Wednesday, February 07, 2007

On Journalism 1102 and the Nancy Pelosi Affair

Okay, so I mentioned yesterday that Dan Froomkin's rules for the press ought to be the very baseline of responsible journalism within the profession, and reality has been kind enough to provide us with a case study.
Demand proof for their every assertion. Assume the proof is a lie. Demand that they prove that their proof is accurate.

Anyone who's read the Washington Times lately knows that Nancy Pelosi has demanded that the Air Force provide her and her entourage with a plane to jaunt around on personal errands, a privilege that no other House Speaker has even enjoyed.

Anyone who's been watching CNN knows the same.

Anyone who reads the Washington Post might get a different story:
Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the speaker, who is next in line for the presidency after the vice president, has been given use of a government plane for security reasons. Hastert (R-Ill.), who had flown commercially before the attacks, was the first to have use of a plane. But the one he traveled in was too small to make it to California without refueling.

Yesterday, the House sergeant-at-arms issued a statement saying that the leadership is awaiting word from the Air Force on the rules for using the plane. It is unclear, for example, who can travel with Pelosi and whether she can return home from a political event on the taxpayer-funded plane.

Pelosi's office requested the guidelines, triggering a story in the Washington Times in which sources questioned whether she was asking for more than the former speaker received.

Now, considering that former Speaker Dennis Hastert used his own Air Force-provided plane like a rented Volvo for visits home just about every weekend, and considering that it was the House Sergeant at Arms who suggested that a plane might be available in the first place, and considering that it's actually the Air Force that suggested Pelosi might be safer in a plane large enough to travel all the way to California without stopping to refuel, you'd thiink that this might be less of a story.

But that would assume that the journalists in question (and with Lou Dobbs, of course, the word is used guardedly) are interested in checking facts, demanding proof, and double-checking the proof. Much easier to just believe that Comrade Nancy Pelosi wants to take 42 of her closest friends on a shopping trip with an Air Force chauffeur. The truth just doesn't make for eye-grabbing headlines.

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