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April 18, 2008

Time Magazine, Stand-up Philosopher [krakatoa]

From a Michelle Malkin piece about Time appropriating the flag-raising at Iwo Jima to push its editorial issue on Global Warming.

A little admission in the linked article that jumped out at me [emphasis added]:

[Time Managing Editor] Stengel also appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on April 17 and had no difficulty admitting the magazine needed to have a “point of view.”

“I think since I’ve been back at the magazine, I have felt that one of the things that’s needed in journalism is that you have to have a point of view about things,” Stengel said. “You can’t always just say ‘on the one hand, on the other’ and you decide. People trust us to make decisions. We’re experts in what we do. So I thought, you know what, if we really feel strongly about something let's just say so.

They are experts -- on what exactly? Feeling strongly about things? So the operating rule at TIME appears to now be: When the journalist is an expert on something, it is permissible to abandon objectivity for the teaching moment at hand.

Meh. As Ace keeps saying, it is refreshing for the MSM to finally start being open about their advocacy.

But Stengel's remarks can't help but remind me of Bea Arthur's response to Mel Brooks's character Comicus, after he explains to her what his job entails.

Dole Office Clerk: Occupation?
Comicus: Stand-up philosopher.
Dole Office Clerk: What?
Comicus: Stand-up philosopher. I coalesce the vapors of human existence into a viable and meaningful comprehension.
Dole Office Clerk: Oh, a bullshit artist!

Indeed.

"We're Experts At What We Do:" [ace]: Oh, give me a g-darn break already. To the extent you are experts at all, assholes, you are experts at gathering information and writing it up. You are not experts on any of the fields you actually cover. (Exceptions for those few journalists who actually are legitimately experts in the substantive fields they report on-- but they are rare.)

Reporters are scientific illiterates, and in fact illiterates on most subjects.

This idea that a reporter is a general universal ad-hoc expert without portfolio in any damn subject he writes upon is an absurd one, fostered primarily by reporters themselves. It's ridiculous that glorified typists go on talking heads shows to wax authoritatively on constitutional law, "climate change," diplomacy, war strategy, etc. They ought to be embarrassed at the ridiculous pretense of it.

But they're not.

I've likened them to the Roman nomenclatura, the petty courtiers who would walk with Senators and inform their bosses of everyone's name. Yes, reporters know everyone's name and where everyone works. They have a glib understanding of who the players are and where they stand on various issues.

But how such a penny-ante "skill" translates to general expertise on any subject they (superficially and ill-informedly) report on escapes me entirely.

Reporters like Stengel hate the idea that they're just stenographers to people who actually know what the hell they're talking about (and whose opinions actually matter). But that is, ultimately, all they are. They are limited to "on the one hand, this guy says this, on the other hand, this other guy says that" reportage because they're reporters.

Look it up. "Report" means "write up what some other guy says." Seriously, look it up. I'll wait.

If you wanted actually be a scientist, tough shit, you should have taken the labwork in college instead of dicking around in communications.

You don't get to play scientist just because you're dissatisfied with the rather lowly trade of reporting the words of other, better informed, more important people.


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posted by xgenghisx at 10:12 AM

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