Last week delivered a gut punch to journalism – and not just in Oregon.
Salem Statesman-Journal editor Michael Davis posted an excellent column Saturday reflecting on Kitzhaber’s trial by media — a spectacle set in motion by the Oregonian’s “power-mad editorial suggestion on Feb. 4 that the duly elected governor of Oregon accede to their demand and resign.”
“It may well be that Kitzhaber and Hayes were ensnared in influence peddling and a misuse of power,” Davis wrote. “Maybe federal and state investigators will discover they were scoundrels of the first order, bought-and-paid-for swindlers who stuffed their pockets with clean-energy cash.”
“But there was no need to evict them from government before due process had been followed and completed. John Kitzhaber did not deserve to be railroaded out of office by a quintet of editorialists who clearly were out to get him.”
As Davis points out, coverage of the Kitzhaber/Hayes affair did feature some solid investigative reporting. “My beef is not with the reporting, although some media outlets did spin out of control,” Davis says. “My beef is with the pomposity of opinionizing — the insidious torpedoing of a good man who may have made some errors of judgment.”
Last week delivered a gut punch to journalism – and not just in Oregon. The hysteria that toppled Kitzhaber wasn’t so different from the frenzy responsible for deposing NBC anchor Brian Williams. Nor is it a stretch to read NY Times media columnist David Carr’s untimely demise as the death of complexity, nuance and reason. And of course Jon Stewart’s departure leaves behind a huge void in press criticism.
So kudos again to Davis, who, as they say, spoke truth to power. And as the investigation against Oregon’s soon-to-be erstwhile governor moves forward, those of us in the news business should take the opportunity to reflect on our own potential for subverting — or, rather, corrupting — the democratic process.
“Journalists are bystanders who chronicle the exploits of people who actually do things,” wrote David Carr in a column last fall.
Humility is all.
UPDATE: I neglected to record the passing of another esteemed journalist last week: Longtime ’60 Minutes’ correspondent Bob Simon died in a car crash on February 12. He was 73.