I don’t blog about TV journalism because I hardly watch TV anymore. But I know what I’m missing on CNN and Fox News, which David Rothkopf reaffirms with this meta commentary on the Rick Sanchez firing:
The problem with CNN is in fact not that they failed to fire Sanchez more explicitly for his anti-Semitism, nor is it that they did not fire him sooner. The problem with CNN is that they hired him in the first place. Just as it is a problem that they thought it appropriate to hire Eliot Spitzer for his own show when at least 50 percent of the fame they are cashing in on is tied to his predilection for prostitutes. Just as it is a problem that they hired Piers Morgan to replace Larry King. Now admittedly, King was no pillar of journalism. He was not even a molehill of journalism. That being said, he attempted to be no more than he was, a living Smithsonian exhibit about the nature of old time radio. But Morgan, known best to Americans for his appearances as a judge on a show that would embarrass the worst burlesque circuits of the 1920s, “America’s Got Talent,” is skimmed from the pond-scum floating atop journalism’s shallowest waters. He is a former editor of Britain’s News of the World and the Daily Mirror, newspapers that make the National Enquirer look like the Paris Review.
If CNN keeps it up, it won’t last five years. It has done the impossible and almost made Fox News look like a better source of journalism — and there is almost no journalism on Fox News.
Damn, that’s good.
How the anti-vaccine movement threatens America’s children
Paul Offit, a pediatrician and the author of “Autism’s False Prophets,” (who didn’t tour bookstores because of death threats he received from the anti-vaccine community) will be the plenary speaker today at the American Academy of Pediatrics conference in San Francisco. According to the press release, here are the themes he will touch on:
Parents are bombarded with false stories about the dangers of vaccines, and the result is that some are backing away from vaccinating their children. This is tragic, because it leaves children vulnerable to deadly diseases, and it lowers the immunity of the entire community.
Offit is the subject of an excellent 2009 story in Wired magazine by Amy Wallace. Shortly after the piece was published last Fall, Wallace got slimed with all manner of vitriol from vaccine opponents and sued by a charismatic leader of the anti-vaccine movement. The suit was later dismissed.
At an NYU event last Thursday, I heard Wallace talk about the jarring experience. She seems to have taken it in stride and good humor. (It probably helps that Conde Nast–Wired’s corporate parent–was highly supportive and paid all her legal bills.) As this event was geared towards journalists covering science, much of the discussion (which was moderated by Robert Lee Hotz, a WSJ science columnist), focused on how Wallace went about reporting and writing the story.
Wallace’s meta description of the interrelated themes explored in her piece strikes me as fertile territory for editors who want to follow up:
I see this as about a movement in our culture, about people afraid to vaccinate their kids, and about distrust of experts.
At one point, Hotz asked Wallace: “How do you continue the journalistic discussion” of this story? In response, she said that “deluging people with data” on the safety of vaccines wouldn’t work. Instead, she suggested that narrative story-telling was the only thing likely to cut through all the misinformation and distrust of science.
But that means editors and writers have to be creative and dogged in pursuing those stories.