Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cowardly Journalism Review (Parody)


Cowardly Comment
Here's where we act like we've been on the beat and swipe phrases like "happy talk" (and where do you suppose we got that?). Iraq, we write, is complex and the suggestions offered by others are simplistic: stay the course or get out.
Careful readers will note that we dismiss the get out option but we've been doing that since the invasion. Toad still suffers sixties flashback and anytime someone proposes America pull out, he begins slamming his head against the wall and screaming obscenities at a non-present Bernadine Dohrn. (During really bad episodes, he snarls at female staffers, "Get me some coffee! And put on a bra for God's sake!" For the record, all female staffers wear bras. As does Toad.)
So we use this editorial space to hector and complain that no one's talking seriously about the options. (Don't worry, we're just on a faux soapbox, this issue is full of the usual fluff our readers expect. Think of us as a text version of the PBS NewsHour.)
As should be obvious to anyone who's read our magazine since the occupation began, we firmly believe that not only are we the cops of the world, we are also the mommies and the daddies as well. As such, we must take a paternal approach to Iraq and treat it like a child. (And some said our so-called "historical ignorance" would never pay off!)
We can't leave. That's the subtext of our editorial.
And not just because of Toad's sixties flashbacks (we understnd he had a nasty experience when, under the heavy influence of Donovan, he attempted to smoke the peel of a grape).
We can't leave because the argument for that's being made by people and not the press. If and when 62% of the mainstream press advocate the US pulling out of Iraq, we will as well. Until then, we'll toss out John Murtha's name and then proceed to ignore that option while hectoring others for their lack of serious exploration and yet not providing any of our own.
There are trend stories to be written and, after Toad has an episode, he's always got the munchies and willing to treat us to "free refills" at Chuck E. Cheese.
Most importantly, we're the watchdog that wasted everyone's time in the lead up to the war by praising "embed" programs, listing items that journalists were packing and even noting Judith Miller's reporting in a feature on fine journalism.
We didn't sound the alarm then, why should we now?
A watchdog has to pick and choose battles.
Someday, we'll find one that we think is really important and, oh boy, will we bark then!
Remember our March/April issue is devoted to our usual theme of "Everything Is Rosy!" and will contain even more naval gazing at the industry and less analysis (yes, it is possible!).

Darts & Laurels
by Who Let the Coop Out?
DART to morons who point out that when we wrote of Jessica Lynch we mentioned "two women" and wrote "when two female America POWs drew massive, disproportionate coverage." Some morons have taken to putting us down (talking about the Gitlin generation, my generation!) for assuming that both women got "massive" coverage when only Lynch did. So what if Shoshana Johnson was a black? If we thought race was an issue, we would have mentioned it. We think she's quite lucky to have gotten the minor attention she did. If you missed it, the following year NBC cancelled Whoopi. Corporate America doesn't care about the African-Americans, so why should we? Did you see any TV movie about that Shoshana? No! Because no one cares and neither do we which is why we reduced her to one of "two women" and didn't even bother to name her. As Toad says, "Quit wasting time on identity politics!"
LAUREL to Debs at The Washington Post. She taught us all how to stand strong and ignore your critics. If they had anything worth hearing, they'd be on TV. We heart you, Debs!
DART to Eason Jordan for attempting to bring up a serious issue. The country's not ready for it, Eason! Back off! We took the time to tar and feather you as we did with Linda Foley when she tried to bring up some unpleasant truths that we weren't ready for, therefore, neither was the nation. We are the gatekeepers, Eason, watch your step.
LAUREL to us for weighing in on the Newsweek/Koran issue without ever wasting our time flipping through The New Yorker. "What Night Letter?" was our punch line at the office Christmas party. (Secret Santa got me Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat! Thank you, Santa!) Some morons have suggested that if we're going to write about the riots in Afghanistan we might need to know some basic facts. As we demonstrate repeatedly, basic facts have nothing to do with running a journalism review.

Mothers ON AIR! Trend Story! Trend Story!
by Bent and Ham Fisted
Things are wonderful for women in TV news today. They can be mothers and workers. Just ask any of the on air talent and they'll tell you how being a big name affords nannies a plenty. Glass ceiling? There is none! Glass ceiling? Try cash money, baby!
We went to Mother Superiority who combined career and personal life back when most of us were still in the womb. Barbara Walters told us that you must "prioritize." She also said that you must "be true to your sources." Some nasty wags have suggested that "truth" is what busted up her marriage in the early nineties. If true, we say Babs, you're better off without him, he didn't give you any scoops and you kept mega-source Lady in Red happy which was very important.
Gals, you can have it all. The glass ceiling is demolished. So quit obsessing over the fact that when you ask hard questions you're called a "bitch" but you're balding, male teammate never is. Quit obsessing that you have to report for makeup earlier. Or that you're required to be "pretty" and might be replaced with "younger talent" at any minute. (Andrea let it go. You know, we know, everyone knows NBC put Norah O'Donnell in D.C. for a reason. You had a nice run. Now exit gracefully.)
Decades earlier some of those pushy, feminist types agitated for better working conditions at the network. What was the point? That went nowhere and aren't we all sitting pretty now? Mothers are ON THE AIR! There's Katie Couric. There's Diane Sawyer . . . scratch that. There's Julie Chen . . . scratch that. There's Lisa Myers . . . scratch that. There's Cynthia McFadden . . . scratch that. Look trend stories aren't supposed to require research! This is confusing stuff. Well, there's Katie Couric! And Elizabeth Vargas! Two exceptions will prove the rule! You can have it all!

Brave Journalists
by Toad
John F. Burns is our ideal reporter. He has a difficult honey of an assignment from The New York Times, create stories from Iraq when he can't even leave the Green Zone. But that doesn't stop his output. Not only that, he's been able to tutor Dexter Filkins who's excelled so well that some are comparing them to Butch & Sundance, Gargery & Pip, Hannity & Colmes.
Burns proved he was a brave voice early on by reporting on the abuses of Saddam Hussein during the lead up to the war. It took a great deal of guts to call a government out and all John F. Burns had on his side was the mighty pen, The New York Times, and the Bully Boy administration. Burns we applaud your bravery. Your work was the overseas compliment to Judith . . . Oh wait, we stopped praising her when the universal consensus was she's toast.
Moving on.

Reflexive Reflections
by the editorial staff
Remember when we called the embedded program (we didn't use that word, it honestly shocked our Victorian sensibilities) an apparent "press victory"? In fact, we were so proud of that article that we posted it twice and credited it to two different authors! "Press victory" was important enough for us to post it again. And it helped us hide the article "When War Plans Go Public" which the first link is actually supposed to take readers too. LOL. We so crazy.
Now some might think we're trying to hide a report but we're really trying to hide bad writing. (Coops uses "leaks" seven times in the first four sentences. She thought she was Dr. Seus that day.) It has nothing to do with our superficial evaulation of the reporters who gladly leaked the war plans that the Pentagon wanted leaked. (We judged that to be good, "they raised the public’s understanding to a deeper level.")
We're not at all embarrassed about that judgement now or about the praise we offered for "context" from The Washington Post article that explained the plan was about Iraq, not Muslims. What some might call pushing the adminstration's talking points, we called "context." What some call carrying water for the administration, we praise. And excuse the heck out of us, but unless you're name is Jack, Jill or Heidi, we're having a hard time believing most of you morons who criticize us have any idea just how difficult it is to carry water. Which is why we noted that the task is a "a perilous exercise." But to read that, you'd have to look at an old copy of the issue because, strangest thing, you won't find it at our site. You will find an article with that title but not the article itself. But don't you accuse us of running from our reporting -- those were just "website malfunctions."
Possibly you remember when we weighed in on Al Jazeera? No, not when we got in our slams at documentary filmmaker Jehane Noujaim ("It's not surprising that Noujaim . . . has herself been accused of bias") in our July/August 2004 issue. No, we're talking about when we weighed in on it in 2003.
Remember our lack of concern about an Al Jazeera reporter being beat up in Detroit? Hey, we're Cowardly Journalism Review, leave the concerns to Reporters Without Borders. We liked how we just sort of treated that as an aside, very Cokie Roberts of us.
But what we especially enjoy about that piece is that our writer saw the toppeling of the Saddam Hussein statue and that she never managed to tell you that on Al Jazeera she saw a small group of men (brought in by the US government -- that's us, baby!) cheering and passing for Iraqis living under Saddam and she also avoided noting that the military brought the statue down.
That's the kind of press "analysis" we can get behind.
That's our position here at the magazine. We'll print the occassional cranks (John R. MacArthur, Geneva Overholser, Michael Massing, Liza Featherstone) with their contrarian views and should this whole war effort go in the toilet, we'll be able to point to those isolated articles. (It hasn't yet, has it?)
They're part of the "moasic." Like the article we printed by a reporter who told of holding off reporting on a kidnapped victim because it was a friend of her's. We asked no hard questions there. We didn't point out the obvious that if it hadn't been a friend, the reporter would have been all over that story.
That's what we do here. We just toss stuff out. Stuff that makes us feel good and look good to the ones who matter.
If you're unhappy with it, chances are that you don't matter.
We know what we're doing.
We're changing the system from within and we push for a morsel of progress one century at a time.
This century, we're thinking of devoting that public-service time by commissioning multiple pieces on the harm Tommy Lee must cause women since all his ex-wives continue to see their relationships crumble. Sure we'll get criticized for it, we'll get slammed for it, but if we can make just one former Dynasty cast member or one former Baywatch cast member's life/lives a bit better than we are taking on the system.
And think of all the potential women we're warning off from marrying Tommy Lee Jones? I mean, have you seen the video of him & Pam. That thing's like a calling card! It's like a light house, just hanging there, drawing attention. It certainly drew our attention.
The campaign of 2004 didn't. We weighed in that reporters were not showing ideological bias in the mainstream. (Sometimes we include Fox "News" in that category and sometimes we don't. It's up to the readers to figure out when we're including it and when we're not.) We blamed the "Kerry is a flip-flopper" line that popped up everywhere not on the reporters bias (because we're omniscent) but on the fact that they all used the same sources. Now going to a source is a decision a reporter makes and just because they know the source will repeat "flip-flopper" and just because they include the expected quote in their reporting we don't see how you can call that bias. So we didn't call it that.
We also didn't call the coverage of the Not So Swift Floaties "bias." We didn't even note itin our editorial. Ted Koppel is our hero. He's so manly that a number of us wonder exactly when his sex tape will leak out.
We also didn't see any bias in the way the press jumped over a (false) rumor of an affair that Kerry had. Or in the way Homeland Security used phoney terrorist alerts and the press covered them as real. Or in the silence when a Congressional website was used to attack a presidential candidate in the midst of an election. (If it had been used to attack Bully Boy, we'd have been all over it because we're "moderate" and "reasonable.") Or when "commentators" had conflicts. (When Commentators Have Conflicts? Sounds like the story of our . . . Oops, don't go there!)
Some people see bias everywhere. We don't. We "analzye." It's like someone looking at their ceiling, seeing rain dripping in and complaining that their roof is leaking. Us, we "analyze" and call it what it is: "indoor running water."
Which is why we're not interested (nor are our intended readers) in The New York Times killing the story on Bully Boy's hump in the debates. We're not interested in anything that FAIR or Salon talks about. We run with the big dogs. So we don't bark unless they do.
Still we get no credit. Jack Shafer even called us "pricks." (Toad took it as a compliment.)
Some people look at world hunger and immediately go to the "We must feed them!" knee-jerk reaction. Our approach is more along the lines of, "Hunger, huh? See if an outside writer is interested. Us, we're headed to McDonalds." We walk a delicate tightrope. It's not like Editor & Publisher has to answer to Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.
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