Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

An outdated code of conduct

Jerry Stratton, August 24, 2016

A few years ago, researching a novel, I visited Washington DC. Since the novel is about swashbuckling journalists, I of course entered the lobby of the Washington Post. At the entrance is part of an old printing press, and this code of conduct for the press. I understand that the Post has since moved to another building; I expect they sent the code to a museum in the move, because every item on this list that isn’t outdated has been ignored for decades.

The Seven Principles for the Conduct of a Newspaper

  1. The first mission of a newspaper is to tell the truth as nearly as the truth may be ascertained.
  2. The newspaper shall tell all the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world.
  3. As a disseminator of the news, the paper shall observe the decencies that are obligatory upon a private gentleman.
  4. What it prints shall be fit reading for the young as well as for the old.
  5. The newspaper’s duty is to its readers and to the public at large, and not to the private interests of its owner.
  6. In the pursuit of truth, the newspaper shall be prepared to make sacrifices of its material fortunes, if such course be necessary for the public good.
  7. The newspaper shall not be the ally of any special interest, but shall be fair and free and wholesome in its outlook on public affairs and public men.

Eugene Meyer, March 5, 1935

Eugene Meyer founded the Post—I learned this from David Halberstam’s gigantic The Powers That Be. Meyer bought it in bankruptcy and built it into the powerful newspaper it is today, before handing it (and his daughter, Katherine) over to Phil Graham.

Some of the rules are still followed, if you add “in the beltway” to the end. The paper still observes the decencies that are obligatory upon a private gentleman in the beltway. That is, while scandals, and even non-scandals, about conservatives are newsworthy national news, scandals about Democrats are private affairs, local news at best.

And, in support of beltway truthiness, the newspaper remains prepared to sacrifice its material fortune when necessary for the good of the beltway.

And much of its opinions are beltway childishness at best.

But the saddest is the seventh. The Post, like much of the national media today, is little more than the public relations arm of the Democratic Party. It is why the White House of Solyndra, of laying bare the secrets of the State Department and Defense, of Benghazi, of the IRS targeting political speech for silencing, of the Veterans Administration killing veterans, of lying about treaties to the Congress that is supposed to discuss them, of selling arms to Mexican drug lords, can be called “scandal-free” by even more partisan pundits.

And why the White House officials involved—as well as the media itself—can claim that any particular scandal is “old news” once the national press finally is forced to report on it—because by then, it is old news.

Meyer’s code is patronizing. That hasn’t changed. But where Meyer’s code of conduct treats the reader as a child who must be educated, the modern media, including the Post, treats the reader as stupid and malicious, an evil that must be deceived and vanquished. Their conduct is a code of silence, manufactured crises, and obfuscation, wherever possible in their self-appointed position as the Democratic Party’s public relations arm.

In response to 2016 in photos: For photos, memes, and perhaps other quick notes sent from my mobile device or written on the fly during 2016.

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