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TinotopiaLog → Arnett, Geraldo, and the Media ( 1 Apr 2003)
Tuesday 01 April 2003

Arnett, Geraldo, and the Media

Geraldo Rivera is an idiot, to begin with. He’s an entertainer in the same way Michael Moore is an entertainer, but of a different political stripe. They both mine the real world for material, and then tell stories that are at best loosely connected to the facts. Nobody would think of calling Michael Moore a ‘journalist’, though, and it’s long past time for the world to stop pretending that Mr. Rivera is one.

Peter Arnett is an interesting case, though. In the event you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, Arnett was recently canned by both NBC and National Geographic Explorer following an interview he gave to Iraqi state TV.

In this interview, he said a number of things that were not complimentary to the American war effort. What seems to have been the most damaging statement was that reports about civilian casualties in Iraq were helping the anti-war movement in the United States.

I’ve looked closely at what he said, and none of it appears to be actually untrue. Certainly saying that the U.S. war plan has “failed” is overstating the case, but it’s true that the plans appear to be in the process of changing in the face of stronger-than-expected resistance.

In any case, you can find the same sentiments as expressed in that interview in nearly every issue of the New York Times, or by the BBC, CNN, and even MSNBC.

Arnett’s mistake wasn’t what he said, his mistake was in saying it on Iraqi state TV. And he shouldn’t have been on Iraqi TV in the first place. His mistake was his failure to live by the motto that should hang on every journalist’s wall:

You are not the story.

There are very few exceptions to this rule. Most of them are journalism reviews, and the rest are situations like CNN recently faced, when Rym Brahimi and the rest of the CNN crew were ejected from Baghdad by the Iraqi government. In that case, the journalists legitimately became the story through the actions of others.

Arnett’s mistake was in becoming the story through his own actions. Never mind what he said; he should have been canned for failing to understand that, professionally, he needs to be an impartial observer and reporter of events, not a television personality to be interviewed about his opinions.

There’s an interesting discussion of the issue on the Poynter Institute’s website, but they only barely touch on this point in their official comments. The reader response, though (you can’t read it unless you’re a registered user), tilts strongly toward the journalists-should-not-become-the-story view.

Posted by tino at 12:37 1.04.03
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nice to see you back!! Hope all is well and both of these guys are truely idiots…….

Posted by: Bryon at April 3, 2003 03:53 PM