Unprofessional Journalist

Recently, Glenn Greenwald, who writes a blog on Salon.com, wrote a short, but biting entry entitled “McCain spokesman John King of CNN.” His basic premise is this:

If you wanted to create a parody simultaneously mocking the drooling vapidity of our media stars and their giggly collective crush on John McCain, it would be impossible to create something more illustrative than what John King did here.

Today Glenn posted a response from King. Here it is:

From: King, John C
Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 5:40 PM
Subject: excuse me?

I don’t read biased uninformed drivel so I’m a little late to the game.

But a friend who understands how my business works and knows a little something about my 20 plus years in it sent me the link to your ramblings.

Since the site suggests you have law training, maybe you forgot that good lawyers to a little research before they spit out words.

Did you think to ask me or anyone who works with me whether that was the entire interview? No. (It was not; just a portion used by one of the many CNN programs.)

Did you reach out to ask the purpose of that specific interview? No.

Or how it might have fit in with other questions being asked of other candidates that day? No.

Or anything that might have put facts or context or fairness into your critique. No.

McCain, for better or worse, is a very accessible candidate. If you did a little research (there he goes with that word again) you would find I have had my share of contentious moments with him over the years.

But because of that accessibility, you don’t have to go into every interview asking him about the time he cheated on his sixth grade math test.

The interview was mainly to get a couple of questions to him on his thoughts on the role of government when the economy is teetering on the edge of recession, in conjunction with similar questions being put to several of the other candidates.

The portion you cited was aired by one of our programs — so by all means it is fair game for whatever “analysis” you care to apply to it using your right of free speech and your lack of any journalistic standards or fact checking or just plain basic curiosity.

You clearly know very little about journalism. But credibility matters. It is what allows you to cover six presidential campaigns and be viewed as fair and respectful, while perhaps a little cranky, but Democrats and Republicans alike. When I am writing something that calls someone’s credibility into question, I pick up the phone and give them a chance to give their side, or perspective.

That way, even on days that I don’t consider my best, or anywhere close, I can look myself in the mirror and know I tried to be fair and didn’t call into question someone’s credibility just for sport, or because I like seeing my name on a website or my face on TV.

Glenn does a good job of fending off King’s objections to his entry, so I won’t repeat them here. My purpose in writing about this is to make this observation:

The snotty, condescending tone of this message seems far below that of someone who touts his own “20 plus years” in the business of journalism. Isn’t it disappointing that someone with this much experience can’t muster a more professional response than this? It certainly bolsters Glenn’s characterization of beltway reporters as a bunch snarky high schoolers.

It is also remarkable to see how defensive this reporter is. You would think that if he were as secure with his professionalism as he claims to be, he would have either ignored Glenn’s post altogether or engaged Glenn in an attempt to explain his approach to journalism. That his response is instead to strike out with such venom makes me think that King’s own self-esteem is waivering. Instead of this, he tries to invalidate Glenn’s point of view simply by ridiculing him. Does he really think that will convince anyone?


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