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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Tuesday, February 01, 2005
 

Armstrong Williams: startling standard for probity


Any steps which tend to lessen the intensity and ubiquity of the assumption that the media is corrupt and not to be trusted are greatly to be deprecated.

Thus, to separate Williams - who took money (indirectly) from USG - from the mass of talking heads who are fanatics happy to lie [1] gratis is a Bad Thing - because it tends to suggest that lying gratis is a morally superior act.

The tertium quid here is represented by those who lie and are paid by third parties - who, for instance, undertake paid speaking engagements with organisations engaged in lobbying, or writing articles for such organisations.

My (desultory) reading of the Conventional Wisdom on the subject is that the CW is that that tertium quid is ethically acceptable, though morally indistinguishable from the Williams case.

The reason, of course, is that, whilst few journos are paid from Uncle Sam's coffers, loads of them get lucre from all manner of politicking outfits. It is a distinction far more corrupt that anything Williams could manage.

But, I read, one voice is prepared to draw a bright line [2]:
"Clearly it is problematic when somebody is doing both things, whether ... being an activist and a journalist ... or practicing journalism some of the time and doing contract work for others some of the time," said Bob Steele, the senior ethics faculty member at the Poynter Institute, the nation's leading journalism think tank.

How many journos will take Steele's lead and forswear outside contractual engagements?

Anybody?

  1. A term I extend here to dissembling and being economical with the truth.

  2. Two ellipses in one sentence? Caveat lector!

MORE

The USA Today scribe fails to get it. The final graf says that the current situation
creates an opening for Bush's political appointees — who are a lot more cunning than they're willing to admit — to secretly buy the services of some of these people who jump between journalism and the hawking of causes.

(Just savour
a lot more cunning than they're willing to admit
- did anyone pay for that? Surely USAT couldn't have? How much reporting did the hack do to support that statement? What editing was it subject to?)

Formulating the problem as
Bush's political appointees
the guy certainly should have got gelt from Uncle Sam: it's classic misdirection. The VRWC can get it done without the least copper coin passing from Federal funds to the sweaty palm of the shill.

Indeed - and I can't be the first to have thought of it - Williams may have been selected for a deliberate exercise in misdirection.


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