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Power v. journalistic ethics


Emily Wilder has issued a powerful statement about the Associated Press disgracefully delegating its personnel decisions to the Stanford Republicans and Tom Cotton:

The detail that her editor wouldn’t even explain what “social media policy” she violated or how is telling and pathetic: needless to say, if they did it would be trivially easy to show that the “policy” is being arbitrarily applied, because the idea that journalists are not allowed to have political opinions is transparently stupid and nobody actually believes it. It should also be clear that any genuine attempt to address “cancel culture” in journalism would start with people fired for being critical of Israeli policy.

It’s also interesting to compare the treatment of Wilder and Chris Cuomo, the latter of whom actually did commit many fireable offenses:

The treatment of Cuomo and Wilder highlight two separate but related flaws in the world of Serious Journalism. The first is the unreasonable and hideously stupid expectation that reporters must harbor no strong opinions about the things they care about, whether it’s their creep of a brother or the liberation of oppressed people. The second is how this expectation gets enforced. The disparity in punishment between Cuomo, who faced no disciplinary action even though a CNN spokesperson acknowledged his actions were “inappropriate,” and Wilder, who was summarily canned even though the AP couldn’t point to what she had done wrong, is glaring.

Dylan Byers, a baby-brained useful idiot for the wealthiest and most prominent figures in media, condescendingly explained that Cuomo will be keeping his job because CNN likes him and pays him a lot of money. His wised-up, how-the-world-really-works tone grated specifically because it’s obvious to anyone with eyes and ears. Chris Cuomo, like his brother, has power, so he can get away with a slap on the wrist for things that would cost a normal person their job (or, for his brother, perhaps put them in prison). Emily Wilder is young and new to the industry, and she has no power, especially not compared to the Conservative dark money–funded projects that exist to push one worldview and punish all others. So she’s out of work today.

There are multiple undercurrents here—a functional newsroom actually concerned with training young reporters might explain to one exactly what she’s supposed to have done wrong vis-à-vis their internal policies, instead of firing her; any working journalist or manager of journalists ought to be familiar with the Gamergate bad-faith dogpile tactics that have been the right’s M.O. for seven years now—but it all comes back to power, and craven abdications of journalism’s founding mission. The industry, at its best and at its heart, is about speaking up for those who can’t, and shining a light on things that those in power would prefer kept in the dark. And yet in a single day, two of the country’s largest media institutions chose to side with the powerful over the ethical. They failed at the fundamental principle to which they are ostensibly duty-bound.

Ah yes, Dylan “coffee-drinking urban elites” Byers, grim evidence that slavishly carrying water for the powerful people in your industry is as good for your career as it is bad for your journalism.

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