defining journalism

I stumbled across two things this morning as I was eating my oatmeal that I thought made nice bookends around the subject of journalism. The first is CNN video of commentator Rick Sanchez taking on “Joe the Unlicensed Plumber,” who, after taking on the career of war correspondent, has gone on the record as saying that the press shouldn’t actually cover real battles… you know, where people are dying and stuff. The second is a letter published posthumously by recently murdered Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge. I think you can probably guess where I stand on it.

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  1. Jay Daily
    Posted January 16, 2009 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I saw Sanchez’s commentary live and could hardly believe it by the end. I disagree with Wurzelbacher’s opinion that reporters shouldn’t be on the front line, as did Sanchez. But Wurzelbacher is doing what correspondents do, corresponding.

    The scornful way Sanchez read the quote was horrible. Mocking a man in a war zone from the CNN studios in Atlanta? Come on Sanchez.

    Where I was turned off is when his comments turned into nothing but a personnel attack on Wurzelbacher. What does a plumbing license have to do with this? It’s as relevant as Sanchez’s hit-n-run DUI that ultimately left a man dead. “Your name really isn’t Joe” again has nothing to do with anything. Rick, or should I say Richardo, would do well staying on point.

    War zone correspondents deserve respect. Is he a serious correspondent? As serious as Will Wurzelbacher become a seasoned correspondent like Lasantha Wickrematunge? Probably not. Is Wurzelbacher in a place doing a job most of us would never do? I think so.

    Sanchez’s commentary should have ended the 1:23 mark.

  2. Susan
    Posted January 16, 2009 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I suspect that if I were a journalist who had worked hard at my craft, watched my friends report from dangerous parts of the world (even if I didn’t), and generally thought it required some indepth understanding of the issues and places you are covering, I’d rant as well.

  3. Paw
    Posted January 16, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    The fellow playing Joe the Plumber deserves scorn for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is this ridiculous “reporting” expedition to Israel, but Sanchez does come across as a man doing a weak Keith Olbermann impersonation, which is itself a weak Murrow impersonation.

  4. ol' e cross
    Posted January 16, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I can’t wait to see where they stick the Joe the Plumber action figure next!

  5. egpenet
    Posted January 16, 2009 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Out of several friends who were journalism majors, only one is remotely involved today … doing PR for Nissan.

    Out of 25 Theater & Communications majors I graduated with, only two made careers of it, myself and my buddy who worked as the chief carpenter at a theater in Minneapolis.

    I know more than a handful of U-M law school grads who are now strictly landlords in Washtenaw County.

    I wonder how many journalism undergrads entering school last fall will have a newspaper or magazine or other media outlet at which to write or produce. I mean REAL journalism … with story, character, issue … at depth.

    Certainly reading an entire month of the Ann Arbor News would NOT in my opinion give me an in-depth sense of what Ann Arbor is really all about. That’s versus reading, let’s say, the currently running stories in the New York Times about the airplane incident … which has so much color about New Yorkers and New Jersyites and the people involved. None of that in this town. Not from the A2 News, MLive, Concentrate.

    A running month of blogging on the other hand … with any of two or three local blogs, MM included … says MORE about the people, attitudes, issues, non-issues, silliness and pathos locally.

    The other side of the coin is that … computers and texting have destroyed our ability to focus for very long on anything more than a lingering moment of activity or a quick notion … then it’s off in another direction.

    And here I go ….

  6. egpenet
    Posted January 17, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I find the contrast on television today between so-called “Reality” programming and “24” with Jack Bauer (which is back on the air on Monday evenings at 9PM on FOX) and the pseudo-reality of the Plumber in the Middle East pleading once again for newsreel propaganda clips to be quite a mixing bowl of ideas … none of the three being journalism.

    If history is people in events, and the days events (from the French: de’journal) … then anything with or without substance is fit to print. Anything that mucks, sucks, yucks or gets stuck “above the fold” is a headline.

    There are as many stories as there are people. How those stories are written, produced and paid for are other questions, which are becoming more difficult to answer. As I said above, we seem to care less and less about the details. Is it that there is so much going on that Headline News is it? Or, have authentic history and in-depth professional journalism been put to rest?

    When the “facts” of history become archived emails and text message logs, what does this say about culture? Our historical record is in electronic bits. Our journalism is now based on inference. We are now living and communicating mere traces of our existence with no hope of creating a full image of our fellows, ourselves.

    I find THIS frightening. Meanwhile, I find Joe the Plumber, quite a sad fellow, indeed.

  7. Brackache
    Posted January 17, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I have inscribed on a stone monument the libertarian free-marketeer version of why our economy is collapsing, so thousands of years from now when people wonder why the most powerful empire on earth collapsed, and our paper/electronics records have long since gone, they’ll believe my version. Then they’ll make a “Brackache Institute” to pass out free pocket Constitutions.

    I will not be laughing last, however, being long since dead and passed giving a hoot.

  8. Dirtgrain
    Posted January 17, 2009 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    In the mean time, I’m laughing.

  9. Tom
    Posted January 18, 2009 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    I have similarly inscribed on a stone monument the rebuttal to the libertarian free-marketeer version of why “our economy” is collapsing, so thousands of years from now people can look back in disgust at the shallow vision of an ideal society onto which free-marketeer visionaries so dearly clung.

  10. Brackache
    Posted January 18, 2009 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    We should get in a rock blog fight and have our rebuttal/rejoinder rocks lined up, stretching into the horizon. Then future societies will tire of the argument and go do something else.

  11. john on forest
    Posted January 18, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Opinion editorializing, while a part of journalism, is, in my opinion, not what true journalism is. Journalism is about reporting of facts that are thoroughly researched. While most journalists are handicapped by deadlines and “needing to get a story written,” the really valuable stories are those that are diligently investigated and told without bias toward a subset of the facts.

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