March 26, 2004

More on Journalism

by Jeremy Blachman

Here's an article that says David Brooks ("Bobos in Paradise," NYT op-ed columnist, more) makes stuff up. Gross generalizations that aren't true, stuff like that. One brief clip from the long (but worth the read) article:

As I made my journey, it became increasingly hard to believe that Brooks ever left his home. "On my journeys to Franklin County, I set a goal: I was going to spend $20 on a restaurant meal. But although I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu -- steak au jus, slippery beef pot pie,' or whatever -- I always failed. I began asking people to direct me to the most expensive places in town. They would send me to Red Lobster or Applebee's," ... The easiest way to spend more than $20 on a meal in Franklin County is to visit the Mercersburg Inn, which boasts "turn-of-the-century elegance." I had a $50 prix-fixe dinner, with an entree of veal medallions, served with a lump-crab and artichoke tower, wild-rice pilaf and a sage-caper-cream sauce. Afterward, I asked the inn's proprietors, Walt and Sandy Filkowski, if they had seen Brooks's article. They laughed. After it was published in the Atlantic, the nearby Mercersburg Academy boarding school invited Brooks as part of its speaker series. He spent the night at the inn. "For breakfast I made a goat-cheese-and-sun-dried-tomato tart," Sandy said. "He said he just wanted scrambled eggs."

I absolutely agree that what Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass was wrong, but given everything we're hearing in the aftermath -- Jack Kelley, Rick Bragg, etc -- maybe we don't really need to know what's happening in the underbelly of American journalism. Maybe the stories are more fun to read even if they're made up.

March 26, 2004 04:29 PM | TrackBack

Is journalism a profession? Unlike the law, medicine, religion and other long recognized professions, no specialized education is required nor is there an enforcible code of conduct or ethics. What is a journalist? A reporter? A columnist? An editor? Can one code apply to all of them? This is not a knock on journalists. If an attorney or a doctor fouls up, action can be taken and enforced for code violations. A journalist can get fired but not "disbarred" from serving as a journalist. Other than the power of the employer, how can journalist associations enforce their codes?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline at March 26, 2004 06:02 PM

This is also a problem peculiar to David Brooks's style of reporting. Similar gross generalizations make up the bulk of his book Bobos in Paradise, an entertaining book but not one that I would recommend to a foreigner trying to understand the U.S., precisely because of its lack of journalistic factuality. Journalists ought to be photographers and realists; Brooks is an Impressionist. Whatever he sees at a glance, he reports as truth.

Posted by: PG at March 27, 2004 11:14 AM
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