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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Smith’

5 Journos, 5 Views of Unnamed Sources

images-8images-9In continuing with our series on examining different issues in journalism by picking the brains of Washington journalists (or those who work for D.C. news outlets), we have our next issue: the use of unnamed sources in stories. Washington is full of stories in print, online and TV involving “a top government official” or “a tippy top” aide as was recently used in Politico Playbook. We asked five journalists to weigh in. See where your views line up in relation to theirs.

See our first edition of “5 Views” here and if you have an idea or want to hear about a certain journalism topic, write to Betsy@fishbowldc@mediabistro.com. If you’d like to be one of our “experts” there’s no shame in letting me know. Well, there might be, but let me know anyway, we’d love to have you.

Stephen Smith, Editor-in-Chief, The Washington Examiner: “When I came to Washington as an editor two decades ago, I was immediately struck by the prevalence of unnamed sources in stories I was handling, noticeably more than in New York and a quantum jump over the number I had seen in Philadelphia and Boston. I naively tried to push back but quickly learned that reporters can’t function here without NFA quotes. The only way to help readers navigate this anonymous world is to describe sources in a way that makes clear, or at least suggests, their possible motives and biases. To take an obvious example, an unnamed staffer for a Tea Party lawmaker and a staffer for a “moderate” GOP member are both Republicans, but they are trying to get across vastly different messages. The more explicit a reporter can be about motive, the better off the reader will be. Readers in Washington are the most news savvy in the country and can usually decode what’s going on if they’re properly oriented. The fight over the showdown reminds us that we should be thankful for the accessibility of lawmakers on the Hill — and their willingness to speak on the record in Capitol hallways or at ‘pressers’ and ‘pen and pads.’ The White House, under presidents of both parties, is hopeless — nothing but spin, talking points, artful leaks and pabulum. Reporters who get real information from real White House sources are journalistic magicians.”

Greta Van Susteren, host, Fox News’ “On the Record”: “Anonymous sources?  It is disgraceful how much journalists use them.  Anonymous sources should be used RARELY (i.e. the whistleblower who could lose his job and the story is a serious news matter) and not as a steady diet, which they’ve become for some journalists and news organizations. It appears some journalists are too lazy to go out and get the story and get it on the record. It’s easier to find that coward who will say something, but not for attribution. Anonymous source identifications are often used by the sources to do a drive by ambush or get even with someone without having the courage to step up to the plate and be identified.  The overuse of anonymous sources has cheapened journalism. So many journalists, and their editors, rely so often on anonymous sources that they don’t even realize how unfair it is to the target of the story, or the integrity of their own reporting.  How does a target respond to an unfair or even false statement if you don’t even know who is saying it? And what can hold a source to truth telling without his or her name attached? It can be like Kafka’s THE TRIAL. And what about readers and listeners?  They have no way of knowing whether the anonymous source should be believed. It is not enough for me that some journalist reports it – maybe that reporter is lazy? Being had? Has no second source? How do we know? I’d like to know who said it and why. Does the anonymous source have an ax to grind? Maybe the anonymous source is just making it up? Let me state emphatically: there is a place in news reporting for anonymous sources – but that should be rare, and not common.”

Don’t miss our remaining views and the journalist who can’t and wouldn’t live without unnamed sources. Read more

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Washington Examiner Hires Guy With Hard to Spell Name

In what is by far an infinitely harder name to spell by heart than BuzzFeed‘s Andrew Kaczynski and even CNN’s George Stroumboulopoulos, the Washington Examiner has hired on Meghashyam Mali (think “hash” and “yam”) to be a new Assistant Managing Editor. He will work alongside the two AME’s they already have. Mali comes from The Hill, where he was a web editor.

He’s something of a smartypants — a graduate of Emory and University of Chicago Law School.

See the memo from Editor Stephen Smith, who refers to him as “Meg.” Read more

Goodbye Examiner’s Yeas & Nays

The long goodbye is over. Come next week, one of Washington’s “gossip” columns, “Yeas & Nays,” will be no more. The Sound of Music soundtrack — a song sung by the Von Trap children — comes to mind. We’ve had a little bit to say about Yeas & Nays in the last few years — good, bad and everything in between. We’re sure (wink wink) that WaPo‘s “The Unreliable Source” can absorb anything that might get lost in the void.

We wish the writers the best in their transitions to new jobs. In the meantime, Washington Examiner wants to offer you something new — a Politics Today newsletter.

A note from Editor Stephen SmithRead more

A Little Birdy Tells Us…

That Washington Examiner columnist and former Editorial Page Editor David Freddoso will soon leave the publication and head out west. He didn’t answer an email request for comment about it and is generally keeping his plans close to the vest.

We asked Editor Stephen Smith for comment.

UPDATE at 2:37 p.m.: Turns out Smith had a lot to say! He wrote to FBDC, “David and his wife Nagore had decided long before the revamping of the Examiner that they wanted to leave Washington and move to Boise, Idaho, where her parents live. They did so because they thought it would be best for their two young children, and because they wanted a more relaxed lifestyle. Not that David will be idle: He and a partner will be writing a political newsletter from Boise, and he’ll be contributing a weekly column to the Examiner. We miss him already. He’s a wonderful colleague and a big talent — and I very much hope he’ll come back to the Examiner full time one day.”

UPDATE and Correction: In an earlier version, we ran with Boise, Montana but Smith actually meant to write Boise, Idaho and we should’ve caught it. Apologies to the state of Idaho.

CQ Roll Call’s Drucker to Washington Examiner

CQ Roll Call’s David Drucker is making the leap and leaving for a job as Senior Congressional Correspondent at the Washington Examiner, which will soon be a political online news outlet with a weekly print magazine. It’s no secret the pub leans right and will continue to do so. With CQ Roll Call in the midst of recent buyouts and some layoffs, Drucker is the second CQ Roll Caller this week to jump ship. He did not get laid off, nor did he take a buyout. On Monday, Jonathan Strong announced that he, too, was leaving the publication for National Review.

“David is exactly the kind of journalist we’re recruiting for the new Washington Examiner,” Examiner Editor Stephen Smith wrote to FishbowlDC. “He’s done a lot campaign reporting, he’s covered the workings of Congress, and he’s written extensively about policy — notably immigration and Obamacare.

“He understands where and how all these things intersect. He’s a California native who wrote about state politics and issues for the Los Angeles Daily News, and he has a Californian’s sense of how government policy plays out in the real world.”

In April of last year, Drucker was promoted… Read more

Washington Examiner Explodes into New Pub

This just in…

Clarity Media Group has announced that Washington Examiner will become a digital platform and weekly print magazine focused on “political thought leadership,” according to a release.

The new product, set to launch June 17, will offer news, analysis, investigative reporting and commentary on issues affecting national legislation and policy across a number of key areas. The target readership for the print weekly will be 45,000 government, public affairs, advocacy, academia and political professionals in Washington and state capitals.

The company also announced it has named Lou Ann Sabatier, a long-time executive and consultant in the publishing industry, CEO of Clarity’s Washington Group, a Denver-based company, which, in addition to The Washington Examiner, includes The Weekly Standard and the website Red Alert Politics. Editor Stephen Smithwill remain in his post, as will Executive Editor Mark Tapscott, and Managing Editor of Digital Jennifer Peebles. Several other executives on the business side will remain to lead the effort. In addition, 20 positions will be created for the new digital platform and weekly publication.

“I am pleased to be part of the new direction that we are charting for The Washington Examiner and look forward to overseeing a stellar group of journalists who will cover the Washington political scene in a unique way,” said Smith in the release.

The Spin…“We have accomplished a great deal over the past seven years, as we built The Washington Examiner into a credible and respected brand in a very competitive market. The strong foundation we established with the website and daily newspaper presents us with the opportunity to shift our focus and meet a pressing need in the political content marketplace,” said Ryan McKibben, president of Clarity Media Group.

“As a result of research and analysis conducted over the past year, we have determined that there is an opportunity to bring our style of investigative journalism and keen analysis and commentary to covering national government and politics. The re-positioned Washington Examiner will meet that demand.”

News on the layoffs… Read more

Washington Examiner Folds Print Edition, Reportedly Lays off 30

The Washington Examiner newsroom has been in intense meetings all morning. The long and short of it? They’re largely shutting down their print edition, closing down their local section and moving to a once a week political magazine. They will hold onto their online presence. Noteworthy: The Yeas & Nays gossip column has been nixed.

We’ve reached out to Editor-in-Chief Stephen Smith for comment.

Washington City Paper has the story. In it, they report that an estimated 30 employees have been laid off.

On BuzzFeed, Boogers and Ethics

Writing a story about someone else’s booger feature is no easy task. On some email requests I put a simple, bland, “request for comment.” On others, I went for shock value: “BuzzFeed’s booger post.” It wasn’t plotted. I imagined some might find it funnier than others.

On Tuesday night, BuzzFeed‘s Benny Johnson took Washington’s political and media worlds by surprise by creating a GIF feature about House Speaker John Boehner allegedly checking out his boogers. BuzzFeed Political Editor McKay Coppins promoted the story, even guided readers to it on Twitter.

The headline reads: “John Boehner Looks at His Boogers During the State of the Union.”

Who among us would have the mental fortitude to look away from a Boehner booger post? “It looks like a first-step by BuzzFeed into honest coverage,” said former TWT Editor and Public Affairs exec Sam Dealey. “After all, everyone — the Speaker, the public and evidently BuzzFeed’s reporter too, was bored by the speech and looking for anything even remotely more interesting.”

Boogers are interesting. But by and large, the editors and journalists around town that we interviewed opposed the booger post. “Dumb and dumber; political coverage as booger op? What next: beaver shot?” asked Washingtonian‘s media writer Harry Jaffe. WTOP’s Jim Farley also expressed journalistic outrage. “I believe it is over the top,” he said. “It would have been like showing video of George H.W. Bush throwing up on the Japanese Prime Minister at a State Dinner. A private moment.  Would we show video of Michelle Obama’s skirt blowing up on a windy day?”

Um, there’s actual video showing Bush throwing up? As it turns out, there is.

And by the way, there’s no judgment here. We’ve written about everything from Larry King passing gas on air and a journo popping a zit at a party to females showing ample amounts of cleavage and breasts on TV. Suffice it say, BuzzFeed can write about the Speaker’s alleged boogers if they want to and there won’t be any ethical bitching from us.

And yet we couldn’t help but wonder, is this, in part, the psychological result of our miniscule attention spans and around-the-clock reporting? That we now require boogers to grab our collective attention?

“Poking fun at people in power has always been been part of political journalism,” Coppins told FishbowlDC when asked to comment on the matter. “Dead-tree newspapers used to do it with political cartoons; now the internet does it with GIFs and memes. What actually struck me most about this State of the Union was how many other news sites were competing with us on that front. A year ago, we would have been the only ones GIFing Marco Rubio’s reach for the water bottle; this year we were racing with The Atlantic‘s Twitter feed.”

But some journalists thought BuzzFeed had slipped beneath themselves. “That’s certainly a headline you don’t see every day,” said a longtime Washington editor who preferred to remain anonymous. “But regardless, this is over the line. A classic example of something that gets hits, but is in poor taste. The post appeals to the 10-year-old in all of us, and that’s not a good thing. BuzzFeed is better than this.”

A cable news insider agreed, saying, Read more

Washington Examiner Adds Gossip Columnist

Washington Examiner‘s Nikki Schwab is now on her third gossip partner in the two years since Tara Palmeri left for the New York Post. First there was Katy Adams. Next up: Jenny Rogers, formerly of TBD, who lasted a year. Now the Examiner has named a new co-columnist — it’s The Hill‘s Alicia Cohn, who contributed to that publication’s gossip column, “In the Know,” and managed content for the social media blog. We hear The Daily Caller‘s pretty aggressive Nick Ballasy was up for the job, but didn’t want to take orders from Schwab so he backed out.

It’s anyone’s guess what kind of co-columnist Cohn will be as her previous appeared in publications such as US WEEKLY and Human Events. She also interned for Christianity Today. She graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois, a Christian college where drinking, smoking, pornography and sex are taboo and where evolutionary biology is now accepted, but this wasn’t always true. Famous graduates include Billy Graham and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. In 2003 the college eased its ban on dancing. They also let up on drinking and smoking for faculty and grad students only.

In an internal memo just out today, Editor Stephen Smith outlines three new reporters, including Cohn, and the promotion of another. Most of the new hires are recent grads whose experience consists of an array of internships. Read more

Examiner Gossip Writer Flees Less Than a Year In

The co-writer of Washington Examiner‘s Yeas and Nays gossip column Jenny Rogers is heading over to Washington City Paper as its Assistant Managing Editor. WCP tweeted the news last night.

Rogers’ move comes after just 10 months with the Examiner. Isn’t that a little premature? Before the Examiner she worked for the Titanic TBD.

“We actually originally wanted to hire Jenny for this job more than a year ago, when she was at TBD, but we wound up not being able to fill the position at all due to budget constraints,” WCP Editor Mike Madden told FishbowlDC. “Her work at TBD was great — lively, creative, and smart coverage of whatever they threw her onto. I’ve read her Yeas and Nays stuff since she went to the Examiner and liked it, as well, and I’m very glad we’re able to hire her now.”

As for her current boss, the Examiner‘s Executive Editor Stephen Smith, he’s cordial about Rogers’ short-lived tenure at the paper. “I would have been surprised if Jenny had left to take a job similar to the one she had here,” he said, “but she had a chance to do something entirely different, assigning and editing pieces and writing some cover stories of her own.”

Compared to the vanilla swirl Yeas and Nays serves on a daily basis (ex. this story about a new carousel at the National Zoo), WCP gives Rogers an opportunity to go nuts, particularly when it comes to D.C.’s racist favorite councilman Marion Barry.

Rogers told us… Read more

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