Sunday, October 08, 2006

The defects of Watergate journalism

In a story in the WP this morning the following comment is made about the story about the misadventures of former congressman Foley.

"Despite countless hours of TV coverage and reams of newspaper reporting on the House's handling of the Mark Foley page scandal, numerous fundamental questions remain unanswered as the FBI and the House ethics committee begin their first full week of inquiries."

This is a complex story. The outlines of it were pretty clear when it broke. A congressman tried to enlist some pages in lacivious chat and emails. Unlike the Gerry Studds story, there seems to have been no overt acts. But like Studds and Clinton and lots of the rest - there seems to have been a significant moral lapse and possibly some inattention by the leadership of the House.

But in this case the "countless hours of TV coverage and reams of newspaper reporting" will not get to the bottom of the issues that the House and the country need to face on this issue. That is in part because of the nature of the issue and in part because of the motives of the press in this - which seems to be not to get to the substance of the issue but to sensationalize the issue for a lot more than it was either to defeat the GOP or to sell more airtime and newspapers. Either motive is not conducive to discovering whether current policies to protect the pages are adequate nor in even finding out the depth of the misjudgments of Mr. Foley (no one is charging crimminal behavior here, yet) or of the House leadership.

No comments: