How Not to Be a Journalism

Patrick Howley, an assistant editor at The American Spectator, gives a master class in how not to commit journalism in a piece posted October 8 on "Occupy" events in Washington, DC.  His article should be read by both those interested in becoming journalists (as a guide to behavior to avoid) and those trying to understand the lurch towards "post-objective journalism" exemplified by Andrew Breitbart and James O'Keefe.

Completely unaware of how he is ripping the principles of the profession to shreds, Howley even writes, without irony, that he had 'infiltrated' the protest group "for journalistic purposes."  That is, as he later admits, all he was there for was to get (or create) a story that would line up with his preconceptions and political purposes:

I had infiltrated the day before in order to mock and undermine in the pages of The American Spectator -- and I wasn't giving up before I had my story....

Howley reminds me of nothing quite so much as Stephen Glass, who almost destroyed The New Republic back in the nineties with his made-up stories.  Here, Howley is also trying to create a story, but on the ground (so to speak).  His is the classic pattern of the agent provacateur, of course.  What's strange is that Howley not only brags about his exploits, but tries to pass them off as journalism.

There's no sign of research in his piece, no sign of desire to understanding what is happening.  There are only two goals: Get a story and 'mock and undermine' the protesters.

That's not journalism... and not something to be proud of.

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