Seeing Howell Raines, disgraced former editor of the NY Times, preach about honesty in journalism (WashPost Op-Ed, 14 March) is a little like listening to Harry Reid (D-Nevada) trying to sell gambling and prostitution as destination resorts. In 2003, Raines, you may recall, was encouraged to spend more time “fly fishing” after his ace reporter, Jayson Blair, was exposed as a fraud and a cheat. Numerous staffers had raised alarms about Blair’s work, some of it on the DC beltway sniper story, but Raines would hear no criticism about his affirmative action protégé - facts be damned.
The Blair fiasco was a bizarre echo of a similar incident at the Washington Post two decades earlier when a Ben Bradlee protégé cooked the books about a young black heroin addict in the District of Columbia. Bradlee nominated Janet Cooke for a reporting Pulitzer which she won. When Cooke’s fiction was exposed, the reporter and the prize went up in smoke; both consumed by the white heat of truth.
The ugly side of affirmative action was the real story behind both incidents. Two white editors, afflicted by a kind soft bigotry, were reluctant to use the same standards of journalism with minorities and women that are applied to white males. Indeed, in both cases, black reporters were all too eager to manufacture racial stereotypes; and two politically correct editors were all too willing to sacrifice integrity on the altar of ethnic or gender immunity.
Now Raines, dripping with trout stream indignation, laments the standards at FOX and blasts Roger Ailes as a kind of newsroom ogre. The irony, and personal animus, here has a sickly sweet sent of mendacity - leavened with envy. FOX and internet journals are thriving while archaic outlets like the Times and the Post are sinking, stuck in the muck of a tedious patronizing ideology. Raines, like the fictional Colonel Jessep, “can’t stand the truth.”
Traditional journalism is going under because it is still printing a product that fewer and fewer customers want to buy or read. The dinosaurs are walking the plank; an aging species that can not see that adaptation might be as simple as providing another point of view. Mr. Raines, and like minded editors, makes the inevitable, and enviable, success of FOX possible. Rupert Murdoch should send Howell Raines a thank-you note, a copy of Pinocchio, and a box of hand-tied trout flies.
- G. Murphy Donovan
- The author is a native of the Bronx, a transplant to DC. He is a Vietnam veteran and former USAF Intelligence officer with tours at all of the major 3 button Intelligence agencies. He is a graduate of the Lt. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. School and Cardinal Hayes HS in NYC. He also has several degrees from less illustrious institutions. Check Six writes primarily at G. Murphy Donovan and Agnotology in Journalism. His work has appeared in various political, national security, and Intelligence journals.