Is Debunking Lies A Journalist's Job?

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Chuck Todd

Recently MSNBC's Chuck Todd has been taking some vociferous heat for a comment he made last week on Morning Joe. A NATIONAL JOURNAL article on this entitled 'Liberals Turn On Liberal Media' included this assessment of the event:

Todd said it's not the media's job to correct Republican misinformation about the Affordable Care Act. Liberals don't agree, and, where members of this crowd would usually focus their attacks on "lies" spread by Fox News or various right-wing personalities, Todd's comment had them turning on a mainstream pundit.

Two issues come to the fore as I read this. First, Chuck Todd is no more a liberal than Joe Scarborough. They're both on MSNBC but that's not saying they're liberal. One of the nice things about that organization is they have people with all degrees of political backgrounds there to share many different views. Chuck's bend isn't as right at Joe S's, perhaps, but he's no Ed Schultz or Reverend Al.

Now to the second issue: if by pundit, the National Journal means a talking head, and not much more, then okay. Chucky boy is a talking head. But he's not a journalist by any stream of thinking.

Oh, he carries a vaunted title: Chief White House Correspondent for NBC News. But that's pretty much a title and position by default. He's a talented trained parrot who repeats what he's told, but is generally devoid of independent thought. Give Polly his cracker and he'll say what he's just heard.

parrot

Todd is really a statistician who got promoted to his current position by default. He replaced David Gregory when DG moved into the MEET THE PRESS seat sadly and untimely vacant by the loss of Tim Russert. It was a domino game and Todd was very affable, relatively well-liked and there was an opening. When Gregory moved into the MTP chair, and Savannah Guthrie was better versed in legal affairs, so NBC chose the numbers man Todd, by natural progression. He wasn't groomed for the job but was as  good a choice as any if they were going to promote from within.

A scant few years ago, he was the go-to-guy for polling statistics, for MSNBC. The closest he got to the White House was the tour or standing outside the fence as he shared the latest polling news on McCain-Palin in Cleveland. He opined and crunched numbers -- not a bad background for understanding trends. But certainly not a journalist position. His fact-finding was minimal -- he received polling information,verified its source and passed it on. But he looked good, knew where to point to when they put up a chart or graph and seemed genuine doing so. He even flashed a periodic sense of humor, endearing himself to NBC viewers, myself included.

But things have a way of catching up to you. It seems his lack of journalistic integrity has come to light with his recent comments and the liberals, as they do with anyone they think is not doing an honest (possibly read, 'liberal') job, hold their feet to the fire. Todd just happens to have made a major gaff which further dings his credibility.

IT IS THE MEDIA'S JOB TO CORRECT MISINFORMATION.

If that's not job one, then it's a close 'job two' -- 'one' being getting honest/unbiased news to the people.

Now to be fair, Todd did issue a response to the criticism, reported here on MEDIATE:

Chuck tweeted“Somebody decided to troll w/mislding headline: point I actually made was folks shouldn’t expect media to do job WH has FAILED to do re: ACA.”

That sounds like a bit of the blame game, usually reserved for guilty people or the right-wing press. A braver stand might have been, "I misspoke." That would have been simpler, more honest and this would have been over.

But Chuck didn't leave it there. He continued his twitter defense:

Chuck Todd Tweet

Blame the White House. Hey, Chuck, you're the Chief White House Correspondent. Don't you think you have some responsibility?

If you read this far, I'm confident you're saying to yourself that I don't care for Chuck. Actually, just the opposite is true. I find him much less annoying that most. His politics are a bit right of center for my comfort. At MSNBC, few besides Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell and the good Rev Al will hit agreeable chords with me more often than them. But I still like listening to Chuck, when he's not whining. He does that too much and he's oftentimes offering up his personal thoughts, feelings and intuition which lately haven't proven to have a batting average much above the infamous "Mendoza line." But I'm glad NBC has him.

Over time, I hope he'll learn that it's better to fill the air with honesty, investigative information and valid insights -- and that he'll assume a journalist's integrity role for finding and correcting misinformation. If not, there's another presidential election coming up in 2016 which means in just over a year, NBC is going to need a numbers cruncher and perhaps someone a bit more responsible will cover the White House and Chuck can go back to his numbers board. He sure was competent there.

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  • Bose

    Seymour Hersh disagrees with Todd:

    "Our job is to find out ourselves, our job is not just to say – here's a debate' our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who's right and who's wrong about issues. That doesn't happen enough. It costs money, it costs time, it jeopardises, it raises risks. There are some people – the New York Times still has investigative journalists but they do much more of carrying water for the president than I ever thought they would … it's like you don't dare be an outsider any more."

    Source: The Guardian, Sept 27 2013