Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ethics, schmethics!

Michael Rubin at National Review:
Many think-tanks, especially those on the left, have taken journalists as fellows. It is a strategy that works to promote and publicize products when the journalists fail to disclose their financial ties to the organization. Case in point: The Politico's David S. Cloud, who for a year, was a "writer in residence" at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). In fully a quarter of all his subsequent stories, he cites CNAS reports -- without acknowledging his links to the organization.
(H/T: Instapundit.) This kind of hand-wringing over potential conflicts of interest in journalism is a Washington game of "gotcha" I don't like to play. If David Cloud cites a CNAS analysis by Dennis Ross, that is wrong because . . .?

What counts in the news business is getting the facts right and getting the story first. Everything else is incidental. A scoop is a scoop is a scoop, and if Ross has been plying Cloud with free whiskey (or vice-versa) this becomes the subject of complaint only if Cloud's story is inaccurate. If Cloud's editors don't mind him knocking down the single malts with his sources, why should we?

CNAS is a Democrat/liberal operation. Rubin apparently means to suggest that Cloud's reporting has been slanted because the erstwhile CNAS affiliation reveals that Cloud is a liberal journalist -- shock and horrror! Absent any assertion of inaccuracy or distortion in Cloud's articles, the likelihood that his political leanings are left of Lenin doesn't really distinguish him from the D.C. herd.

Some of our uptight media-critic types need to read Bob Novak's The Prince of Darkness. Novak routinely wined and dined with his sources, and if he had spent all his time worrying about the appearance of impropriety over who paid the tab, how many fewer scoops would he have gotten?

If reporters would concern themselves more with reporting facts accurately, the question of who's paying their bar tabs would be moot.

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