Thursday, April 24, 2003
Waaaah! I don't like them! I was going to write on Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen's Tuesday column last night, but making the chart you see below was more time-consuming than I had anticipated.
Anyway, Cohen's little diatribe against media mogul Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel and New York Post is a waste of perfectly good newsprint (and Internet bandwidth).
Since 1917 the Pulitzer Prizes -- named for their creator, the 19th-century press baron Joseph Pulitzer -- have been awarded to encourage excellence in journalism. I happen to think that more could be accomplished with a prize for the worst in journalism. It should be called the Murdoch.
The first Murdoch would go to Rupert Murdoch himself, a media mogul who has single-handedly lowered the standards of journalism wherever he has gone. His New York Post and his Fox News Channel are blatantly political, hardly confining Murdoch's conservative political ideology to editorials or commentary but infusing it into the news coverage itself. It does this, of course, while insisting it does nothing of the sort.
I must confess I don't read a whole lot of the New York Post, I'm familiar with it, and I will at times read some of the columns or editorials, but it's not my standard fare. I rarely read any of its news stories. Cohen may or may not have read the paper's news stories, because he appears to take issue more with its headlines and celeb/gossip "Page Six" (which reports have it is not actually on Page 6).
It seems difficult for Cohen to grasp this, so I'll help him out -- the New York Post is a tabloid, not just in format, but in style. The New York Post is certainly more like a British tabloid than it is the New York Times, but people know what they're getting when they buy it. Just because Cohen in his ivory cubicle at the Washington Post doesn't approve of the New York Post's work, doesn't make it worthy of a "bucket of slime."
But the Murdoch way of conducting a debate is to yell treason or something very close to that. His organization did so, for instance, in a New York Post column that virtually called Peter Arnett, the former MSNBC correspondent, a traitor for what he said in his now-infamous interview with Iraqi state television. Arnett made himself impossible to defend, but bad judgment or even craven obsequiousness to a source (the Iraqis) is not treason. It is merely bad journalism.
So, it's bad thing to conduct a debate by yelling "treason." Is it then bad form, in Cohen's view to conduct a debate by "yelling" "moron?" Apparently not. Besides that, doesn't Cohen understand that a newspaper "column" is exactly the place to debate whether Arnett is a traitor. Maybe Cohen needs to head back to Journalism 101.
It would be fun to imagine how the Murdoch press would cover Murdoch. It might have noticed that he abandoned his Australian citizenship and embraced America, apparently to comply with an FCC rule that prohibited foreigners from owning more than 25 percent of a TV license -- a touching immigrant saga. He dropped the BBC from his Star TV satellite operation in China because Beijing had a problem with its unbiased reporting.
The BBC has unbiased reporting? Tell that to the crew of the British warship Ark Royal.
Cohen's certainly entitled to his opinion, but it's curious that his attack on Rupert's Fox News comes shortly after CNN president Eason Jordan revealed that CNN's "unbiased" reporting covered up murder and torture in order to keep its bureau in Baghdad. A list of Cohen's recent columns reveals no taking to task of CNN.
After all, leaning a little to the right in your reporting is so much worse than covering-up for a brutal tyrant.
Maybe I can give out my own award. I'll call it the Turner. I'll award the first one to CNN's Eason Jordan. What will the award look like? Like Cohen's, but instead of a bucket of slime -- it'll be a bucket of blood.