Newsweek's Holly Bailey with a moment of unintended candor

Praise is merited for those establishment journalists who refuse to pretend that they have any standards.

Published April 26, 2009 1:40PM (EDT)

It's important to praise the members of the establishment media who candidly acknowledge that journalism as they practice it has no real standards.  They are much more honest than the ones who continue to maintain the pompous pretense that establishment "journalism" is some sort of elevated and noble profession governed by a complex set of ethical rules for ensuring accuracy and transparency. 

In a frivolous little fluff piece about Barack Obama's struggles to adjust to the loss of privacy and personal freedom as President, Newsweek's Holly Bailey this week quotes multiple anonymous sources -- "a close Obama friend"; "an aide"; "an aide"; "one senior Obama aide" -- to do nothing other than explain what a down-to-earth guy Barack is and how he longs for the days when he could take early evening strolls with his kids.  Bailey -- Newsweek's White House correspondent who famously swung on John McCain's tree tire while swilling Chardonnay at the McCains' weekend party for their reporter-fans -- deserves credit, in some perverse sort of way, because she can't even bring herself to pretend any longer that there are any standards that govern when anonymity will be granted:

After [Obama] said goodbye to his last guest, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Obama walked to the back door and peered out. "Come on," he called to two of his closest aides, senior adviser David Axelrod and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. "Let's go take a walk."

The Secret Service agents on duty "freaked," in the words of one senior Obama aide who recounted the story (and who, like others quoted in this story, asked for anonymity for the usual reasons).

Like The Washington Post -- which, in the wake of controversies over Iraq reporting, self-glorifyingly trumpeted its new Serious, highly restrictive anonymity policy yet now shamelessly publishes glorifying profiles of a key torture advocate based on nothing but the justifying claims of his anonymous "friends" -- Newsweek previously vowed to use anonymity far more sparingly in the wake of its own reporting scandal.  Yet here is one of its star "political reporters" casually and indiscriminately granting anonymity to every politically connected person who requests it, and she just brazenly acknowledges that she has no justification for that other than what she dismissively refers to as "the usual reasons."  The fact that this article is frivolous and gossipy makes the reckless grant of anonymity far worse, not better, as it illustrates how indiscriminately they now use it.

These are just gossip rag techniques.  Disseminating personality chatter from unnamed "friends" is a staple of National Enquirer and People . . . as well as the "political reporting" of The Washington Post, Newsweek, and Politico.  At least the former don't pretend to be anything other than what they are.

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See also:  this post from earlier today on Time Magazine's examination of drug policy debates.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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