Lippmann and Dewey argued over what they believed the role of journalism was in American society. After reading and listening to the coverage of allegations of sexual harassment by GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, one can’t help but wonder what they would think of the state of journalism today.
According to the book The Elements of Journalism there are nine elements that must be followed by journalist in order to fulfill their duties. These are:
- Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
- Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
- Its essence is discipline of verification.
- Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
- It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
- It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
- It must strive to make the news significant, interesting, and relevant.
- It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
- Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.
Knowing that the first element of journalism is truth and that in order to supply the truth a journalist must verify their sources because providing false information would be detrimental to the public, how can anyone label the coverage of this sexual harassment scandal as journalism?
First, Politico provides us with anonymous allegations about alleged acts that were not overtly sexual in nature but offended the anonymous accusers just the same. Politico reports each received a settlement in the five figure range, but refuses to elaborate on any specifics of the allegations. Then the Associated Press treats us to more claims from another anonymous accuser who states she was going to file a complaint with Cain’s employer but decided not to because the two other women above were pursuing claims against him at the time.
Then comes Sharon Bailek along side her attorney Gloria Allred who has a long past of representing opportunists like those that jumped on the train of women Tiger Woods had affairs with or those who were offended by a professional baseball coach’s use of a bat in a lewd way. Together, they spent the next 12 hours making the rounds on all the major talk shows. No doubt, Allred is already busy shopping around her client’s book deal. Finally, CNN treated us to yet one more anonymous account of sexual harassment, but this anonymous account doesn’t comes from the accuser, but from the anonymous friend of the anonymous accuser.
Let’s go back to the first accusers. Politico saw fit to run with a story sourced anonymously and has refused to provide any specifics under claims that the women involved signed non-disclosure agreements with their employer. But why didn’t Politico, who admittedly knows the identity of these two women, investigate them at all? Anyone can make an allegation, as we saw when Larry Sinclair accused then candidate Barack Obama of a homosexual relationship. In that story the media thoroughly investigated Larry Sinclair and found him not to be a credible source and dropped the story before it ever began. In Cain’s case, Politico appears to not have done any investigation of the two women what-so-ever, because had they done so, they would have no doubt uncovered the fact that one of them has a history of shaking down her employer’s for quick settlements.
Karen Kraushaar, who was labeled by Politico as, “very reliable,” was outted by the blog The Daily. Only after Ms Kraushaar’s identity was revealed did the AP release details about her past settlements with other employers.
It should also be noted that the National Restaurant Association, the company that settled with Cain’s anonymous accusers, has released the women from the duties of their non-disclosure agreement. Even though they are now free to talk, they have still refused to elaborate on their claims.
When we look at the one accuser of Cain’s who did come forward publically, Sharon Bailek, we see again the media committing journalistic malpractice as they giver her every possible outlet to tell her story, but not once do they investigate it. Only after numerous media reports were out did we start hearing about eye witness accounts that directly contradicted Sharon Bailek’s claims.
Herman Cain even held a press conference on the claims made by Bailek where he flat out denied the allegations and vowed to take a lie detector test. To date, none of Cain’s accusers have been willing to submit to the same lie detector test.
Because the “journalists” covering this story willfully withheld information or flat out refused to investigate their sources they have left the public with only two possible beliefs. Either Herman Cain systematically sexually abused women for a brief period in the middle of his adult life, never before nor after, or the allegations are completely false.
Now knowing the nine elements of journalism, we can’t help but ask why Politico, the AP, and CNN did not investigate the sources of their stories? Did they offer their sources a chance to take a polygraph? If so, what were the results? When did the AP know about Karen Kraushaar’s history of settlements with her employers? Why did they wait so long to report it? Why hasn’t the media asked Bailek to take a lie detector? Why haven’t they asked her if she is shopping around a book deal or if she will take a vow not to profit from her story in anyway?
They haven’t done any of these things because the state of journalism in America is dead. Journalists today are more concerned with their exclusive than they are with the truth. The big problem with that is that the very people journalists claim to help are the very ones being hurt, the American people.