Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Boot-licking reporters and journalistic "ethics" in Clinton-world

Gawker has a great story, scraped from emails produced in a FOIA lawsuit, that exposes Mike Allen, Politico's Chief White House correspondent, as a world-class devotee of boot sole. In order to get an interview with Chelsea Clinton, Allen promised her handler (Deputy Secretary of State Philippe Reines, who apparently had the job of publicist or gatekeeper for the Secretary's adult daughter, a fact that itself would be considered very out-of-bounds if it happened in any non-governmental corporation) that the interview would be, essentially, no-risk publicity for Chelsea. Allen positively grovels:

This would be a way to send a message during inaugural week: No one besides me would ask her a question, and you and I would agree on them precisely in advance. This would be a relaxed conversation, and our innovative format (like a speedy Playbook Breakfast) always gets heavy social-media pickup. The interview would be “no-surprises”: I would work with you on topics, and would start with anything she wants to cover or make news on. Quicker than a network hit, and reaching an audience you care about with no risk.
Mmmm! Boot be tasty!

Sorry to share something so degrading this early in the morning, and on the verge of a nice holiday at that. But if your "progressive" niece chokes out her Obamacare talking points per HuffPo, you can roll this baby out in retaliation.

Regardless, I have a modest proposal that would put an end to this sort of thing, or at least shine a light on it.

Journalism, which claims the status of a "profession" without any of the regulation that goes along with one, could very easily establish a norm -- call it an ethical rule -- that would separate genuinely independent work from the pseudo-PAC propaganda pushed by most journalists: Before every interview or feature, append a simple statement that describes the extent to which the subject had any control or influence over the questions before they were asked, or any ability to review the story before it was published. An example: "In order to secure this interview with Chelsea Clinton, Politico promised that Clinton's representative would agree on the precise questions in advance, that there would be no surprises, that Politico and Clinton's representative would collaborate on the topics addressed in those questions, and that Clinton would have an opportunity to speak on any subject important to her at the beginning of the interview."

Then we can all decide whether the interview is worth reading or not.

It is hard to imagine a more obvious reform. Since it has not been adopted, we can assume the press is in league with its subjects more often than not, and reporters should be considered flacks for their subjects unless they establish otherwise.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.

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