I don’t recall any journalist in recent history taking as much flack for making an error as Taibbi has over the Jamie Rubin thing. The way journos and pundits are lashing out at him, you’d think he’d committed journalistic crimes just shy of Jayson Blair’s. John McQuaid joins in the Taibbi bashing just a bit, but does offer some insight in this portion of his post. Emphasis mine:
But post-Watergate pre-9/11 journalism doesn’t traffic in outrage. Take Watergate. Facts and digging – often against the tide of conventional wisdom – exposed the true extent of the Watergate scandal and brought Nixon down. This event has shaped much of the generation of investigative journalism that followed: the Platonic ideal is to get someone indicted, to resign, or both. The problem with this is that its assumptions are essentially naive: that the system basically works, or can work once the facts come out. But what if it doesn’t work, or cannot? What if what’s most shocking and unjust is what’s perfectly legal? Also: what if, in society, there’s no consensus on what’s shocking and unjust?
These questions tend to drive practitioners of empirical journalism (and I count myself among them) crazy. If the system doesn’t work, you have to make some value judgments. If you make value judgments, though, people who disagree with you will attack you as biased. Which can’t be, because we’re trained to be cool and detached, to convince people through rational argument, to reach for universal approbation of our conclusions. But this goal, always elusive, is now nearly impossible. Should that stop us from investigating? Or making judgments?
But that’s now it works in practice. The establishment media is, after all, tied up with government and business itself in various ways. If those things aren’t “working” the media has trouble grasping the failure. To do so would be “controversial.” It would invalidate the hoped-for universal approbation! Better to keep your head down, withhold judgment.
John McQuaid: Has Matt Taibbi failed journalism, or has journalism failed Matt Taibbi?