Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Floyd McKay continues his journalistic flexibility

Once again, the journalism professor emeritus continues his loose connection to the facts in the Seattle Times, see my earlier post here. In his latest article he concludes with what has been all too common in the mainstream media nowadays, a gratutious attack on their biggest threat, blogging.

Journalism students, at least in my experience, are less interested in hard-scrabble reporting and more interested in supporting roles. Just as Watergate fired up a generation of would-be investigators, so has the Internet attracted a generation that would rather work online than by knocking on actual doors and talking to actual sources.

Revival of the Watergate story reminds us that no amount of blogging and Web browsing can replace face-to-face contact with real sources, and no portfolio of computer expertise rivals an inquiring and skeptical mind and just plain hard work.

This is all too ironic, because a few paragraphs earlier, McKay makes the following statement, which a quick Internet search proves to be rather inaccurate, one could even say false.

Investigative reporting is practiced, and practiced well, at a handful of major newspapers and magazines. Seymour Hersh, who uncovered the Mai Lai massacre in 1969, revealed the Abu Ghraib scandal 35 years later for The New Yorker.

Yes, Hersh wrote about Abu Ghraib in the New Yorker, but as Hersh himself explained in that very article, he did not "reveal" the scandal, it was 60 minutes that did so.

After the story broke on CBS last week, the Pentagon announced that Major General Geoffrey Miller, the new head of the Iraqi prison system, had arrived in Baghdad and was on the job.

In fact it was ironically Mary Mapes, that very same 60 Minutes producer who produced the famous "fake but accurate" Bush Air National Guard memo. But even that isn't entirely accurate, since CNN had reported several months earlier that the Army was investigating reports of abuse, including pictures of detainees. The Mudville Gazette (yes, those evil bloggers) has a good round up of this story. Perhaps in the modern media world overhyping and publicizing a story is now the same as breaking it, or perhaps Mr. McKay should spend more time "blogging and web browsing" Maybe then he could get his stories straight?

UPDATE: For an example of Seymour Hersh's "well practiced" investigative reporting techniques, check out this story.

There are two Hershes, really. Seymour M. is the byline. He navigates readers through the byzantine world of America’s overlapping national-security bureaucracies, and his stories form what Hersh has taken to calling an “alternative history” of the Bush administration since September 11, 2001.

Then there’s Sy. He’s the public speaker, the pundit. On the podium, Sy is willing to tell a story that’s not quite right, in order to convey a Larger Truth. “Sometimes I change events, dates, and places in a certain way to protect people,” Hersh told me. “I can’t fudge what I write. But I can certainly fudge what I say.”


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