- By Isaac Stone Fish
Isaac Stone Fish is associate editor at Foreign Policy. Previously a Beijing correspondent for Newsweek, he wrote stories on such subjects as the Dalai Lama’s effect on international trade, China’s love affair with rogue states, and crystal meth in North Korea. His articles have also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the Economist, and the Los Angeles Times.
Ted Koppel, the 25 year veteran anchor of Nightline and former Managing Editor of Discovery Channel, used to appear on John Stewart’s The Daily Show as the standard of journalistic integrity, his disembodied "giant head" advising Stewart on what today’s hyperactive media could learn from the good old days. FP spoke with Mr. Koppel about this month’s media news, from Apple to Limbaugh to Kony; edited and condensed for clarity.
Mike Daisey’s Fabrication
The temptation to makes things up becomes even greater when you’re in a setting like China, where you don’t have ready access to as many sources as you do in the United States. There’s probably not a foreign correspondent alive who hasn’t had a conversation with a taxi driver from the airport to the hotel and then incorporated what the taxi driver told him under the general rubric of ‘local sources,’ here in fill-in the blank. It’s fair game if you make it clear in your story what you’re doing. I think that happens more often in a dictatorship, where it’s hard to get people to talk, and you’re going to make the most of what little contact you have with the population.
Daisey’s story falls into no man’s land. That Daisey raised public awareness of conditions in an Apple plant has some positives, but the damage that he has done to journalism in general has not.
The worsening of bi-partisan bickering
Issues end up being magnified, first the blogs, than the radio talk shows, than cable TV talk shows, all of it processed and re-processed endlessly on a succession of idiotic programs, on the left and on the right. They go just so far beyond the bounds of civility and good taste. It’s sad. I despise it when I see it with Limbaugh, and Maher; it’s bad for the country, bad for our national dialogue.
Limbaugh and Maher, at a time when they’re being criticized, claims he’s just an entertainer, yet each of them revels in their political influence, and takes on serious of political issues, and has millions of viewers who listen to what they say and are influenced. You can’t have it both ways; can’t excuse every outrage by wrapping yourself in the cloak of entertainer.
In this age where you have (Kony 2012 filmmaker) Jason Russell, when you are able to attract and in some fashion influence 70 million people, and it then turns out that not everything you did is above board, there’s a huge chance that those 70 million people are going to be negatively affected in their view of what’s been reported. Whatever good Russell may have done by drawing attention to Kony’s atrocities depends on your ability to take him at his word. If any of those aspects turn out to be overstated, misstated, untrue, you undermine everything.
I do not recognize the value of Twitter, with very few notable exceptions, as a valuable instrument of news coverage, precisely because most of the time you know nothing about the provenance of a tweet…I think we make a grave mistake when we give Twitter too much influence as a medium of journalism; it hasn’t quite matured into that yet, I don’t know if it ever will.
Mass media coverage of China
Mass media are under-reporting China. It’s a very complex story, and I think one of the lamentable things about American media today is that they give foreign news short shrift. It’s much easier to spend hours of cable time covering the Casey Anthony trial. People watch it. Charlie Sheen goes on his binge and that gets documentary time. The networks and Cable TV devote one hour specials to it. Surely not because it’s the most important thing going on in the world today; it’s cheap, it’s easy, and it draws a huge audience.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a senior editor at The National Interest. Prior to Fletcher, he taught at the University of Chicago and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Drezner has received fellowships from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Harvard University. He has previously held positions with Civic Education Project, the RAND Corporation, and the Treasury Department.| Daniel W. Drezner |
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.| Passport |
Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, where he is the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies and of the Project on Middle East Political Science. He is also a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He is the author of The Arab Uprising (March 2012, PublicAffairs).
He publishes frequently on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arab media and information technology, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, and Islamist movements.| Marc Lynch |