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The Salem Witch Columnist Hunt

Another columnist has been outed... This time it's syndicated columnist Michael McManus, whose "Ethics & Religion" column runs in 50 newspapers. More on his story at Editor & Publisher.

Like Maggie Gallagher, McManus was not paid to write columns promoting the administrations programs (as opposed to Armstrong Williams who was), but rather he was engaged to produce materials for the Department of Health and Human Services. According to DHHS McManus provided training during two-day conferences in Chattanooga, Tenn, and also made presentations at HHS-sponsored conferences.

A more interesting piece in E&P concerns the long standing practice of columnist accepting huge speaking fees from trade groups, issue-oriented organizations, and universities. Lot's of columnists comment to the effect that regardless of their speaking fees or TV contracts their ethics are fine, it's the other columnists who you should be leery of...

One thing nearly all of the columnists seemed to agree on: Much of the current ethics mess arises from the fact that so many columnists today were never trained as journalist.
Because we all know that were columnists "real journalists" none of this would be occurring.

Given the jealousy that seeps out of every pore of a reporter when commenting about columnists, I'm pretty sure they're enjoying the hell out of the current witch hunt.

The ghosts of Jayson Blair, et. all, are smiling too..


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Comments (10)

"huge speaking fees from tr... (Below threshold)
Drew - Dallas, TX:

"huge speaking fees from trade groups"

- that's what separates people who have to resort to surprising the audience and those who author nice blogs and don't ask for a damn thing in return except your opinion.

Ok, this is weird too - </p... (Below threshold)
Drew - Dallas, TX:

Ok, this is weird too -


http://www.mediainfo.com/eandp/news

...from the department of redundancy department.

So, I guess then that Paul ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

So, I guess then that Paul Begala and thousands of liberals like him who write column after television O&E continues to get a pass...

Hey, Bill Clinton went on c... (Below threshold)
-S-:

Hey, Bill Clinton went on campaign for Kerry, was a paid speaker meanwhile, so there's an issue even there, too. I think the list is endless here in this regard of people with journalism identities and projects also being paid by campaigns and, um, United States Senators, among others.

Perhaps what is mostly motivating Democrats today in their ongoing search for Fool's Gold is that they don't want any experts involved in government. Well, then, that makes it possible for the Democrats to remain in the Senate, I guess.

It would be interesting if ... (Below threshold)
epador:

It would be interesting if MSM was required to publish financial disclosures with each publication as most scientific journals require for their published articles. Course same otta be true of Blogs (lol, I can imagine what Jay, Paul and Kevin might come up with...)

Sorry S,But the De... (Below threshold)
Drew - Dallas, TX:

Sorry S,

But the Democrats' problems mainly reside in the area of not being able to wildly contradict themselves.

Go and check out the 2004 Best Liberal Blog of the year if you dare. (no link given intentionally).

Those folks are wondering what good will it do?

In fairness, and assuming h... (Below threshold)
Tom_with_a_dream:

In fairness, and assuming he wasn't lying, I heard Armstrong Williams on the Thursday edition of the nations #2 Radio Program (link similarlyt not given since I generally despise the posing and ego fo the host).

He said his company that produces his TV program and whatnot received an adbuy from the Dept Of Ed for NCLB. He also wrote columns. the two are not related, and he "reports" that his pre-adbuy columns are equally supportive of NCLB as his post-adbuy columns.

He did admit he screwed up but was saying that there was some mis-reporting and out-of-context reporting.

I don't get it. I can see ... (Below threshold)

I don't get it. I can see the problem with paying a columnist to endorse a particular opinion, but the mere fact that a columnist has done paid work for the government is hardly a problem I can understand. After all, I've done a contract for the Federal Reserve; does that make me now unable to comment on monetary policy?

the problem is bigger than ... (Below threshold)
tee bee:

the problem is bigger than who signs the paychecks, because everyone under discussion - columnists, reporters, on-air talent (not naming any names, like Dan Rather) - gets paid by someone. does that make the payee the mouthpiece of the payor?

and as for certain people knocking others for ignorance of journalism education, well, see above example of unnamed on-air talent. can't say that anonymous soul, Dan Rather, wasn't well aware of journalistic ethics. which he seems to have given his own meaning.

not to oversimplify, but it seems the crux of the problem is twofold: anyone writing anything bears the burden of making their argument with demonstrable, cited facts, regardless of bias. [my pet peeve is authors of any sort making claims for which they fail to offer reference as to source material, such as "Dan Rather is a person of questionable character." that's my opinion, which can be backed up with evidence from reliable sources, but I haven't done that here.]

part two is that readers need to follow up on the facts and not trust said "journalist" simply on the face of what they say and the fact that it was published or broadcast. it's called critical thinking. too many Eureka moments come from people reading something that is published, and throwing out what they know or believe because all of a sudden someone says day is night.

I think there is a big diff... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

I think there is a big difference between a columnist, and a straight journalist, and it isn't training, it is the type of writing they do. I expect a columnist to have a bias, and to have an opinion, straight journalists should be reporting what is happening (although I don't believe they are unbiased, but ethically they should strive to be unbiased), but a columnist is expected to promote their biased positions-nobody thinks Molly Ivans is anything but a liberal, and will be biased in that direction.

I think getting paid to do work by the government is different, a lot of columnists aren't just columnists, but have real jobs-proffessors, doctors, psychologists etc, and they write columns on the side. The government isn't neccessarily hiring their "column" but their expertise in the area they work in. If th H&H Services hired Dr Sears (who is a practicing pediatrician that also writes columns in various publications) to write some reports on pediatric care, I would hardly think he is biased, the administration hired him for his pediatric expertise not his column.

The difference with Williams, is that they didn't hire him to advice, write literature etc in an area of expertise, but paid him to advocate a specific position.

I think this witch hunt is getting rediculous, and I would be willing to bet there are columnists who have been hired during the Clinton years as well.

Disclosure of all this would be nice, but honestly I think it is getting rediculous if every columnist has to include as part of their sig any connection to any biased group or government source out there.

I would assume just as much an ethical bias as NARAL was paying a columnist as the dep or H&H Sfor some service.




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