"The past is never dead, it is not even past."~William Faulkner
Former Miami Herald editor Tom Fiedler emerged briefly today from his ivory tower at Boston University, where he's the Dean of the College of Communication, to update the canons of journalism.
The National Enquirer is being considered for a Pulitzer Prize for "being the first and, largely, the only publication pursuing the [former presidential candidate John] Edwards story through his denials of the affair and of fathering a child out of wedlock."
Fiedler and other high-and-mighty types in journalism are aghast that the Enquirer is even being considered. They point to the fact that the tabloid pays its sources. They believe that paying a source taints the veracity of the information. Of course they ignore the fact that the Enquirer never pays until it thoroughly vets its sources and information.
But their reluctance to recognize and accept the Enquirer into their little club reminds me of the Augusta National's opposition to accepting women as members.
What Fiedler - and others - are really afraid of is that they no longer call all the shots in the new information age.
(It was Fiedler, by the way, who broke one of the biggest tabloid stories of the last century: The Gary Hart scandal. And it was the same Tom Fiedler who orchestrated the unwarranted firing of Herald columnist Jim DeFede.)
Fiedler, it seems, is not against "tabloid journalism" when he does it. He's just against "checkbook tabloid journalism."
And although Fiedler's Gary Hart story is a distant memory, his former employer, the Miami Herald, is not above a little "tabloid journalism" from time to time.
In an interview posted on the website of BU's campus newspaper today, Fiedler defines journalism:
Now there’s no question, the National Enquirer did a gotcha. They got John Edwards doing what he was doing. But the end doesn’t justify the means. We have to be able to say that we attained the information by upholding all the ethical standards that journalists believe in. Otherwise it’s not journalism.The very pompous Fiedler then goes on to say that he read all about the Edwards affair; but he didn't read it in the Enquirer!
I read it only after it had been picked up and attributed to the Enquirer and run through filters. It took the mainstream news organizations a good while, because they needed to try to verify that there was some credibility to it.Thank God for those mainstream media filters!
Fiedler's imperious attitude speaks volumes about the mindset of people who run newspapers today. And it's a mindset that's destroying newspapers. For too long it's been, "We Write, You Read."
Granted, the National Enquirer isn't everyone's cup of tea. But it still gets respect in some circles; regularly scooping other news outlets on national stories.
The media landscape is changing and the people who put out newspapers are scared. And occasionally they lash out out at anyone who dares to challenge or question the little authority or credibility they have left.
There may be a case to be made against the National Enquirer's brand of journalism. But surely there's someone a little less uptight than Tom Fiedler to argue it.