A Query for Couric

On January 14th, 2010, the Columbia School of Broadcasting, along with the Alfred I DuPont Foundation, awarded the Silver Baton award, an award the university compares to the Pulitzer, to Katie Couric for her 2008 interviews with Sarah Palin.  The awards committee reported that Couric was selected because,”In a political season full of interviews with the leading candidates, Katie Couric’s apt and determined questioning of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin prompted the most revealing remarks and had the greatest impact on the presidential campaign.”  Couric, who had already received the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence from USC for these interviews, took home the prize for her great work as a impactful journalist. 

Couric’s interview was considered to be a turning point for Sarah Palin’s vice presidential bid because it pushed a few memes that made some Americans question the then-Alaska governor’s fitness for the office.  Couric asked what news sources Palin read, suggesting she may not be informed.  Couric’s demeanor during the interview was as if she were coaching a slow child for simple answers.  Palin’s annoyance at her treatment didn’t translate well on the screen.  The editing the interview did other kinds of damage.  It made Palin look a bit erratic and unprepared.  Couric took home her award from the prestigious universities and foundations and all is forgotten.

Forgotten, that is, until Tucker Carlson revealed a cadre of supposedly journalists who had conspired to influence the election of Barack Hussein Obama with their work.

Journolist is well known by now, in spite of underreporting by the so-called mainstream media.  But, the emails that came to light began to paint a very different picture of the behavior of a media that pretends to act fairly in political matters.  But, it only simmered as a story and was revealed more in the new press that the old press outlets.  One reason for this was no big name media stars and movers were part of the Journolist roster.  A group of decidedly B-grade reporters and commentators and professors and hanger-ons fill out the list. 

But, there is a name in the emails that isn’t quite so distant from CBS News, Katie Couric, and the Palin interviews.  Marc Ambinder.

I came across Mr. Ambinder quite by accident due to a silly article he wrote in The Atlantic apologizing for Obama’s fumblings and missteps with the Ground Zero Mosque.  I wrote a little stinging (hopefully) piece on his tripe and condescension and during the exercise stumbled across an interesting nexus between the Perky One, Couric, and Journolist. 

Lenny Ben David wrote a piece on the Daily Caller that exposed Marc Ambinder as a member of the Journolist which was also confirmed by The American Thinker.  Marc Ambinder is also a writer for The Atlantic, as previously mentioned.  What most people do not know is Mr. Ambinder is also the Chief Political Consultant to CBS News.  Now, while that is interesting and all, what makes the connection more compelling is that in Ambinder’s bio on The Atlantic, he states, “In 2009, he was part of the team [sic] was awarded the Columbia University School of Journalism’s Dupont Silver Baton for Katie Couric’s interview with Sarah Palin.”  Really.  Now some questions arise. 

Ambinder is not named on the Alfred I. Dupont Columbia School of Journalism Award website as one of the team that won the Silver Baton.  But, Ambinder doesn’t say he won the award, he states he was ‘part of the team.’  This may just be the usual journalistic puffery we’ve come to know and loathe, or it may very well be true.

Suddenly there is a flurry of questions I’d love Ms. Couric to answer.  For example, what part did Ambinder play in developing the questions and strategy for Palin?  Does Ms. Couric think it is appropriate and ethical for Ambinder to have been engaging in media strategy sessions to destroy Palin, the Republicans, and elect the Democratic ticket?  Did Ms. Couric also conspire with the Journolist group or did she just use Ambinder’s advice and consultations? 

Where is the line between journalism and advocacy?  Is there one?  The journalistic code requires you to, “Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.”  Can she honestly say the interview was fairly done without political intent considering the political machinations Ambinder and his cronies were engaged in?  Did she fairly win that award or did she win because she tanked a candidate? 

What about Ambinder?  According to the Society of Professional Journalists, a practitioner should, “Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.”  Doesn’t belonging to a group that is conspiring to smear Fred Barnes or Karl Rove constitute a possible compromise of integrity or credibility?  Further, the code requires you to, “Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.”  If Ambinder has dirty hands, he should be exposed?  If the other members of the group had dirty hands, Ambinder is equally as guilty since he didn’t expose the unethical behavior? 

I don’t think any of this will come to light or even change much, except for us.  We can continue to work with each other telling the truth and exposing the lies.  Since the journalistic integrity of the old press died a while ago, its intents are still good and should continue to be exercised.

I’d love to ask Katie why she did it.


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