March 14, 2009

O'Reilly's Badge of Journalistic Honor

Bill O'Reilly is persona non grata among those who exercise power; his show is almost always limited to B-list political personages such as Dick Morris and Newt Gingrich. Rarely does he score the big interview, though he did land Obama before the election by personally going to a campaign event and repeatedly showing the resulting footage of Obama promising to appear on the show. You got to admire that he's not above begging.

The latest is that Speaker Pelosi won't even deign respond to a Fox News inquiry as to how many plane trips she's taken on the taxpayer's dime. It angers O'Reilly to be constantly snubbed but it's part of what makes his show valuable. He's perhaps the last journalist with an outsider's mentality. While that is not all there is to journalism (after all, O'Reilly missed the banking crisis too and the Iraq post-war difficutlies), it's a precondition for success and in that O'Reilly is ahead of most journalists. From the NY Times Opinionator:
Cramer’s pathetic performance emphasizes an important weakness of celebrity journalism. It is not a coincidence that CNBC reporters do crappy journalism and worship access to the top names. If Jim Cramer did his job as a journalist then celebrixecutivess like Vikram Pandit would stop talking to him. Believe it or not this explains a shocking range of journalism’s symptoms. Why do reporters grant anonymity to the most inane and innocuous statements? Why does lying to reporters never seem to have a consequence?...

The answer is that reporters want important people to keep taking their calls. For a reason that escapes me, people who are paid to understand politics all seem to think that “access” to people with a PR staff will get them some special insight when the only difference between speaking to them anonymously and asking their spokesperson is that the person can lie and most people will never know. Naturally the public would know if you called him on it, but then he wouldn’t take your calls anymore. Catch 22!
O'Reilly should wear it as a badge of honor that they don't take his calls.


Elena said...

O'Reilly does kick some butt in the ratings though and I his show is informative and entertaining!

Kevin Jones said...

I realized this "flatter your prominent sources" unwritten rule even before I became a minor kind of journalist.

"Why do reporters grant anonymity to the most inane and innocuous statements? Why does lying to reporters never seem to have a consequence?"

There's another question: why is there no consequence for refusing to talk to a reporter?

TS said...

Good question Kevin. Perhaps because reporters are held in as low, if not lower esteem, than reporters.

Although don't you think that Dick Cheney's indifference to the media cost him and the Bush administration big time?