“The Death Knell of Your Ethics”: General, Ungently, to the Gentlemen of the Press

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Hoyt: The former Knight-Ridder man, hired by the Times to red-team its standards and practices after earning a reputation for  swimming bravely against the red tide of the rush to war, tends to pull no punches. More power to the guy. 

“The death knell of your ethics has been enabled by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with political agendas,” Sanchez said. “What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service members who are at war.”

Getting Only Half the Story — Back in December, New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt takes his colleagues to task for failing to report criticisms of the media by the former commanding general in the American Chechnya, now retired and bluntly speaking his mind.

When a retired general criticizes his former bosses in direct, blunt language, it’s important news. But his criticism of the news media was also news, and when a newspaper fails to report it, the natural conclusion of many readers is that journalists do not like criticism, turn a deaf ear to it and refuse to report it.

This might make a good item for me to try translate into Portuguese for the sake of my Brazilian friends and colleagues.

As Luis Nassif noted in passing in his recent series on Veja magazine, the gabbling awfulness of that glossy vat of journalistic toxic sludge cannot be fully understood except  as part of a global phenomenon. He is absolutely right.

This is something I have been meaning to do more of this year.

I figure that with another year or two of steady practice, with lots of trial and error, I could become a decent EN>PT-Br translator and modest New World Lusophone prose artist, writing with minimum competence in the final flor de Lácio.

There are a few gringos around who do this well. Why not me?

I  do own a copy of a standard guide to New World Lusophone grammar and usage, as well as the indispensable Dicionário Português-Inglês de locuções e expressões idiomáticas (São Paulo: Editora Schmidt) and the editorial manual of the Estado de S. Paulo.

Não deu no jornal — what you did not read in your newspaper:

What you didn’t read in The Times – or in most other news outlets and only barely in The Washington Post – was what a bitter-sounding Sanchez had to say about the news media, remarks that were even more striking because he was speaking to a group of journalists, Military Reporters and Editors, at a luncheon in Washington. “The death knell of your ethics has been enabled by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with political agendas,” Sanchez said. “What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service members who are at war.”

Abandon all restraint, ye who enter the Green Zone:

Although Sanchez praised some individual reporters, including John Burns and Thom Shanker of The Times (and my former Knight Ridder colleague Joe Galloway), he accused the press corps of largely abandoning restraint and ethics in pursuit of sensational news. “Over the course of this war, tactically insignificant events have become strategic defeats for America because of the tremendous power and impact of the media,” he said.

I am reminded of the Brazilian air force general in charge of investigating the TAM crash last year at Congonhas airport here.

Patiently trying to warn the assembled ladies of the gentlemen of the local press that leaking incomplete information from the investigation was only going to undermine the process.

And harm the public interest in obtaining a credible, objective assessment of why the aircraft crashed and burned.

And undermine public confidence in measures adopted to  make reasonably sure it never happens again.

See

The guy made perfect sense. I, for one, felt encouraged, knowing that a responsible adult was apparently in charge of this important job. I got a better sense of how afraid I really ought to be of flying in Brazil.

Which is not too afraid. The Brazilians manufacture what one hears is a very decent regional passenger jet, field a decent pilot corps, understand international best practices, and have a reality-based community fighting to keep the system up to snuff.

The new defense minister has communicated pretty well on the subject. If you filter the newsflow carefully, you that there are some journalists who are covering the story from a sensible point of view. There seems to be a modicum of order and progress. There is reason for guarded optimism, although my wife still makes a point of invoking Nossa Senhora and a santo or two just prior to liftoffs and landings. Which is only prudent. Brazilian airspace could be managed better, but this is not Aeroflot we are talking about here, or even Mexicana de Aviación.

See

Was the local news media chastened into dropping, or at least lowering the volume, on the journalism of moral panic? Um, no.

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