Thank goodness for the Columbia Journalism Review. They’ve looked into claims that Politico redacted material from a McChrystal story because it was unflattering to the
profession avocation. They pronounce all clear. There’s nothing to see.
As you likely know, Politico after-the-fact redacted their reporters’ statements that Michael Hastings, author of the Rolling Stone McChrystal piece, was so effectively candid because he didn’t worry about access and burning bridges. In Jon Stewart’s non-redacted words, Hastings piece revealed the rest of American media as the mediocre, self-editing access sycophants we all know them to be.
But hold on. The august CJR arbiters received an email from a Politico editor. Therein Politico proclaims the deletions occurred solely ‘to tighten up the piece.’ To CJR the issue is settled. (Although carefully crafted language allows CJR to cover itself for the future). Politico doesn’t escape unscathed. CJR wraps Politico’s knuckles for bad form. How thoughtless to withhold such an explanatory email for a day. Many were left in anguish needlessly.
Still all maintain shattered pretense. One has to ask why, given the cost? Even the most casual, inattentive media consumer knows the truth. More intensive consumers or players in the charade know punitive denial of access could always harm careers. With today’s imploding newsrooms it’s a veritable pink slip. In truth, Politico doesn’t need CJR. Or ‘approval’ from what’s left of the media establishment rubble. They created what everyone else is trying to be: a successful escape pod from a dying WaPo traditional media organization. They are one of the few working new models in a blasted heath – for the moment. Politico is a case study for many in and outside media. The Atlantic’s re-direction to emphasize mostly online properties some argue is based in part on Politico.
Institutionally, the vaunted CJR is actually in supplicant’s role. They embody the old, the failed, failing or dying. Sustained interaction with Politico allows CJR a window into the new while extending validation and priceless relevance. Does Politico really care what any of them say? A shame Politico’s formula for success is shoveling tactical drivel while mainstreaming so many Movement hacks.
Hastings gives a terrific interview to the UK Times (reg required). Confirming what Politico redacted, he states:
“I think he had been protected by other profile writers in the past, who wanted access,” Hastings said. “I am not an access journalist. That’s not my style . . . They were pretty candid right from the get go,” he said. RS editor Bates later told US television: “They knew when we were on the record. They said a lot of stuff to us off the record that’s not in the story. We respected those boundaries. This was all when they knew they were on.”
In a[n earlier] confessional article for GQ about the dark arts of campaign journalism, Hastings wrote: “You pretend to be friendly and non-threatening, and over time you ‘build trust’, which everybody involved knows is an illusion. If the time comes, if your editor calls for it, you’re supposed to f*** them over.”
Another general, Buck Turgidson, sagely advised a president in a crisis, ‘Now, the truth is not always a pleasant thing.’ Pity that NATO doesn’t agree with David Brooks’ clucking that ‘kvetching’ brought down a ‘super competent’ [great] man. Per the UK Times, “Even senior Nato [non-ironic sic] officials admit, however, that the profile brought together an irrefutable weight of anecdotal evidence about the fractured relationships that surrounded General McChrystal’s command. It also incorporated a series of revelations about the mission’s prospects of success.”
The intriguing question re RS? What was said off the record.
In another forum Hastings goes further:
[QUESTION:] In the hypercompetitive media world, some of the reaction to your story has been a little negative, that you have “hostile views” and that you’re anti-war. Some have wondered how you could jeopardize your future access to sources. How do you respond to that? [HASTINGS] Look, I went into journalism to do journalism, not advertising. My views are critical but that shouldn’t be mistaken for hostile – I’m just not a stenographer. There is a body of work that shows how I view these issues but that was hard-earned through experience, not something I learned going to a cocktail party on fucking K Street. That’s what reporters are supposed to do, report the story.