Thursday, April 12, 2007

I STILL REMEMBER AN INDEPENDENT PRESS

I'm sure many of you have heard about this whole Katie Couric plagiarism brouhaha. Apparently, an April 4 version of Katie's nightly fluff-piece, "Katie Couric's Notebook" (does she have Hello Kitty stickers & smiley faces on her "notebook"?) was plagiarized straight from the pages of The Wall Street Journal. All this despite the piece actually beginning with the words, "I still remember when I got my first library card."

Whatever. As you might guess, I couldn't give a shit whether Couric actually "wrote" whatever puffery she blew into America's homes that evening. And even though I'm a tad curious how she cribbed from The Journal, of all sources, for that "Notebook" entry about library cards, I'm not that curious.

Nah. What's interesting to me hear is that someone else got canned because of this: the segment producer. And also of note is the bullshit-filled statement of CBS News "spokeswoman" Sandy Genelius:
Even though Couric "had no comment of her own" on the episode, and despite the fact that she "did not compose the [first person POV] piece herself and was unaware that much of it was plagiarized," she was nonetheless "stunned, and very upset."
I'm sure she's deeply traumatized. Perhaps a press conference? A stint in rehab for the folks at The Journal who outed her? An apology?

You know, it's funny. In America today, we live under a de facto policy of false contrition for every verbal misstep. No matter how banal the issue, if someone says something "unacceptable" -- to right, left, male, female, rich, poor, black & white -- he must publically ask for absolution. Then the sin is wiped from the slate.

Very Christian.

But the consequences of real actions -- whether dishonsty, disloyalty, incompetence, dereliction of duty, or dozens of others -- are treated as if they're not that big a deal. I don't get it.

Couric is supposed to be a journalist. She went on the air, speaking in the first person about her experiences. Hard news? No. But that's of little consequence here. Truth in what she says is the entirety of her value. She's not an analyst. She does none of her own investigations. She reads the fucking news! All anyone needs from her is to tell the truth. Nothing more.

Yet, she made up the whole story, and even worse, it seems that she copied the work of another to do so. And the upshot of this?

Someone else gets fired, and then she has someone else speak on her behalf about how shocked she is by the whole episode. In other words, get someone else to lie about her lie. Unbelievable.

I'm reminded of the scene in James Brooks' 1987 vehicle, Broadcast News, where Holly Hunter's Jane tells William Hurt's Tom that he "totally crossed the line" between ethical and unethical reporting when he faked tears at the end of a news piece. "It's hard not to cross it," Tom protested, "They keep moving the little sucker, don't they?"

Yes, the line keeps moving. But the "they" in question are the press themselves. They just keep moving that line, and one of these days it'll be so far off we won't even be able to see it.

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11 Comments:

Blogger Mort said...

MSM is a joke. They should wear clown suits when they read that drivel. To plagiarize the WSJ is the epitome of stupid. Why not just read the newspaper to us on the air, Katie? Since people don't read, and the newspapers are full of crap anyway, it would make a nice dead air filler.

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Applesaucer said...

Excellent piece, Mike. Seriously.

My only complaint: the last time we discussed Broadcast News (over a decade ago, to be fair) you took the Hurt character's side over the Brooks character's side.

But that's NOT my main point. My main point is that you did a great job on this one.

Applesaucer

9:50 AM  
Blogger Dwilkers said...

Well said Mike. The MSM is so fucking transparently fake and idiotic its amazing to me that people watch.

Couric didn't know the first person story she was reading was plagiarized? Doesn't matter if that's true or false. She was still lying to people by acting as though the story was true.

And someone else gets fired. Nice.

Whatever.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Why not just read the newspaper to us on the air

Why do I fear this day coming? In NYC, we have a local news outlet -- owned by the main cable-supplier, Time-Warner -- that features a "What's In The Papers" segment every morning.

It's sometime tongue-in-cheek, but often it's pretty straight. Never used to bother me that much, but now that I think about it . . .

Thanks, Apple. Compliments from you are hard to come by, so I'm relishing this one.

I think we've had a few conversations about the characters in this one (couple of live-wires we are, huh?). I've always thought that Tom was, at heart, a better person than Aaron, despite the latter's ballyhooed "integrity."

And I certainly think Jane fucked up royally at the end by breaking up with Tom over a work-related issue.

But as for Tom vs. Aaron as "newsmen," I'll admit I've gone back and forth. TV is entertainment to a degree; naive to think otherwise. But after the last 6 years or so, I know where I stand now.

Dwilk -

I don't know how people watch network TV news either. But they do, so it's an issue worth thinking about.

Outrageous as it is, Couric has influence.

10:08 AM  
Blogger DED said...

I certainly think Jane fucked up royally at the end by breaking up with Tom over a work-related issue.

I disagree. Since the guy faked tears for a news story, wouldn't it then be possible for him to fake emotions in their relationship?

Yes, I realize that one can use that same argument against marrying actors/actresses.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

fake emotions in their relationship

There's an alternative for husbands?

(Ok, I'm kidding.)

Sort of.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

Nice commentary.

P.S., Mike, I'm dying to know about your new work digs. Firm? In-house? If you don't want to blow your superhero blog cover, maybe you can just e-mail me a little bit if info offline to satisfy my dumb attorney curiosity.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Kelly - It's a firm. I'm not looking to hide anything, but you know how paranoid we attorneys are.

I'll e-mail you more details if you want. I assume your e-mail address is listed over at your place?

11:09 AM  
Anonymous The Frogster said...

I thought of broadcast news also. And I thought of the movie "Anchorman," which was not really very good, but where Will Ferrell reads, "F.U., San Diego," at the close of his broadcast because it's on the teleprompter. I wonder if she did that who would get fired?

11:57 AM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

I can't remember the last time I watched the Evening News.
I usually stick to local. Or MSNBC. Faux is I want a chuckle. CNN if I want the latest news on some missing white girl.

Katie is being exposed more and more as not fit for the role. It is hard to go from perky in the morning doing mostly light news to doing the nightly news which is "harder".

She should be fired.

When's the new job start?

12:14 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

if she did that who would get fired?

Mike Brown?

Ed, I agree with most of what you say. I'd hate for it to seem like I'm picking on Katie here (in light of being a woman, etc.). I'm not. To me, they're all a bunch of clowns, unfit to discuss anything more than disasters and celeb news.

She just happens to be caught in the latest firestorm. I don't want firings, really. I want accountability.

* * *

Starting the new job Monday. I hear the clock a'tickin.

1:41 PM  

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