Earlier in the week James Asher, McClatchy’s Washington Bureau Chief made an unexpected declaration at an award’s ceremony that the news service will not tolerate any quote sanitizing by government officials. On Thursday in a summation called “On Washington Journalism” Asher commented on the practice further, calling out WaPo and NYT for not yet taking firm stands on the matter.
But Asher says this isn’t the only dirty secret of Washington journalism.
During the height of the U.S. Attorney’s scandal in 2006 when McClatchy was breaking nearly all of the damning stories that led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, an official from the Justice Department promised us an exclusive leak of government information. After he provided the details, he went on to tell our reporter: “Highlight this. Disregard this and emphasize that.” When our reporter refused, he said: “You are the most unprofessional journalist I have ever worked with.” That exchange says leagues about the relationship between sources and the news media.
Asher made another commitment to readers: “Reporters at McClatchy’s Washington Bureau are getting new marching orders. We’ll be reducing the number of stories we do about the ranting in Congress and the spin at the White House. We will devote our considerable skills as journalists to the actions of governments. We’ll tell you what Washington does and how it affects your lives.”