Schooling Journalists: Attkisson Takes On Columbia Journalism Review *Open Thread*


It is no secret that journalism has fallen far in this country. Heck, it is hard to even consider it “journalism.” More like muck-raking, ideologically driven rumors and innuendo, and a rush to judgment in certain cases to push a political ideology. Some of what passes for “journalism” these days doesn’t even rise to the level of tabloid writing, it is so bad.

You know, like the recent BuzzFeed debacle for published the fictitious “Donald Dossier” as fact. Worse, the editor, Ben Smith, then went all over the airwaves trying to justify that horrific example of what passes for journalism these days. Even WaPo criticized Buzzfeed for its idiocy.

Sadly, this isn’t new. Every time there has been a crisis or some kind of attack in this country, the media rushes to judgment sans facts to lay blame on the other side of the political aisle rather than actually seeking out what happened, and who was responsible. Aurora shooting? Tea Party member! Except he wasn’t. Shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords?  Inspired by Gov. Palin’s use of a bullseye! Except it wasn’t. And on I could go.

funny-cartoon-humor-joke-on-media-truthThat trend of journalistic malfeasance isn’t just limited to wrongly ascribing crimes to certain groups of people, but to minimize relationships of terrorists to radical Islam. For instance, the Orlando nightclub ISIS terrorist has been referred to as a “killer” and a “shooter” just this week. No acknowledgment that his assault at the club was based on his being a radical Islamist. Nope.  Even outlets like Fox refer to him as a “gunman” and “killer” rather than as an Islamic jihadi.

That is how the media shapes the narrative, and it is disconcerting, to put it mildly. The media have the task of informing us of news without the slightest hint of where they stand politically and ideologically. Sadly, we have fallen far, far from that ideal.

There are still a few good, true journalists out there, and Sharyl Attkisson is one of them. Attkisson is responsible for pulling back the curtain on Fast and Furious, Solyndra, and more, whole doggedly pursuing what happened in Benghazi. You might recall that Attkisson also had both her work and personal computers hacked by Obama’s Administration because of her work on Benghazi. This has been confirmed by forensic IT investigators. That should tell  you the level of her investigative work and how threatening it is to the Powers-That-Be.

So when Attkisson wrote an open letter to “J Students” after Columbia Journalism Review supported Buzzfeed’s idiotic dossier action, I took notice. If anyone can school these upcoming journalists with authority, it would be Attkisson.

And now to Attkisson’s comments about how real journalists act, and don’t act:

“Release what you can when you have it and see what new leads it generates.”—Vanessa Gezari, Columbia Journalism Review Managing Editor

To Journalism Students: This is not a well-established investigative journalism technique. Quite the opposite.

Responsible journalists don’t “release what you can” to generate leads without verifying what’s verifiable and seeking comment from those implicated. And when fact errors are discovered in the material, it’s a huge red flag. Setting aside good journalism, this fact pattern could be interpreted (in theory) as “reckless disregard for the truth’: enough for even a public figure to prevail in a libel lawsuit.


The biggest flaw I see in CJR’s reasoning is the idea that once allegations are “discussed” by other media and in government, we have to report on it (without verifying the material or contacting those named) or else we’re complicit in sitting on a “potentially gigantic story.”

Such reasoning exhibits a naïveté that fails to recognize what propaganda groups know quite well: One way to get their smears and narratives in the public domain when traditional news won’t bite is to get them published by websites or quasi-news outlets. The “story” then goes viral, pretty soon “everyone” is discussing it, and the mainstream news says, Well, how can we ignore it?

We must resist being used as a tool in such propaganda campaigns, especially in an environment where they’re rampant.

WOW! What a concept! Not allowing yourself to be used as propaganda for certain groups or politicians! Gee, I wonder if these students even know that is POSSIBLE, considering what has passed for “news” these days. Right off the bat, Attkisson is giving them an education they clearly are not getting at Columbia.

Then Attkisson poses the questions that SHOULD have been asked and clearly were not. Again, now these folks are  really getting an education:


I can tell you with reasonable certainty that the reputable media attorneys I’ve closely worked with would not have green-lighted these opposition research documents for publication with the known facts. Here are some of the questions they would have asked:

Q: Is the nature of the information potentially libelous, if it turns out to be untrue?

A: Yes. *Reason for caution.

Q: Who is the generator of the information?

A: Paid political operatives who wanted a candidate defeated. *Reason for caution.

Q: Do you have good reason to believe, and evidence that supports, the information is true?

A: We know some of it is not true. *Reason for caution.

Q: What is the motive of those who provided the documents?

A: Likely political. *Reason for caution.

Q: Can you verify all of the information?

A: No. *Reason for caution.

Q: Can you verify any of it?

A: Much of it we haven’t checked. Some of what’s been checked is false. *Reason for caution.

Q: Did you contact all of the people named or identified for their comment?

A: No. *Reason for caution.

Q: Is there a compelling reason to rush the story to publication prior to making the contacts?

A: No. *Reason for caution. […] (Click here to read the rest.)

On every front, Buzzfeed failed, as did the Columbia Journalism Review in supporting this poor excuse for journalism, a reality Attkisson highlights well in her conclusion. Not only can students take a page from Attkisson and her MO, but so could many “journalists” out there today.

media-spoonfeeding-cartoonThere is more to Attkisson’s letter to these students, and I encourage you to read it all. That said, when you are reminded of what journalism can and SHOULD be by witnessing a true journalist at work, it might just make you angry and disgusted at the crap we are so often fed as “news.” Ugh. But it might also make you hopeful that a writer of her stature might just get through to these folks and help them become better  journalists. Wouldn’t that be something?

This morning, the incomparable Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist also had an excellent piece on the media and how they are choosing to cover Trump nominees and other relevant Trump stories. Her piece, “4 Recent Examples Show Why No One Trusts Media Coverage Of Trump,” is well worth your time.

That’s it for me. Feel free to share your thoughts on this or whatever else is on your minds today. This is an Open Thread.



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38 Responses to “Schooling Journalists: Attkisson Takes On Columbia Journalism Review *Open Thread*”

  1. kenoshamarge Says:

    Sharyl Attkisson is a true hero of Journalism. One of the few who remains true to what journalism was supposed to be and why the founders gave journalism special treatment in the Constitution. Ditto Mollie Hemingway.

    Many of those who call them selves “journalists” are at the very least simply opinion writers and at the worst propagandists. I see more of the latter than of the former.

    Early in our Republican Thomas Jefferson said: “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost. ”

    Later on he changed his mind: “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers. ”

    And finally: ” I do not take a single newspaper, nor read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely the happier for it. ”

    It didn’t take “journalism” long to go from respected and enshrined in the Constitution to being an object of disgust. I don’t know if I take comfort from that.

    Great Post Rev!

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Thanks so much, Marge – I truly appreciate that.

      Jefferson was so spot on. It is sad that this has been going on for so long, but you would think that Journalistic Ethics would mean SOMETHING to a JOURNALISM school. Apparently not. Not any more.

      So yes, thank heavens for the likes of Attkisson and Hemingway who serve as beacons for true journalistic principles. Attkisson’s questions should be plastered in every journalism school across the country.

      And you are SO right abt many “journalists” these days being opinion writers who try to mask that is what they are. It is deplorable. Trump’s nominees are a case in point, as Hemingway noted. The way they are being treated is appalling, with what were formerly standard bearers like the NY Times and WaPo being as bad or worse than supermarket tabloids. The lies, innuendos, and rumors they dispel under the guide of “coverage” make them the lowest of the low.

      So frustrating…

      • kenoshamarge Says:

        NYT and WaPo are no longer standard bearers. They are simply advocacy tabloids. Not fit to wrap fish in IMO.

        They have no ethics. In fact ethics, real ethics, are endangered in our society period.

        • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

          Sad but true – there is a real lack of Ethics across the board in society now. It is beyond troubling…

  2. kenoshamarge Says:

  3. kenoshamarge Says:

    Robert Tracinski: Trump Inauguration Protesters Work Hard For His Re-Election

    Protesters against Donald Trump’s inauguration are flooding to DC and putting forth their best effort to ensure that there will be a second Trump inauguration to protest four years from now.

    I’m not boasting or gloating about this outcome. I didn’t want there to be a first Trump inauguration, and I probably won’t be too happy about a second one, either. Yes, a lot can and will go wrong with the Trump administration over the next four years, so it’s impossible to predict the next election. But everything in the behavior of Trump’s opponents on the Left tells us they are determined to learn nothing from this past election and to double down on everything that drove voters into Trump’s camp.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Tracinski makes a great point. The more you see all these fools acting out the way they are, the more they make people who voted for Trump believe they made the right choice. I mean, really – grown people are acting like children, young people are acting like heathens, and on it goes.

      So yeah – he makes a good point.

  4. kenoshamarge Says:

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Branco = genius!

      • kenoshamarge Says:

        That he is. And all the people that once criticized the CIA are suddenly appalled that Trump would suggest they would leak partisan info – or info that is not true or skewed. As if that was a new thing.

        We all know that most of our law enforcement is politicized and that includes the CIA, the FBI and others too numerous to mention. It’s wrong, it’s dangerous and it’s undeniably true.

        There are good people within all of the agencies. And there are many who are not good especially at the top. JMO

        • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

          Oh, yeah, without a doubt the Intelligence Communities have become more politicized. It seems EVERY agency under Obama has. There should be some big time Spring Cleaning going on there.

          And the continued hypocrisy would be laughable if not so irksome…

  5. kenoshamarge Says:

    UN Ambassador Nominee Nikki Haley Rips Obama Administration and U.N. For Anti-Israel Resolution

    Asked about the nasty U.N. resolution 2344 that targeted not only Israeli settlements but the very claim of Jews to the holiest place in Judaism, the Temple Mount, Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, came out firing against the resolution, asserting, “When we basically abstained from 2334 we made Israel more vulnerable; we made America more vulnerable in that we don’t stand by our allies.”

    New Mexico Democratic Senator Tom Udall, determined to push Haley into a corner and force her to condemn Israeli settlements, asked, “Are the settlements that break up the possibility of a future contiguous Palestinian state harmful to achieving a two-state solution in your opinion?”

    Udall did his best to get Haley to trip herself up and failed miserably. Udall was the one who in the end had egg on his face. This lady has guts. Good for her!

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      I watched a lot of that hearing. Near the end, apparently the Dems asked for more time to be able to grill Haley some more (no Reps did). They did not want to question her. They wanted to LECTURE her. They were so condescending to her, the only thing they left out when trying to bludgeon her abt the Iran deal was to say, “Little lady…” UGH.

      Sen. Corker, the chair, reminded them that 58 of the US Senators ALSO opposed the Iran deal, and that the President’s signature on a treaty not reviewed by the Senate violated the Constitution in a BIG way.

      These Dems haven’t gone up against someone like Haley before. I was so proud that she was the Governor here. She was strong, engaging, had a sense of humor, and demonstrated her intelligence repeatedly.

      Thanks for this. And yes, Udall looked like an idiot.

      • kenoshamarge Says:

        I agree. But many over at the Right Scoop are complaining that she “dodged” questions. Or that she didn’t say she was in favor of defunding the UN.

        She was wise to sidestep those “gotcha” questions IMO. Say it once and she’ll be hearing “you said this and that” for the rest of her time as Ambassador. IMO sidestepping now is the better option. She’ll have time to decide how and what after she settles into the position.

        • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

          Oh, for heaven’s sake. People just make me nuts She was VERY clear in what she said abt funding. She did not mince words, cited budget numbers (we pay 22% of the budget, and that’s too much, and 29% of the Peacekeepers budget when we only have to pay 25%, so we need to get that down) and made her point.

          Besides that, how stupid would it be for the nominee to an agency to demand it be DEFUNDED??? She was clear that we need to do a better job managing our money when it comes to the UN, and to make sure we get for what we pay. That alone is a step in the right direction from where we have been, IMO.

          They can bite me… 🙂

          • kenoshamarge Says:

            The Trump derangement syndrome is so bad with many of the commenters over there that I seldom bother to participate anymore. Or else I smack them around and leave because I really am not interested in what they have to say back to me.

            Mostly they tell anyone that doesn’t still share their Cruz love to go over to Breitbart.

            They are also still lauding their adherence to principles and the fact that they are Christians while those that voted for Trump as not. I point out regularly that the hate they spew is hardly a sign of a good Christian. Likewise the bible verses they post to prove, somehow, that Trump is an evil man. It’s just crazy.

            Funny how they make fun of the “Trump Cult” while be members in good standing of the “Cruz Cult”.

            One woman actually posted yesterday that when she becomes so overcome with grief at the thought of Trump being sworn in on Friday that she goes to the Ted Cruz FaceBook page until she feels better. But she isn’t a cult member. /s

        • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

          Good Lord have mercy. What the hell is WRONG with these people? You are so right that they are completely blind to their own cult behavior – just like Trumpkins are when referring to Obots. It just leaves me SMH…

  6. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    Obama isn’t done screwing with people. Nope – he decided to put Ben Rhodes – he of the Arab Spring, Iran Deal, and Benghazi BS – onto the HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL COUNCIL. Wow:

    • kenoshamarge Says:

      A lot of the conservative pundits are saying that Obama isn’t evil, he’s just a true socialist and following what he believes.

      I say he’s evil. And Ben Rhodes isn’t fit to be anywhere near the Holocaust Memorial Committee. This is not only a finger in the eye of Netanyahu but a direct insult to everyone of the 6 million Jews that were exterminated by the Nazis.

      The left calls Trump a Nazi but it is Obama that is acting like one.

      • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

        They say po-ta-toe, and I say po-tah-toe. Socialism IS evil, so yeah – he may be follwing what he believes, but Socialism is a demonstratively disastrous ideology, so for Obama to push that IS evil.

        It is beyond the pale to appoint someone like Rhodes to that Council. I hope Trump boots him off so fast it makes his head spin.

        And you are so right – it is an insult to every Jew, to everyone who was lost in the Holocaust, and to their families as well.

  7. kenoshamarge Says:

  8. helenk3 Says:

    i am watching the concert with tears in my eyes. It has been 8 long years since this country was celebrated in DC. It is such a great thing to watch.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      I hate that so many of these performers have had to DEFEND why they are participating in this event. Because it is the Inauguration of a new US President, that’s why! And that’s enough!!

      I am glad you are enjoying the concert. Thanks for mentioning it – I’ll check in on it.

      • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

        I love The Piano Guys! So glad they are there!

        • kenoshamarge Says:

          You introduced us to them right here on your blog Rev. And yes, I love them too.

          • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

            That I did, Marge! Thanks for remembering that I included them in a post. That makes me happy! 😀

            They really are amazing. They are going to be here in Feb. – at the same time we will be in Orlando with friends and our 6 yr old godson! Oh well – another time…

  9. kenoshamarge Says:

    How Much Do The Editors At The Washington Post Hate Religion? A Lot, And This Headline Proves It.

    On Wednesday, President-Elect Donald Trump chose former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue as his agriculture secretary. Perdue served two terms after becoming Georgia’s first Republican governor in well over a century, slashing the state’s budget and pursuing trade on behalf of the state. So, how did The Washington Post headline the appointment? “Trump picks former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue, who once led a prayer for rain, for agriculture secretary.”

    Yes, that was their actual headline.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Isn’t that incredible? Shapiro had such a great retort for them abt ALL the different kinds of people who pray for rain.

      These arrogant, patronizing, condescending liberals think they are just so much smarter than everyone else, ESPECIALLY Christians, and they cannot hide their disdain…

  10. kenoshamarge Says:

  11. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    But of course Mayor de Blasio is happy that Obama commuted the sentence of a convicted terrorist (FALN). WOW, I am so glad I no longer live in NYC:

  12. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    I have to admit, I took some delight in this:

  13. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    I missed Gov. Haley’s opening remarks. I am so glad that United With Israel had it. And why would they? Because of her VERY strong position in support of Israel:

  14. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    Check out this “accounting error” in California – $1.9 BILLION. That is not an “error” – that is incompetence and malfeasance, especially since they hid it for as long as they did:

  15. helenk3 Says:

    this picture says it all

  16. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    When I see pieces by Mary Katherine Ham, I cannot help but wonder how this brave woman is doing what she does after the terrible tragedy she and her family endured. Well, she had this piece up today, on her husband’s birthday, abt the birth of their second child after he died. It moved me to tears:

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