Monday, September 14, 2009

Traditional media and Van Jones

Howard Kurtz is right that traditional media botched its coverage of the Van Jones controversy.

The story is a reminder that it shouldn't matter for news organizations where its news tips come from. Who cares if it's Glenn Beck who's generating heat over the story? There seemed to be two irrefutable facts worthy of coverage, even if nobody else was talking about them. One was that Jones in a public speech this year called Republicans assholes. That's his right. But coming for an executive in the administration of a president who pledged to bring a new tone to Washington, it's at least interesting. And they didn't have to rely on Beck to determine whether it was true. Video of the speech had been posted online. Two, even the possibility that he signed a "truther" petition regarding 9/11 would be worthy of investigation. That's so far out of the mainstream and so outrageous on its face that it should have raised questions about the judgment of Jones and of the administration that appointed him. Again, no need to rely on Beck. The petition either has his signature or it doesn't. If it does, how could that not be news?

Good reporters look for stories wherever they can find them. They don't care about where they might have originated. They care about whether they're true and relevant. How could the story of Van Jones not have been relevant?

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