McChrystal, Hastings, and the Nature of the Fourth Estate

Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Disclaimer: I'm not a journalist. I don't have any training as a journalist. I know a few journalists. But I am a consumer of journalism.

The blogosphere is abuzz this month with the stunning work of journalist Michael Hastings of the Rolling Stone, and how his article (The Runaway General) led to the public resignation of General McChrystal.

Some so-called "mainstream journalists" are slamming Mr. Hastings for his piece, others are defending him. Realizing that no one asked me my opinion, I'm going to give it anyway.
  1. The resignation of General McChrystal was absolutely necessary and appropriate. He fucked up. Publicly. So he did the honorable thing and tendered his resignation.
  2. President Obama's acceptance of General McChrytal's resignation was absolutely necessary and appropriate. Maintaining civilian control over the military is essential, and General McChrystal's comments gave the President no other choice.
  3. Michael Hastings' publication of this story was absolutely necessary and appropriate. The job of reporters isn't to suck up to the administration, or the Pentagon, or anyone. Their job is to investigate and report the news. Period. 
I don't understand why some people thought that Hastings owed the Pentagon more discretion, or an easier treatment of the General's behavior, or some sort of loyalty of any kind. Hastings' job is to report the news. His job isn't to make public figures look good, or to ensure no negative impressions are ever communicated to the public, or to be the Pentagon's BFF. General McChrytal's behavior (and that of his staff, but for the purposes of Command, it's really the same thing) was not only unacceptable, but punishable under the UCMJ. And some people think he should have just sat on it? Really? Why? So that insubordination and disrespect could find their way throughout the chain of command unhindered? So that a more "famous" or "mainstream" journalist could break the story?

I don't think so.

"Whoever envies another confesses his superiority." ~Samuel Johnson, The Rambler.
Consider, Ms. Logan: Just because you didn't break the story doesn't mean the story doesn't have value. Get over yourself, you and the rest of the hypocritical douchebags who just can't stomach the idea that the most explosive story of the year was published by The Rolling Stone.

11 comments:

Steve Buchheit said...

After Vietnam there was a culture of "never trust a reporter" within the military. Now, after Gulf I, II, and Afghanistan, the military regularly embeds them and uses them as much as they can. It took them 30 years to get it right.

Now, it seems, the other side of the equation needs to get their heads straight. Too much, "We need access, so we'll be good puppies" in the past two decades. Time for the fourth estate to reexamine its role. And no, it's not "to entertain us" no matter how much they want to.

Finally, it'll be up to the citizens to also grow up. To understand the consequences of our decisions and accept the fallout.

I'll be fishing, and not holding my breath waiting for all that to happen.

Stacey said...

You can think what you like about the administration and your commander-in-chief, but don't, for goodness sake, go around spewing it out of your mouth to the public. He did what he should have; his actions were wrong. He screwed the pooch.

Science says every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I think he just got hit with the other end of the rubber band he shot.

江婷 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Janiece said...

*TONG*

Eric said...

"Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has," [Lara Logan] added.

No, he served it by fulfilling the role contemplated by those who drafted and ratified the First Amendment: that speech should be free and the press unabridged because an informed public is essential to the foundations of democracy.

I have no idea whether Ms. Logan served her country in uniform prior to her current gig, but from the tenor of her comments I have to wonder if she's ever served her country as Hastings has.

And may I add that I am so sick of this "off the record" crap? Anyone dealing with the press should know it's all on the record even when they say it isn't, and frankly it probably all should be regardless (if it's too sensitive to be public, the press shouldn't be there in the first place). Journalistic ethics, as far as I can tell, are a moveable feast. As such, at least be honest about that fact and try to hew as close to the truth as you can instead of sanctimoniously double-dealing with your subjects and your public alike as it suits you.

Eric said...

Just read Matt Taibbi's take at Rolling Stone, which you've probably seen--but if you haven't, it's worth a look.

Janiece said...

Eric, I have seen it, as his blog is in my RSS feed, but thanks for the link.

Since Ms. Logan was a swimsuit model before her journalism gig, and appears to be a government kiss-ass of the highest order, I'm going to say that the answer to you question about her service is a resounding "NO."

As Steve pointed out explicitly (and I tried to point out implicitly), the fourth estate needs to get their house in order.

Rachael said...

All I can really say is... /agree

Warner (aka ntsc) said...

Journalistic ethics are not a movable feast, off the record means off the record (there are rules moderating that, but I'm not writing an essay) and you go to jail before you break trust.

Think Woodstein and Deep Throat.

I'm certain all lawyers follow the Canon to the letter, but I will have to admit there are some people claiming to be journalist who have movable ethics.

mom in northern said...

Now you know why I subscribe to RS

Anne C. said...

Thanks for the link, Eric. It beautifully sums up, in the final paragraphs, why I don't like most journalists. You can't be human and not have some prejudices, but so many of them are obviously biased and don't even TRY to present facts instead of opinions. It is so blind, not to mention blinding to the public, I can't even articulate how angry it makes me.

Not all journalists are advertisements for the liberal or conservative agendas, but the most visible ones, unfortunately, are.