NO JOURNALISM, NO JUSTICE: In search of journalistic values!


Part 2—A tale of three news reports: As a matter of theory, journalistic values are very important at a time like this.

As a matter of theory, journalists should help citizens know when certain facts have been established. They should also caution citizens about the facts which aren’t known.

We humans are strongly inclined to leap ahead of known facts. As a matter of theory, journalists are supposed to drag us back into line.

Needless to say, this is all theory. In practice, journalistic and scholarly norms are routinely honored in the breech. (Just check our Nixonland posts.)

Last night, for instance, we’d have to say that Rachel Maddow continued to nail down a basic fact—she simply isn’t a journalist. The mindset seems to be missing inside her true-believing head.

More on that problem at some point, perhaps even later today! For now, let’s discuss—or try to discuss—three different news reports.

Concerning the shooting of Michael Brown: Lawrence O’Donnell performed an act of journalism last night.

Or at least, we think he did. MSNBC hasn’t yet posted the transcript of his 10 PM program. Given the way the news org works, you can’t be entirely sure that they ever will.

(CNN’s 10 PM hour has already been posted.)

Here’s what we think we saw Lawrence do—and it was journalistic. We think we saw him establish the fact that, even though Michael Brown plainly wasn’t “shot in the back,” he might have been shot at, even hit, from behind.

That’s what we thought we saw Lawrence establish in a long, careful interview with Shawn Parcells, one of the pathologists who conducted that second autopsy for the Brown family.

Conceivably, one of the wounds on Brown’s arms could have come from behind. That’s what we thought we saw Lawrence establish last night.

That said, the transcript hasn’t been posted yet. The videotape of the segments in question are available on-line, and you can find them here. For ourselves, we’ve exhausted our patience with MSNBC’s endless Purex ads through a fruitless search for something we saw on Rachel Maddow’s second hour last night.

A person can only sit through so many of those Purex ads. In fairness, someone has to pick up the tab for Maddow’s $7 million salary.

For notes on that oddly fruitless search, see our third topic, below.

Concerning those traffic stops: Yesterday, we discussed the rather peculiar front page of Sunday’s Washington Post. Midway through Manuel Roig-Franzia’s lengthy human interest report, we were struck by some anecdotal accounts by some Ferguson residents.

Why are people in Ferguson angry with local police? We came away from this passage with an obvious question:
ROIG-FRANZIA (8/17/14): The fraught relationship between African Americans, a majority in Ferguson, and the nearly all-white police force long preceded the eruption of protests.

In interview after interview, black men and women talked about their fears of random stops while driving in the city, as well as in neighboring municipalities.

Marcus White, an acquaintance of Brown who works for a moving company, said he frequently has to spend the night in his employer's office because he can't find anyone to drive him home to Ferguson.

"They'll tell me, 'I don't go past Goodfellow,' " he said, referencing one of the streets near the line that separates the county of St. Louis from the city of the same name.

Many here have their own catalogue of towns that they dare not drive through. They sketch long, circuitous routes to avoid the small areas where they feel most targeted, a concern buttressed by statistics that show far higher numbers of traffic stops involving African Americans than whites in the St. Louis suburbs.

"More than four people in the car, they're going to pull you over," said Earl Lee Jr., a 41-year-old warehouse worker who lives in a nearby suburb. "Tint on your windows, they're going to pull you over. Too early in the morning, they think you're up to something. Too late, they think you're up to something. When are you supposed to drive?”
Needless to say, people have been aware of “speed traps” for a very long time. In this case, people were describing absurd situations caused by extensive racial speed traps.

An obvious question popped into our heads: Assuming those reports are accurate, why would such a situation have been tolerated over the course of time? Why hasn’t local leadership addressed this absurd situation?

This question didn’t arise in Roig-Franzia’s report; there’s no reason why it had to. In today’s supplemental post, we’ll show you what happened earlier last week when a twenty-something at the Post tried to address the statistics Roig-Franzia cited—the “statistics that show far higher numbers of traffic stops involving African Americans than whites in the St. Louis suburbs.”

We’ll also post the striking remarks by a St. Louis columnist about the lack of local leadership in the black community.

Last week, we averted our gaze when Maddow discussed those statistics concerning traffic stops. Simply put, Maddow almost totally lacks the journalistic mindset.

Later today, we’ll show you what happened when a kid at the Washington Post tried to tackle this topic. Youth is being served at the Post. In the process, all too often, readers are not being served.

Concerning improved police work: Granted, it happened after midnight. But we’re almost certain we saw it.

We refer to a conversation between Rachel Maddow and James Cavanaugh, MSNBC’s law enforcement analyst.

In this conversation, Cavanaugh briefly flipped the channel’s relentless, pounding script. He recalled the large numbers of deaths which occurred in Newark and Detroit, and in other cities, during racial disturbances of the 1960s and 1970s.

Noting the lack of deaths during the Ferguson protests of the past week, Cavanaugh said we ought to give credit where it is due. Law enforcement is now functioning better in such situations, or so Cavanaugh said.

We know we saw Cavanaugh make these remarks to someone last night. We’re fairly sure he spoke with Maddow, who (we’d say) received his comments less than enthusiastically.

We don’t even know if Cavanaugh is right in his assessment. We thought his comments were journalistically interesting because they flew in the face of the party line which is constantly churned by anti-journalists like Maddow on The One True Channel.

This morning, we fought through MSNBC’s Purex ads in search of the segment with Cavanaugh. The segment doesn’t seem to have been posted at Maddow’s site.

All the other segments have been posted from Maddow’s midnight hour last night. In total broadcast time, they add up to roughly 37 minutes, suggesting that one additional segment is somehow missing in action.

Journalistically, we thought Cavanaugh’s presentation was interesting. However you rate its general point of view, MSNBC is rapidly becoming the most one-sided of the news channels. At this point, we’d have to say that Fox provides a much wider spectrum of views that The One True Channel does.

Journalistically, we thought Cavanaugh’s presentation was interesting, for several reasons. Journalistically, we went to find it—and it wasn’t there.

Tomorrow: “Murder,” she said

Later today: The Post limns those traffic stops


  1. "Concerning the shooting of Michael Brown: Lawrence O’Donnell performed an act of journalism last night.

    (But first we'll insult MSNBC)

    Here’s what we think we saw Lawrence do—and it was journalistic. We think we saw him establish the fact that, even though Michael Brown plainly wasn’t “shot in the back,” he might have been shot at, even hit, from behind.

    (Then we'll repeat ourselves.)"


    Regular readers of the TDH comment box know that journalistic act was performed by a schizo douchebag troll from outer space in the very first comment yesterday. Transcript available immediately.

    1. Yes, indeed ZKoD was a full day ahead of Bob, and didn't need Lawrence O'Donnell to tell him what was already in the NYT report that Bob picked and chose from.

      And I quote:

      "Of course BOB does not tell readers what questions can quickly arise by merely following his link to the Times article, in which a diagram of the medical examiner's finding in the second autopsy are shown in detail.

      "Two witnesses describe Brown fleeing the officer, who exits his vehicle and fires multiple shots at him from behind. Both witnesses describe Brown as jerking as if hit, then turning around and raising his hands with the officer still firing. For reasons known only to BOB, he merely reports that "the inflammatory" story about Brown being "shot in the back" has been repeated about 10 million times, and fails to mention the witness accounts.

      "The sketches of the medical examiner show two bullets struck Brown in interior parts of his right arm. All four could have entered that part of his arm while they were raised if he was facing the officer. Two or three of them could have entered his arm while he was running away. That is the part of the arm exposed along with your back while you are in motion running. Of course, being hit in the arm and not the back, wouldn't make you jerk, dear reader, would it?

      "So is BOB saying, if the officer shot at Brown from behind and missed hitting him in his back itself, that leaves open the possibility this is justifiable?"

    2. Clearly a well aimed bullet grazing the forearm, if fired
      from behind by a police officer to a fleeing felon is not illegal.
      The officer was merely trying to get the suspect to stop, turn around, and surrender peacefully.

      If the young lad were not so tall and turned so abruptly, the subsequent warning shots might have sailed over his head as the officer planned.

  2. What is the difference between a Purex plug and pimping a Perlstein post?

  3. Here is a fact we don't know. Were more shots fired in this incident than Bob uses the word "journalistic" in one short post?

  4. Murder is potentially not too strong a word. It's a strong possibility that the officer lost his head and shot Brown multiple times out of rage.

    The preliminary results Somerby used yesterday to "prove" that MB couldn't have been shot from behind are not conclusive. Forensic pathologist Shawn Parcells said one of the wounds on MB's arm could've happened a number of ways, including a shot from behind. Multiple witnesses testified that the officer fired at MB while MB was running away.

    Also, it now appears that MB paid for his cigars. No robbery was reported by the store employee or the store owner. Also MB didn't shove the clerk until the clerk put his hands on MB.

    Police came to the store after the shooting and obtained the video, then issued the report naming MB as a suspect.

    There is much to be investigated to be certain, but it's not unreasonable for anyone to believe MB was murdered.

    1. The lengths of delusion you require to cling to your wish that Brown was a gentle giant martyr and not a violent thug. He didn't pay and he wasn't protecting himself against the menacing store clerk.

    2. And was murdered with his hands up.

    3. Why are we assuming the witnesses are accurate? Most are not.

    4. Yes, don't let eyewitnesses change your mind. After all, you already know what happened.

    5. Eyewitness testimony is unreliable. In this case it is also contradictory.

    6. Yes, it is -- especially when it doesn't match the story you want to believe.

      But tell me which eye witnesses are contradicting each other. Or is that something you really want to believe so badly that you just made it up?

  5. You know, I think some lefties are becoming as conspiracy addled as the goddamn teabaggers.

    1. Name a few conspiracies with which they are addled, Dipso.

    2. Not Dipso, but here are some conspiracies from the left:

      9/11 truthers
      Drugs cause illness
      The Repubs &Dems are the same
      Voting is useless because elections are rigged
      Obama is controlled by the CIA

  6. Bob's comment that MSBC is one sided, but that Fox represent a wide
    spectrum of news is that a channel spews vile commentary and outright lies.. He proved that his dislike for Rachael Maddox is
    coloring his view points. is he angry that MSNBC did not give him a job.

    1. No, FOX will actually have left wingers on. Sure, they use them as punching bags, but at least they're on.

      Remember when O'Reilly would regularly have Stanley Fish and Edward Said on (who? we hear them ask...)

      It's pretty damning (if true) that Maddow didn't post this interview that went outside the script.

    2. It's pretty damning that you truly believe Maddow posts or doesn't post anything on the MSNBC website.

    3. Yes, Maddow is not responsible for anything that happens on her show.

    4. I'll bet she was drunk when she ordered the toy car online.

    5. Bob: Where is that damn Cavanaugh clip? I know I saw it. He talked to someone. It had to be Maddow. It was right next to the collapse of intellectual culture. It came in between the mortal wounding and the death of the west. I know it was there. Maybe it's behind the strawberries. Trust me. I saw it.

    6. I will not speculate on the origins of Bob's animus toward Rachel Maddow or any of the MSNBC lineup. But I will note he is quick to point to their relative (to him) youth and the money they make.

      I will point out that Chris Hayes is doing pretty doggone good work in Ferguson, even to the point of interviewing those "community leaders" that Somerby, sitting in Baltimore, wasn't aware of, so they couldn't possibly exist.

  7. Anon 120,

    "A key witness — Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson — has told the FBI that he thought the robbery was a “prank,” said Johnson’s attorney. In an interview with federal agents, Johnson has said Brown was hit by one bullet, then — as Brown pleaded for his life — Wilson fired “five or six” more times."

    Either Lowery at the WaPo got the above very wrong or Dorian Johnson has the worst lawyer ever.

    1. And within few hours of releasing the video and pictures of this robbery of a handful of Swisher Sweets, Jackson had to walk back that story and admit the robbery had absolutely nothing to do with the reason Wilson stopped Brown and Johnson, then shot Brown at least six times in the span of three minutes for walking down the middle of a street.

      But boy, he sure did plant the notion that certain people of a certain mindset certainly want to believe.

    2. The officer shot because he was attacked, not because anyone was walking in the street.

    3. Correction: The police chief said the officer said he fired a shot because he was attacked in his car.

      According to this second hand version, the "attacker" then fled and the office fired numerous shots at the fleeing "attacker."

      The only thing we know for sure is that at some point the
      fleeing "attacker" turned to face the sotter from whom he was fleeing and was shot several times. We know that from the second autopsy conducted by private parties.

    4. Gonna have to watch my keyboard when I type. How "officer" became "sotter" is beyond me.

  8. "We know we saw Cavanaugh make these remarks to someone last night."

    Kinda like the collapse of intellectual culture. Few see it. Bob does.

  9. "As a matter of theory, journalistic values are very important at a time like this."

    So why, pray tell, is the focus only on two newspapers and one cable television network?

    1. Because they are the ones screwing up.

    2. Spoken like a person who solely depends on Somerby to do this thinking for you. After all, there are only two newspapers and one cable network if you read this blog.

      And Fox News is doing such a wonderful job of presenting a "wider spectrum."

    3. Spoken like someone who only thinks in black and white. Fox can do nothing better than Maddow without Somerby buying everything about Fox. Two papers cannot be criticized without Somerby reviewing the entire media.

    4. Bob did not say Fox was better than Maddow. He said they presented a broader spectrum than MSNBC.

      Bob also said journalistic values are very important in times like these yet he presents the values represented by very limited offerings from a tiny sliver of outlets. No one said he cannot criticizer only two papers. I just criticized Bob's narrow selections for criticism given his very broad statement.

      Good heavens, @ 10:26 are you not aware the west is dying?

    5. But examining a "wider spectrum" of media beyond the Washington Post, NYT and MSNBC would take so much time and all those Google searches.

      If there is one quality that Somerby has displayed over his many years of blogging, it is his increasing laziness.

      For example, if he truly wants to examine the quality of journalism going on in Ferguson now, wouldn't that include the paper of record in that city?

      In case Bob hasn't heard of it yet, it's called the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And yes, it is online.

    6. Speaking of Google, did Bob ever find the key used to steal the stawberrries and hide the Cavanaugh clip? And he never did say how he found out that kid at the Post went to Dartmouth. Was if Google, or Nexis? At times like these, with civilization crumbling, it is good to know who to trust.

  10. And let's check out these headlines from Media Matters concerning "wider spectrum of views" Fox News:

    "Karl Rove Smears Obama With Distortion Of President's Ferguson Comments"

    "Fox Calls Hillary Clinton A "Rock Star Diva" Over Contract Requirements Typical Of High Profile Speakers" (But don't forget. The "War on Hillary" comes only from MSNBC.)

    "Fox's Todd Starnes Accuses Obama Administration Of "Orchestrating The Michael Brown Tragedy"

    "Fox News Deceptively Edits Obama To Suggest He Is "Choosing Sides" In Ferguson"

    "Lynch Mob" or "Freedom Riders": Laura Ingraham's take on Ferguson Protests vs. Bundy Ranch Standoff"

    "Fox Turns To New Black Panthers Fabulist To Argue "Eric Holder Cannot Be Trusted" To Investigate Michael Brown Shooting"

    "Fox's Bolling Doubts Eric Holder Can "Be Fair And Balanced" On "A Race Case" Like Michael Brown Shooting"

    "Fox's Rivera: Obama's "Biggest Failing ... Is Not Assuming The Role" Of "Surrogate Dad For Urban Families"

    "O'Reilly Dismisses FBI Statistics On Police Killings Of Blacks"

    "Fox's Pinkerton Baselessly Speculates Michael Brown Could Have Been "High On Some Drug, Angel Dust Or PCP"

  11. Has Geraldo blamed Obama yet for the safe having nothing in it?

  12. No, bot Obama's preferred baseball team, the Chicago White Sox, aren't doing so well this season.

    I am sure than in its "wider spectrum" they can find someone to blame that on Obama.

  13. Quaker in a BasementAugust 20, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    An obvious question popped into our heads: Assuming those reports are accurate, why would such a situation have been tolerated over the course of time? Why hasn’t local leadership addressed this absurd situation?

    Yes, of course. Why didn't the black citizenry of Ferguson simply put a stop to routine police harassment of black motorists? After all, the incidence of traffic stops for "driving while black" has all but disappeared in the rest of the country, thanks to diligent lobbying by respectful, responsible, deserving black leaders.

    Seriously, Bob. Do you ever leave your "campus" and visit the real world?

    1. Actually, local citizen groups do address these kinds of problems in lots of communities. Why not in Ferguson?