When There’s a News Scandal, You Can Count on News Organizations to Clam Up

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Erik Wemple’s year-end roundup column focuses on one of my pet peeves: the almost total lack of transparency from news organizations that routinely demand transparency from everyone else. One of Wemple’s observations is that this is a bigger problem on TV than it is elsewhere:

Whatever their relative merits on openness, TV outlets keep a tighter lid on information than, say, newspapers or Web outfits, those radical organizations that occasionally allow their reporters to simply hop on the phone and speak about their jobs! The New York Times’s Carr tells the Erik Wemple Blog, “I think that’s because people [in TV] see themselves as talent, and not journalists.” Those “talent” people, too, know better than to shirk the folks in the media department. On those occasions when the Erik Wemple Blog manages to get face to face with broadcast types, they’re generally very diligent about referring us to their PR overseers.

The bulk of the column is devoted to various media transgressions that resulted in refusals to comment; anodyne “statements”; and flat claims that nothing could possibly be amiss in the first place. For example:

On Oct. 27, “60 Minutes” aired its now-infamous investigation on Benghazi….The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone documented the stonewalling that he received upon pressing CBS News about the discrepancies….“60 Minutes” more recently took a beating for its coverage of the National Security Agency…Let’s turn to correspondent Sharyl Attkisson….Fox News in 2008 planted a false tip with a reporter who was working on a story about the ratings success of CNN. After the reporter published a piece based on the tip, Fox News trashed him.

And so on. The whole column is worth a read. News organizations aren’t shy about insisting on accountability from everyone else. They should provide a little more of it themselves.


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