Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lost Art of Journalism

In the last two days I've become convinced that journalism is an entirely dead art.  Apparently those who are supposed to be practicing it don't understand the occupation.  Admittedly, my conclusion is not based on a wide sample and one of the samples is a suspiciously biased writer in the first place, but it's still troubling.

First, yesterday I came across a column written by Matthew Boyle of Breitbart.  He wrote that State Farm is moving its headquarters from Illinois to Texas.  The reason for this conclusion?  State Farm is building a huge new office complex outside of Dallas.  He also noted State Farm is building a huge office near Phoenix but didn't conclude that State Farm is moving there.  Of course, there could be no reason but that Democratically controlled Illinois raised corporate taxes.  Nevermind that the 67% increase is actual a nominal increase off of a very low rate to begin with.  State Farm is going to move its headquarters because, what else would they do with all this huge space but move the large number of people currently in Bloomington, IL? 

Well, how about hire a whole new workforce for a new design on handling claims?  Or how about moving existing employees, whose numbers are in the thousands all across the US, to these new offices?  Either one is an equally valid conclusion from the objective fact that State Farm is building a large new complex.  Neither of those fit in with Boyle's pre-conceived notion that corporate taxes are evil and will cause companies to flee.  The fact has to be pigeon holed into the concept, regardless of other facts that interfere with the conclusion. 

Second, Dana Milbank of the Washington Post has a column today that castigates the Obama administration for investigating a Fox reporter who sought secret State Department information about North Korea.  Milbank quotes the reporter's e-mail to the sought after source as follows: “I want to report authoritatively, and ahead of my competitors, on new initiatives or shifts in U.S. policy, events on the ground in [North Korea], what intelligence is picking up, etc. . . . I’d love to see some internal State Department analyses. . . . In short: Let’s break some news, and expose muddle-headed policy when we see it, or force the administration’s hand to go in the right direction, if possible.”

Excuse me, but how is the Fox reporter acting as a reporter?  He's got a set notion that the administration (in 2009) is muddle-headed and it's his duty to substitute his correct view of policy by way of exposing the administration, never mind if it risks the lives of sources in North Korea.  How is the administration's investigation somehow an impingement on a free press?  A guy who says he's out to get the administration regardless of consequence is not a reporter.  He's an advocate.

Now, both of these pieces were written by columnists and not reporters.  The former masked his column as though it were news reporting, giving it a headline that read

Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm Flees Illinois

The latter made no bones that he was advocating, but he advocated for someone as though that person were a reporter when clearly he was not.

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