How many times over the years have we seen mainstream media elites get on their high horse about their unbending commitment to objectivity?
Wear ribbons after the 9/11 attacks? Heavens, no, the news poobahs swooned. Stacey Woelfel, news director at KOMU-TV in Columbia, Mo., directed his staff to “leave the ribbons at home” to show viewers “that in no way are we influenced by the government in informing the public.”
Display the flag during wartime? Heavens, no, cried the dinosaur networks. ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider told The Washington Post: “Especially in a time of national crisis, the most patriotic thing journalists can do is to remain as objective as possible . . . We cannot signal how we feel about a cause, even a justified and just cause, through some sort of outward symbol.”
And dole out political cash while on the job? Heavens, n-oh, wait a minute. That unbending commitment to neutrality is really nothing but a Wetzel’s pretzel.
Despite all the past protestations about the need to avoid outward signs of partiality, we now learn that journalists in America’s top newsrooms overwhelmingly donate to Democrat causes and candidates (shocker!) – and that they’ve been giving despite clear prohibitions and conflicts of interest.
MSNBC.com’s Bill Dedman found 144 journalists who’d made political donations to candidates, parties and causes from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign. Nine out of 10 – 125 in total – gave to Democrats and liberal groups; only 17 gave to Republicans, while two gave to both parties. The donors include war correspondents who gave while embedded or on the war beat, The New York Times’ ethics columnist and several news anchors who crusaded and signed petitions against the war.
Adding insult to self-injury, every single one of these donors – who work in an industry that crusades for openness, disclosure, and transparency – failed to inform their viewers, readers and bosses of their political activities.
So much for “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
Dedman reported that CNN’s Guy Raz, now covering the Pentagon for NPR, gave to Democrat Sen. John Kerry the same month he was embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq.
You’ll love Raz’s snitty response and high-horse non-response: “I covered international news and European Union stories. I did not cover U.S. news or politics,” Raz said in an e-mail to MSNBC. Asked how he could define U.S. news to exclude the U.S. war in Iraq, he didn’t reply.
Get the picture now? Wearing an American flag: Not OK. Donating to a White-Flag Democrat: A-OK!
Newsbusters weighs in here and here. As I predicted, some media elites are shrugging off Dedman’s report. Ken Shepherd points to the So What? sneer of Time’s James Poniewozik, who took his kid to an anti-Bush playdate/fundraiser for John Kerry:
Having said that, I haven’t myself made any political donations since I’ve been with Time, as far as I remember, owing mostly to being a cheap bastard. (Time’s policy allows political donations, although according to MSNBC’s list, only one staffer has taken advantage of that, so I’m guessing most of my co-workers are as tightfisted as I am.) Scratch that: I did attend a fundraiser for John Kerry in 2004, which I believe Mrs. Tuned In paid for, that consisted of a $20-a-ticket concert in a friend’s backyard by children’s folk-rock musician Dan Zanes. There is probably no more yuppie-Brooklyn phenomenon than a Toddlers Against Bush concert.
The question isn’t, as Poniewozik frames it, whether he should be allowed to donate–but whether he properly discloses it and any relevant conflicts of interest to readers in a timely manner. None of the journalist donors spotlighted in Dedman’s report did that. It’s a point the Sunlight Brigade keeps glossing over.
Related: Thomas Lifson at The American Thinker exposes the “The Incredible Shrinking New York Times.”
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