Thursday, October 26, 2006


There’s no doubt that Barack Obama is one popular guy right now.

Between appearances on Oprah, a book tour, and….oh yeah… being a Senator he’s probably pretty busy too.

But as Robert Feder points out in this column he wasn’t too busy to accept an “honorary chair” position from Unity: Journalists of Color.

Unity is a group composed of several organizations including the National Association of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalist Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Native American Journalist Association.

I, like Feder, have no problems with Obama accepting an award. But I do question a group of journalists who want to honor a politician. But isn’t there a danger when journalists get too close to politicians?

I caught this article in GQ.

Many consider Bob Woodward to be the best political reporter of our time. His reporting brought down a Presidency. But after writing “Bush at War,” an account of the Bush Administration post-9/11, some accused him of getting too close to his sources. In this case his source was the White House.

In previous books Woodward used up to 400 sources. That was his style. His investigations would start at the bottom of the totem pole and work their way up. Woodward would build the story as he climbed each rung. By the time he got to the top he already had his story.

But in “Bush at War” Woodward had unprecedented access to the Commander-in-Chief—as much as four hours of interview time.

Critics say that the Bush White House rolled out the red carpet for Woodward. The result: the CIA, not the Administration, takes the heat for messing up the weapons of mass destruction claim.

Obama is not the Bush Administration. (I think he would be the first to point that out.) But isn’t part of our job as journalists to be critical of all politicians, not just the one’s we don’t like? And are we really doing that when we bestow them with honors?



At Friday, October 27, 2006, Anonymous AL said...

So what does Obama have to do with a journalism organization?

Maybe I'm being short-sighted but I don't understand why Obama should be an honorary chair at Unity.

At Saturday, October 28, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

But isn’t part of our job as journalists to be critical of all politicians, not just the one’s we don’t like?

Definitely this is a strong point. But I think it's too narrow a reading of the word "critical."

It's our job to criticize failed policies and lousy pols, not simply to "be critical." Right? We criticize stuff that sucks--but we're free to embrace stuff that doesn't suck.

A journalist is a person who collects information and relays it to others. Very often that will involve some level of a value judgment about what we've learned. That's a good thing! We need to be open to opposing viewpoints and assiduous about getting all the facts, but we don't have to become robots! Adversarial journalism needs to be adversarial in the service of the greater good, or what is the point?

At Sunday, October 29, 2006, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

I agree with Rob's interpretation of 'critical.' As stated before by various political pundits, Obama's record is pretty controversy free right now. He doesn't have a real legislative record or sleazy personal history for journalists to expose or criticize.**At least for all we know right now.** An op ed piece in one of today's papers talks about Obama's lack of a stance on hot button issues and analogized him to a high schooler running for class president. Part of being popular is appealing to all different kinds of people...........even an ninth grader knows that to do have to please most of the people most of the time. Obama has managed to do that, hence his wide spread appeal among journalist organizations, politicians and common folk.


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