Saturday, July 31, 2004

Daily Show

I thought the best bit on the Daily Show, aside from the beautiful images of Jesse and Markos, was when Jill Abramson of the NYT actually said on camera something like "We don't make things up." And, when, uh, called on it when the Daily Show person sort of hinted at that Jayson Blair thing, she deflected it by saying it didn't happen on her watch.

I know journalists have standards and ideals that, as a profession, they like to think they should and do live up to. But, it's that kind of smugness which drives me absolutely crazy. Abramson didn't say "I don't make things up," or "We don't believe in making things up," she said "We don't make things up." In the wake of the recent scandals, it's incredible that she could say such a thing with a straight face.

Journalist and editors are only human, and no matter what ideals they claim to or even genuinely aspire to, they don't always conform to them. This tendency to equate the ideal with the reality (If we want it to be so it is so!), is really a manifestation of their underlying smugness and overall sense of personal infallibility.

To some degree, I'm not entirely sure why there's such a hesitation to admit a vulnerability to screwups. Obviously Glass or Blair-level screwups are an embarrassment, but the day-to-day screwups are understandable. I'd would like the quick and, more importantly, prominent acknowledgments of error to become a badge of honor, instead of the current state of affairs which involves a lot of rationalization and ass-covering.

...note, also, that as I've said many times, Blair's screwups, while embarrassing, were harmless relative to the many other profound bits of malfeasance in the Times and elsewhere. And, also, that the unwillingness to confront mistakes head on is evidence that many such "mistakes," derive from deeper corrupt practices. Acknowledging the mistake would acknowledge the practices...