Friday, April 3, 2009

To: Bill O'Reilly, Re: Ambush Journalism, Or Viva La Papparazzi!

Let's Face It:
YOU'RE the Only One Who Thinks It's Journalism, Bill

Yesterday, Bill O’Reilly defended his top henchman, producer Jesse Watters, who is supposedly “the subject of far-left angst, because he goes out and talks to the bad guys.” During his conversation with Amanda Carpenter of the Washington Times — who agreed with everything the Fox News host was saying — O’Reilly defended his “ambush journalism” as a “legitimate brand of journalism.”
Quiz yourself, Bill: How many of the "Ten Commandments" of journalism do you really ascribe to? According to The Elements of Journalism, a book by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel:
  1. Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
  2. Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
  3. Its essence is discipline of verification.
  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
  7. It must strive to make the significant interesting, and relevant.
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
  9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.
  10. It must recognize the rights and responsibilities of citizens

Now Bill, there are, as you know, different kinds (styles) of journalism: Sports, Science, Investigative, Yellow, Gonzo, Celebrity, Convergence and, your own, Ambush journalism. Of all kinds of journalism, Ambush journalism has been criticized by "legitimate" journalists as the most sensational and unethical. Many would not consider it journalism at all because of its blatant physical intrusion on a person.

You said "...goes out and talks to the bad guys." So you prejudge them as bad guys BEFORE you send Jesse Watters out to ambush them. And when they resist Watters (who is usually on their property), they look even worse, right? Very interesting.

Here's part of your interview with THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER:


O'Reilly: My job is to watch the powerful. A performer has a forum that other people do not, and all we ask is that they be fair. If they believe something and use their TV show, movie or concert to spout off about it, that's fine. But if we have some questions about their beliefs, I think they should answer them -- and not be drive-by people.

Hmmm. Okay. But Bill, would that have included Princess Diana? Maybe she wasn't a performer, but she was one of the powerful you talk about. Would you have been in the car with the paparazzi if you had the chance?



O'Reilly: I think Wolf Blitzer does a nice job, and Anderson Cooper is an honest guy.

But Bill, how would YOU know if Anderson Cooper is honest? Can you actually relate to a journalist who has won countless awards for his reporting on Katrina, Darfur, Ruwanda, the Asian Tsunami, Iraq and Bosnia?

And what does honesty have to do with "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox? Fox, of all places! The home of Sean Hannity? Fox, the place where no liberal dares to tread! Fox, the only news channel that panders slavishly to Sarah Palin and let's her do all the talking! Fox News, who actually thinks of Michelle Malkin as a kind of roving reporter! Come on, Bill.

Be realistic and honest, Bill. "The O'Reilly Factor" and its ambush style does not equal any kind of honest journalism. Scrap people like Malkin and Watters, dump the attacks on the people you think are "the bad guys," say "mea cupla" one hundred thousand times and maybe you'll enter the realm of real journalism.

Just a thought.


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