Journalistic ethics

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on February 8, 2009

The folks over at Brent Bozell's Media Research Center are up in arms over what at first glance is a pretty harmless story about a bunch of old friends that appeared over at Politico.

The conversations don’t begin with hello. They don’t end with goodbye. Most often they pick up with a low, drawling voice uttering something between a sentence and a grunt.


For those accustomed to hearing James Carville only when he is trying to enunciate more clearly for television, that translates to: "What's going on?"

So begins another morning in what may count as Washington’s longest-running conversation — a street-corner bull session between four old friends who suddenly find themselves standing once more at the busiest intersection of politics and media in Washington.

Carville calls White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel calls ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent George Stephanopoulos.
A bit later, CNN commentator Paul Begala, who is not quite the early bird that his friends are, will complete the circle with a rapid set of calls to all three.

Different versions of this round-robin chatter have been taking place, with few interruptions, every workday for nearly a generation.

“I refer to it as the 17-year-long conference call,” said Emanuel, who starts calling his friends at 6 a.m. “You can tap into it anytime you want.”

For the media watchers in the audience, one of these men is not like the others.

That man is George Stephanopoulos. Two self-identified Democratic commentators talking to the White House chief of staff is expected. It may even be required for them to do their jobs well. Stephanopoulos, on the other hand, appears to betray his required pretense of objectivity on these calls.

Exactly what could Stephanopoulos be saying on these phone calls that take place five days a week that doesn't call into question whether he is acting as a sounding board or unpaid media consultant to the Democratic Party? I'm not saying he shouldn't be talking to these guys. But you're not talking about the kids and family five days a week on these calls.

Bozell has demanded an explanation. He hasn't gotten one -- and he's unlikely to get one.

Journalism. Wound. Self-inflicted.


ABC has responded to Bozell's request, and to say that it is less than satisfactory is an understatement.


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February 2009



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