Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Big Bailout: David Cay Johnston pleads with journalists

Back at the dawn of time when the Internet was barely a glimmer in anyone's eye, I worked for the Detroit Free Press under Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston. He not only taught me how to write, but also which questions to ask. I have never seen a reporter who worked harder than Johnston.

Today, a letter from Johnston has been posted at Romenesko, an insiders blog for journalists. In it, Johnston pleads with his fellow reporters to do much, much more than they are now in reporting the proposed bailout.
The Administration has scared the markets and some key legislative leaders, but it has not laid out a coherent, specific and compelling need for this enormous proposal, which is the equivalent of a one-time 55 percent income tax surcharge. (Instead the money will be borrowed, so ask from whom and how this much can be raised so quickly if the credit markets are nearly seized up with fear.)...

As of now we are, as a group, behaving just as we did the last two times the administration sought to rush through a hastily thought out, ill-conceived plan. Why in the world are we being so gullible and naive? whatever happened to the core value of journalism -- check it out?
We may need this bailout, and we may need it soon. But if we don't understand exactly the why, how, who and what, then the United States may be in very deep trouble.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You'll get no argument from me about journalists often being lazy, overly reliant on preexistent prejudices, pressured by time constraints and the need to avoid offending sources into a lack of thoroughnes. We might add a propensity to shape their reporting to fit the narrative of what they expect (as with the Duke rape case last year or the Olympic Park bombing).
When people get to a certain age, it often occurs to them that the younger generation is going to the dogs. While that may be true, it is also true that the younger generation has been going to the dogs ever since Cain first felt around for the rock. It is also true that sometimes, the custodians of the conventional wisdom view any deviation from the consensus as a deviation from professional standards (as Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis learned to his sorrow in Vienna)
So, I wonder whether Mr. Johnston expressing the traditional disappointment of the old with the young, or complaining that the old ways are passing.