Sunday, March 27, 2005

Questions About Rainey and Shaw Articles on Journalistic Subjects

The L.A. Times seems to have no compunctions these days about criticizing New York Times reporters in print, as we see in an article LAT Media Writer Jim Rainey has today, Sunday, March 27, about Judith Miller of the NYT.

In his article, Rainey drops into a class Miller is lecturing on the Berkeley campus and asks her whether she differs with her editors on the subject of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Let me suggest uncharitably that Miller has often in her career proved to be a more courageous reporter than Jim Rainey, nor, to my knowledge has Rainey answered any questions about whether he differs in his point of view with LAT editors, such as whether he allowed himself to shill for LAT Editor John Carroll over the question of wwhether Carroll, not editorial pages editor Michael Kinsley, is ultimately responsible for keeping liberal columnist Susan Estrich from appearing in the L.A. Times.

According to Rainey, Berkeley Journalism School Dean Orville Schell decided against putting any limits on Rainey's participation in the Berkeley class. Schell is the same educational official who wrote cravenly apologetic pieces about California Gov. Jerry Brown at one time. It would have been more appropriate in my view had Rainey been admitted to the Berkeley class only if he agreed to ask Miller no disruptive questions. After all, he too was a guest of the class.

Rainey is quite ready to suggest Miller may have been too ready to accept official assertions that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

There is no characteristic so true of many L.A. Times reporters that they are ready to assume N.Y. Times reporters have made various kinds of mistakes. I think Rainey should be loathe to join them until he shows more independence as a reporter than he has demonstrated thus far.

I'm going to say a shocking thing: Before the War on Terror is over, we may see Weapons of Mass Destruction appear. And at this time, we may come to have a higher opinion of official government sources.

Also, in the L.A. Times today, we have another column by David Shaw in which Shaw suggests that bloggers are not so deserving of conventional journalistic protections, such as keeping confidential sources secret, as he and the conventional press is.

This is very strange, since Shaw himself has written more than once of his belief that use of confidential sources altogether should be very much restrained.

Shaw also makes the possibly ridiculous suggestion that the L.A. Times is necessarily more reliable than unnamed bloggers, because his columns are subject to being read and edited by at least four editors, while the bloggers edit themselves.

When I was a columnist for the L.A. Times on consumer affairs, the main editor was Tim Rutten, and other editors read the columns beforehand but very seldom interfered. I wonder whether Shaw is subject to more scrutiny than I was.

The mainstream press has every reason to fear bloggers, since they have often proven quicker to raise questions and be skeptics than the all-too-often politically-correct L.A. Times.

Let me renew my suggestion that Shaw would make a better restaurant, food and wine critic than a media critic, judging from some of his columns on these other subjects.

Finally, in Sunday's Times, the comparatively new Sunday Opinion Editor of the LAT, Bob Sipchen, who recently got the paper's Outdoors section off to a bad start, invites readers to read a rejected column on a Times website and then decide for themselves whether it indeed should have been rejected as "pointless blather."

I hope the Times is paying the critic, KFI Talk Show Host John Zeigler, for the column he submitted, since it is making this other use of it.

One of the delights of writing these blogs is that I'm able to raise questions occasionally about such LAT writers as Rainey, Shaw and Sipchen, even though I may personally like them and often enjoy their writings.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

>> FBI Talk Show Host John Zeigler <<

FWIW, that should be "KFI," not "FBI."

3/29/2005 12:53 PM  
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