “I would’ve won a Pulitzer.” #thehellyousay. We saw how that worked for Janet Cooke.
I will say now what I have said before: Journalists can be bloggers, but not all bloggers are Journalists. Andrew Breitbart and all the peddlers of (what Keith Olbermann called) journalistic “feces” at Fox News are not Journalists. They are the news equivalent of TNA or WWE. Sherrod announced at the NABJ Conference in San Diego last week that she plans on suing Brietbart (and likely Fox News). And yes, she would have a legit case for suing Brietbart for Defamation of Character and Libel, and Fox News could get it for Defamation and Slander, not like any of that matters to them or to most of you (Remember: Libel is written lies, while Slander is lies on tape).
Speaking of NABJ, one of the hotter topics of conversation there was the entire abortion that was “The Decision” on ESPN, starring LeBron James, his ego, The Miami Heat, and a bunch of pissed off people in Cleveland. ESPN’s stance on it has been that “Any network would’ve done what we did!” which is, of course, True. You think NBC, or CBS, or Fox wouldn’t have killed to have that 90 minute info-mercial on there? The fact of the matter is, you don’t see CNN or MSNBC buying the rights to the the State of the Union address do you? ESPN (and LRMR) tried to buy the news. Never mind that it was a story that Steven A. Smith had broken a week earlier (sorry Chris Broussard, but he scooped you). ESPN can spin this anyway they want to, but the fact of the matter is, they allowed themselves to be bought by an athlete who wanted to control the news. How long before Brett Favre does the same thing?
BTW: All due respect to his widow, but the notion that LeBron James is the new Curt Flood is so ridiculous that the person who said it needs to be wearing clown shoes, a bright red wig, and a Fox News t-shirt. Flood refused a trade from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969. He fought the MLB Reserve Clause which basically tied players to one team for life. Flood sacrificed the rest of his career for what eventually led to Free Agency in Baseball starting in 1975. Last I checked, the Cavaliers weren’t trying to trade LeBron to the Pistons or Wizards against his will, and he took some kind of stand. This dude voluntarily left the Cavaliers to be a sidekick in Miami. Dan Gilbert didn’t send an angry letter written in Comic Sans trying to sue LeBron. The league didn’t blackball him, either. Get your history straight, idiots.
I am afraid for where Journalism in this country is headed. Hell, I’m afraid of where this country is headed in general. It has become fashionable to be misinformed and have the news slanted to suit your beliefs. It is slowly becoming cool to be racist and intolerant of others in this country (the subject of my next blog). The facts of a story are slowly becoming optional. People hate Journalists and the media, yet couldn’t do our jobs if you tried (trust me, I’ve seen a lot of your blogs. You need to stick to being a fan). Everyone hates us, which is fine. My plea of my fellow journalists is that we need to stop giving the simpletons so much ammunition. Why the hell does Fox News out draw CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, and PBS/NPR? Why does Fox News have a seat in the White House Press Corps? The front seat no less!? Not NPR…but Fox f*cking News! The Network that openly calls the Black President of the United States (who was raised by whites, mind you) Racist and continues to question his citizenship in spite of all the proof!? Why not give seats to Bossip, Media Take Out, and TMZ?
In closing, We need to and must do better as Journalists. I refuse to get my news from a network that thinks that anything Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck says is viable, or actually thinks that the Tea Party isn’t racist. We need to stop thinking of ratings and start thinking of the people. I don’t give a damn about Lindsay Lohan or Snooki from Jersey Shore, not when there’s a white man running around Flint randomly attacking black men with a knife! O_o! That’s not new news either. It’s been going on for almost three months! It just hit Detroit papers yesterday, and Flint is just 75 miles north of here! It’s no where near the national radar either, but (and I’m just gonna say it) if the roles were reversed and a black man had murdered eight white men at random, and wounded another five, this would’ve been front page news after the first murder. Let’s get right as journalists now, before these moron bloggers like Breitbart (who I personally hope Shirley Sherrod sues blind), and these lazy rookies hijack our business from us completely.
Until Next Time, That’s The Way It Is. Saturday, August 7, 2010.
The 259th day since the Detroit Lions’ Last Victory
Take Care, God Bless, Always Dare to Be Different, and G.O.M.A.B. Σ