The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, March 22, 2004

The Jack Kelley misdirection

Kelley's certainly looks like a worse case than Jayson Blair's - clearly much more senior within his organisation, the deception going on for much longer, etc, etc.

E&P has a piece quoting Alex Jones (from some Harvard emanation) and Leonard Downie, executive editor of the Washington Post, approving the job that USA Today has done in tracking down the extent of Kelley's falsifications (USAT piece linking to detailed reports).

Now, any hack that makes stuff up is unlikely to get a sympathetic reception round here.

But the zeal with which cases like those of Blair and Kelley are prosecuted by those inside their own organisations and out raises the strong suspicion that they are being treated as scapegoats.

Media outlets appear to work on the rotten apple theory beloved of the British police: which says that almost all the police force are upright, honest and competent, and can be kept that way providing that the odd one or two bad policemen are removed from their midst.

Which entirely fails to take into account, for example, the institutional tendency to favour what is called noble cause corruption - or being bent for the job. Fabricating evidence or extorting confessions by force to ensure that the 'criminal' is brought to justice.

Journalism has similar institutional cancers; and the scarcely suppressed glee with which the peccadilloes (plagiarism, many of them) of insignificant hacks on small rags are lighted upon when, say, the perversion of the current practice with anonymous sources continues can only lead to the inference that the erring minnows are being used to direct the reader's attention away from these serious and much less tractable problems.

It's a proof, not of good faith, but of bad.

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