By Dave Andrusko
Elsewhere today, we reposted a brilliant column written for Newsbusters by Tim Graham. In a nutshell, once it was safe—after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away—suddenly a couple of media types wondered if NPR’s Nina Totenberg’s five-decade long friendship with the late Justice might have crossed some ethical boundary.
Of course, everyone knew that Totenberg had long since erased any notion that she was an objective journalist, certainly not on abortion. The game was to shamelessly pretend otherwise.
Graham quoted a Washington Post “media reporter” who used as one springboard a piece that ran Monday written by Tom Jones, senior media writer of the Poynter Institute, that appeared in his daily newsletter.
It’s positively comical to watch how the WaPo’s Paul Fahri strains to find a way out of the hole Totenberg dug herself into. By contrast, to Jones’ credit, he puts the blame squarely where it belongs: on Totenberg.
Jones tells us that Totenberg had written “a beautiful piece that not only gave insight into Ginsburg, but chronicled, in detail, Totenberg’s five-decades long friendship with Ginsburg.”
That post, however, “also revealed a close friendship that a journalist really should not have with someone they cover,” Jones writes. “And while it’s one thing to occasionally have coffee or lunch or drinks with someone you cover to further develop that source, the friendship between Totenberg and Ginsburg went far beyond that. It included dinners at Ginsburg’s place, nights out on the town and, even, Ginsburg performing Totenberg’s wedding ceremony. Totenberg wrote that she and Ginsburg were ‘close friends.’”
Totenberg, of course, pretended she could be close friends “with someone like Ruth Bader Ginsburg” because both understood “that you each have a job and that it has to be done professionally, and without favor.”
Jones will have none of this:
Actually, the answer is more simple than that: the friendship should not have happened. Or, if the friendship was that important, Totenberg should have recused herself from covering Ginsburg or the Supreme Court. In addition, NPR should have an issue with the relationship between Totenburg and Ginsburg, which was no secret.
He finishes with some what ifs. What if, as a “topnotch journalist.” her “friendship with Ginsberg did not impact how she did her job or how she shaped her stories. But we can’t say it didn’t impact her journalism, either.”
And that’s the problem when you have even the appearance of a conflict of interest. We just don’t know. How can we be sure what stories Totenburg might have chosen to cover or ignore because of her relationship with Ginsburg? Not only does it bring into question Totenberg’s coverage, but it lends credence to all those who think the media is in cahoots with the people they cover — especially liberals.
But, of course the bulk of the “media is in cahoots with the people they cover — especially liberals.” That this is even a point that Jones can (with a straight face) pretend is up for debate shows you how thoroughly they have adopted the viewpoint of the very “liberals” (and pro-abortionists) they cover.
Totenberg, covering the Supreme Court for NPR, Linda Greenhouse doing likewise for the New York Times, could not possibly have been more supportive of “abortion rights” if they had been on Planned Parenthood’s payroll. But by ostensibly being “neutral,” they were at least as effective in advancing the abortion agenda as much as PPFA or the ACLU, if not more.