Mark Whitaker, editor of Newsweek magazine, had been slated to speak before an audience at Stanford University Monday night, but according to The Stanford Daily Online, canceled his appearance at the last minute. This came on the heels of Newsweek’s retraction of a story alleging U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran in front of Gitmo detainees. The false report incited rage and deadly protests among Muslim communities within Afghanistan.
Ironically, Whitaker’s lecture, which was titled “Choices in an Age of 24-7 News,” would have addressed the rapidly changing world of modern media. But, apparently, Mr. Whitaker felt talk was cheap and that his magazine’s actions would speak louder than his words. Instead of boring students with poorly written jokes and a ninety-minute lecture, Mr. Whitaker offered a real-world example of the changing media environment despite his absence. His advice: “Forget about the old journalism rule of thumb ‘get two sources.’ Today, you just need one source, and it doesn’t even have to be that good. As long as the information is extremely damning, run it! Don’t worry about the truth.”
Bravo, Mr. Whitaker! In spite of your cowardice to personally address this matter before aspiring and impressionable student journalists, you accomplished your goal of sharing valuable insight on the rapidly changing world of the news media. According to The Stanford Daily Online, University officials did manage to salvage Monday night’s event. A number of other professional journalists used the occasion to hold a panel discussion focusing on the media’s credibility. Sandra Mims Rowe, editor of the Portland Oregonian, said the Newsweek incident would make other news organizations more careful about how they use anonymous sources. Evidently, Mrs. Rowe has been living under a rock for the past eight months and was unaware of CBS’s attempt to destroy President Bush’s re-election bid through the use of fake documents and less than creditable informants. Mrs. Rowe’s thoughts clearly demonstrate another unfortunate trend of the rapidly changing world of news reporters – those whose jobs are to gather the news often are oblivious to the news. Meanwhile, sitting in the audience Monday night was Newsweek’s San Francisco Bureau Chief, Karen Breslau who said, “One thing I’d like people to think about is how few news organizations left aspire to and have the resources to do foreign news coverage. I don’t ever want Al-Jazeera to be my news source.” Why not Ms. Breslau? It’s media outlets like yours that give Al-Jazeera stories to air and fuel hatred towards America.
The Stanford Daily Online reports a communications professor received a call from Whitaker Sunday night informing the school of his absence and forcing the cancellation of a journalism seminar Whitaker was scheduled to attend on Tuesday. The editor of Newsweek has certainly earned his pay this month. Not only has he misguided and disappointed his subscribers, as well a prominent university and the next generation of journalists, but he also played a role in the deaths of 16 men and women in the Middle East. Moreover, Fox News reports another top Newsweek editor suggests no one will be fired over the incident. That’s incredible! Newsweek and other media outlets rant and rave about the number of U.S. casualties in the war on terror, throw-up words like “quagmire,” race to tell the stories of innocent Iraqis and Afghanis who are accidentally killed by U.S. bombs and demand answers from the Pentagon. But, when Newsweek is responsible for death and destruction, it responds with, “Oops! We’re sorry. Let’s move on.”
Should journalism students at Stanford, Columbia, Northwestern, Missouri or Ohio University truly want to examine the rapidly changing world of modern media, they don’t need to invite Mark Whitaker, or any other high-profile journalists, to their schools. Instead, students simply need to know their history. In the post-Watergate era of journalism, every reporter and news director’s goal is the same; “I want to be the next Carl Bernstein or Bob Woodward.” The objective isn’t to simply inform and educate. It’s to blow the roof off the building. Newsrooms consist of braggarts gossiping about whom they’re going to destroy, take down and expose in hopes of being deemed “the savior of our nation.” Newsweek is just the latest in a long list of wannabe “Bernsteins and Woodwards.” However, Mr. Whitaker and his magazine are now responsible for taking down and destroying innocent life. I just hope the next time we see a news graphic depicting casualties in the war on terror that there are three columns: number of deaths by allied forces, number of deaths by insurgents and, finally, number of deaths by Newsweek. What a news wreck!