I need to make one thing perfectly clear here at the outset: I am a party to this because I really am Dave Koch. I am not some unknown blogger from upstate New York pretending to be me. I am the real Dave Koch. I am not someone trying to make a partisan political point, I am real. I do have a daughter in ballet… unfortunately, I am not a billionaire…
What am I? Who is Dave Koch? At one time, I was a journalist. I cared about being accurate and honest. Ian Murphy can claim neither quality. There is no justifying the means with the ends in this instance because the ends are so trite and unimportant. There was no earth-shattering facts revealed in Mr. Murphy’s faux phone call, nothing Mr. Walker said (or was deceived into saying) justify Mr. Murphy lying and underhanded trickery used to gain this story. When you listen to the phone call, there were no wild surprises, nothing out of character for the Governor, nothing really worth publishing much less lowering your professional standards to the level Mr. Murphy did. All he succeeded in doing was creating more discord and disagreement between two parties that are at each other’s throats and driving down the perceived level of professionalism of the media in general.
There was a time journalists took pride in what they did. We went to school, we worked hard, and we held ourselves to the highest levels of personal and professional honesty. Our word– our credibility– was all we had, and our stock in trade had to be protected at all costs and at all times. Mr. Murphy has built the whole of his 15 minute career on lying and deception; is that what we now expect out of our journalists? Is that acceptable at all in any job? Is that the sort of legacy one would be proud of?
In my days as a photojournalist, we were very careful to take a hands-off approach to reporting. We did not interfere with an event, we never made ourselves part of the story. We recorded what happened in front of us, and then showed that, for good or ill. To be sure, just our being in a situation changed how it unfolded; we all knew that and we did our best to minimize that. But we never crossed the line and we never actively molded the events; we never lied to someone outright for an interview. We might hide in the shadows to get a shot, but we never passed ourselves off as something we were not.
I can no longer watch the news. Too many reporters these days think they are the news. To my eye, it all started with entertainment reporters trying to build some sort of cult of personality around themselves, to make themselves bigger than the Hollywood icons they interviewed. Soon, this spread to sportscasters and ultimately to news reporters, and news took a bend to become more about entertainment than informing.
Now we have a burgeoning blogroll of “new” journalists. They have never been to j-school, do not have the experience to understand the mores of the job, have no editors to teach them or restrain them and, most importantly, no one to answer to. They view reporting as a path to their own cult of personality, not a job that requires a level of commitment to the truth well beyond their comprehension. There is no reason for the “new journalists” not to pretend to be someone else, to lie to get their story because they have never been taught or taken the time to learn what real journalism is. On their Internet, you just need to pay 20 bucks to reserve your domain name and you are a journalist, and, unfortunately, the great mass of people do not stop to question their credentials or bona fides. Or their morals and motives. There is no reason to believe a word they post, ever, because they have not begun to show us any reason for trust.
By any reckoning, journalism has fallen from the once lofty ideals of Murrow and Cronkite. Dan Rather was a sad case indeed when he, while admitting his documents regarding Bush were forged, defended it by alleging phoney evidence is okay if “the major thrust” of the story might be true. That is not a journalists job, to tell us what might be true, or what he or she thinks to be true. A journalist reports truth, period. You keep yourself out of the story, and your opinions, too. And you never lie. If you do all that, if you do a good and thorough and well sourced job, you will be respected in this profession. If you lie and deceive to get your story, you will ultimately be seen for who and what you are; a liar and deceiver.
Earlier today, I took a phone call from someone pretending to be Scott Walker. I knew it was not him. So I hit the phone with a baseball bat.
Addendum: It seems the Huffington Post has jumped all over this story, and in the process has linked to this blog in their “Around The Web” section about David Koch. In fact, it is the second link on the page, just after the Wikipedia entry for Mr. Koch. This just backs up my contention that there is no longer much journalism left in what is passed out as News today. It would not have taken much fact-checking at all on the Huffington Post’s part to confirm this blog as belonging to the correct Dave Koch, but it would have been the professional thing to do. And yet the Link from the Huffington Post remains on their sight, and is an active testament to their thorough level of journalism.
I am not sure I would limit my critique to Huffington Post; I think it is endemic to many more of the “new media” websites. Certainly the aforementioned Wikepidia. To be politically balanced, lets throw in any of Andrew Brietbart’s sites, and maybe even a dash of TMZ.com and Perez Hilton. I think it is proper to link these diverse sites together because they do share some common traits. They are long on readers but show up short on responsibility scale. They are big on flash but short on reliability. They publish crass commercialistic content at the expense of their own credibility. None are what I would consider trusted sources, but all are treated as if they were well-researched, well-written and well-edited. Just because they self-label themselves as an authority in their respective fields and garner a large readership does not mean they adhere to the classic constraints we should expect and demand of news or reference sources. Credibility and Reliability are rarely the first adjectives use to describe any of these new media sites, nor do those qualities seem to be major goals for the web properties, so why do we turn around and use them as authorities and sources? I shake my head.
Oh, and by the way, it is pronounced “Coach”, not “Coke”.…