White Noise: News and Info from Inside the Media Bubble
Perverting influence of cartoonists in politics
Sometimes in power-brokerage politics, criticism leveled at elected officials is richly deserved. And when the official in question tries to maneuver the creaky machinery of state to silence the critics, the ridiculousness of their positions become all the more apparent. Sue Sturgis, an editorial director at the Institute for Southern Studies (a Durham think-tank where I occasionally contribute investigative reporting), wrote in her blog that “Kentucky state Rep. Jim Gooch, a Democrat who chairs the Natural Resources and Environment Committee, is unhappy about the way he’s been portrayed by editorial cartoonists because of his efforts to kill a coal mine safety bill and declare global warming a hoax. One recent cartoon showed him basking in a hot tub with King Coal.” He told the Associated Press, “It’s almost as if they want to silence you. They want to hurt your credibility. They do it by either trying to make you look stupid or corrupt.” It’s not as if they have to work hard at it.
Those smart-mouthed punks
David Spett, a columnist for the Northwestern University student newspaper, The Daily Northwesterner, must have smelled a rat when he read the letters in the alumni magazine. John Lavine, dean of that university’s prestigious Medill School of Journalism and writer of the letters, which were published as columns, touted the school’s new advertising program, his pet project. He peppered his prose with quotes from current students: An anonymous Medill junior “told” Lavine that she “sure felt good” about a particular class. Spett tracked down all 29 students in the class to source the quote and nobody claimed it. Spett’s column accusing the dean of an A-list J-school of cooking quotes was picked up by Chicago’s Tribune and Sun Times. Lavine, for his part, has defended his work as opinion as opposed to news, and as such the use of anonymous quotes was appropriate. And that he can’t remember if they were spoken or e-mailed. And that he deleted the e-mails anyway. Memo to Lavine: Nobody “sure feels good” about anything anymore.
Last week the political blogger for Washintonpost.com revived the perennial debate about whether journalists should vote. He polled three veteran newshounds and asked them whether they vote and why. I’m with John Harris, who wrote that being a journalist “does not mean having no opinions. It means exercising self-discipline in the public expression of those opinions so as not to give sources and readers cause to question someone’s commitment to fairness.” I’m registered as unaffiliated because I believe that my political preferences are – as a journalist – a private matter. But I do vote in every election. My job makes me well informed, and my duty to the profession is moderated by a civic duty that I don’t feel I can shirk. So I’ll be voting in the NC primary on May 6, and in the general election the following November. But I won’t be telling anyone except my closest friends whose lever I’ll be throwing.