Journalism by the Riff Raff


It’s hard to find more self-righteous people, as a group, than newspaper, magazine and broadcast editors. They are fond of saying that theirs is the only private business mentioned in the Constitution (freedom of the press . . .) The Constitution mentions no business at all, because the press is anybody who has one – for profit or no. Nowadays it’s anybody with a computer.

Julian Assange
Julian Assange

Those in the business, though, prattle on about how responsible and professional and special they are. Julian Assange, for example, can’t be a journalist, because he doesn’t work for them; he just does their work for them. Here’s Susan Milligan in U.S.News, sounding off on the topic:

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Journalism is collecting information, checking the facts, getting the perspectives of the people affected by the information, and then putting all of it together in a way that puts the details in perspective.

So: that’s why the victims and the suspects are interviewed when arrests are made, and why everyone understands that the climate deniers are paid shills for the fossil-fuel interests?

Hardly. Milligan describes good journalism, and that is not the most common product on the market. By her reckoning, though, and that of the journalistic establishment, people writing for supermarket tabloids are journalists, protected by shield laws and such, but someone publishing his diary online is not, even if his diary details public business on a daily basis.

Let’s have a look at a few items that turned up in a quick web search:

From the POGO Blog, operated by the Project on Government Oversight:

The Department of Defense has no idea what’s going on in more than half the properties it owns and it has no plans to figure that information out, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.


The DoD’s massive collection of military real estate holdings worldwide includes more than half a million facilities located on more than 5,000 sites valued at about $828 billion. Many of these properties hold important purposes, but an alarming number (about half) are underutilized or completely abandoned. Even worse, the department is terrible at tracking which ones are which.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Soccer star and underwear model extraordinaire David Beckham is getting into the whisky business. The former Galaxy player launched Haig Club single grain whisky over the weekend in Edinburgh.


Spending by groups that don’t disclose their donors in the 2014 midterm elections has crested $100 million, a figure that is well ahead of what was spent on congressional races at this point in any other cycle. And the most is yet to come.


How much more? Probably at least another $100 million, if past experience is a guide. In the last seven cycles, going back to 2000, more than 54 percent of the eventual total dark money spending, on average, occurred in the final weeks before the election. In only one cycle, 2008, had more than half of it been spent by Oct. 8. In all other cycles, anywhere from 50 to 72 percent of dark money outlays came after that date. (All figures are based on spending that the groups reported to the FEC.)

From CBS News:

Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t upset that Martha Stewart criticized her lifestyle website, Goop — in fact, she’s pleased about it.

From Salon:

Frank Gaffney has emerged as one of the DC-beltway’s most outspoken critics of American Muslims, purveying conspiracy theories about the infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into the highest levels of the U.S. government and birther accusations about Barack Obama’s eligibility to serve as president. But even while drawing criticism from civil rights organizations, Gaffney, who served as acting Assistant Secretary of Defense in 1987, has continued to find sources of funding for his organization, the Center for Security Policy, managing a budget of over $3.5 million in 2013.

From CNN:

Rep. Peter King says Obama wearing a tan suit during a press conference was a metaphor for a “lack of seriousness.”

You get the picture. Now: Who’s practicing journalism?