Tune in tomorrow morning from 8 to 9 a.m. to see Donald Ritchie on C-Span’s Washington Journal. In the post below Ritchie puts the current Congressional committee investigations into the Bush administration in historical perspective.
A historical look at Scooter Libby’s conviction.
Until the age of 50, Mencken was called “America’s Foremost Bachelor,” praised for being the patron saint of single men. When H. L. Mencken married Sara Powell Haardt in 1930, the press concluded that the author of “In Defense of Women” was probably in the most embarassing position of any fiancee in recent years. They were bent in trotting out the old quotes. How, reporters insisted with glee, will Mencken explain that he had once said “A man may be a fool and not know it –but not if he’s married.” Long before, he had defined love as “the delusion that one woman differs from another.” To these queries Mencken replied; “I formerly was not as wise as I am now….the wise man frequently revises his opinions. The fool, never.”
As calls for “lobbying reform” resound through the halls of Congress this spring, we do well to remember this piece of wisdom from Ecclesiastes: there is nothing new under the sun. Influence peddling, lobbying scandals, and the reporters and newspapers that expose them, have been a part of American political life since the beginning. We […]
In the afterglow of Watergate, Washington journalists’ ever-growing reliance on anonymous sources left both reporters and editors vulnerable to manipulation. As editor of the Post’s Metro section, Bob Woodward failed to challenge a promising young reporter who submitted a sensational article on an eight-year-old drug addict, based entirely on anonymous sources. After Janet Cooke won the Pulitzer Prize for “Jimmy’s World” in 1981, an internal investigation exposed the story as fictitious. The Cooke incident derailed Woodward’s rise within the Post’s management and resulted in his nebulous position as assistant managing editor.
In studying two centuries of Washington reporting, I found only one instance where journalists came forward to name their anonymous sources. It occurred in 1846 after the Washington Daily Times (no relation to the current paper) printed sensational allegations that Whigs were plotting with the British minister to bring about a settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute. When the Senate investigated the charges, the paper’s editor and publisher voluntarily divulged the sources of the story: a naval officer, a Senate doorkeeper, several lobbyists, and a few other journalists. Since those sources had everything to lose and nothing to gain by corroborating the Times’ allegations, every witness, under oath, denied knowledge of a plot. The committee branded the story “utterly and entirely false,” and banned anyone from the newspaper from the Senate galleries. The Washington Daily Times promptly went out of business, creating an object lesson that the rest of the press corps took very much to heart.
Welcome to the OUP blog! Those of you looking for that “original content” we’ve promised can reference: Nancy Sherman’s post on America’s treatment of our Iraq War veterans… Harm de Blij’s post on why geography education really does matter… Jill Quadagno and Jerome Kassirer commenting on the problems in our health care system… And Donald […]
Fifty years ago this past Sunday, the brutal slaying of Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old Chicagoan visiting relatives in the Mississippi Delta, laid bare the raw savagery and blatant disregard for decency and law that permeated the Jim Crow South. When Till’s mother insisted on an open casket funeral and Jet magazine published photos of his […]