It was a great honor to be invited on the Polk Awards seminar panel. It was broadcast on NPR and moderated by Alex Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government.

Columbia-Dupont Award Winner Adam Davidson of NPR livened up the panel a just a wee bit with his insistence that no one could have predicted the 2008 housing/derivatives/etc. crash. I pointed out that guys like Krugman and Buffett kinda did. (In this 2006 clip from Bloomberg, Krugman actually uses the word ‘bubblicious.)

It was great getting to spend some time with Paul Salopek. This m-f’er can write his you-know-what off. Here’s one of the best ledes ever written.

I was fascinated hearing David Barstow from the Times talk about Message Machine, his now-classic exposé. He said it was a little daunting waking up in the morning realizing he was taking on the Pentagon, huge defense contractors, and all of our major TV networks. The Pentagon’s been excoriating him as a damned liar. I’m not sure people understand the heat journalists take sometimes.

UPDATE: Frank Rich just wrote:

“When Barstow’s story broke, more than 45 members of Congress demanded an inquiry. The Pentagon’s inspector general went to work, and its Jan. 14 report was the result. It found no wrongdoing by the Pentagon. Indeed, when Barstow won the Pulitzer Prize last month, Rumsfeld’s current spokesman cited the inspector general’s “exoneration” to attack the Times articles as fiction.

But the Pentagon took another look at this exoneration, and announced on May 5 that the inspector general’s report, not The Times’s reporting, was fiction. The report, it turns out, was riddled with factual errors and included little actual investigation of Barstow’s charges.”

Perhaps the most amazing revelation in Barstow’s recent NY Times Q&A is this:

Q. Your article refers to the fact, on several occasions, the various network “handlers” are unaware of the liaison the “military analysts” enjoy with Pentagon staff. How can that be? Are they that naive?

— desertrat, Las Vegas, Nev.
A. In interviews, many military analysts said the same thing — that the network officials they deal with the most (the bookers, producers and anchors) had only the vaguest idea of the frequency or subject matter of their interactions with the Pentagon…Several analysts said that on the basis of a briefing, they might then pitch an idea for a segment to a producer or booker. Sometimes they would even help write the questions for the anchors to ask during the segment.

Posted: February 20, 2009 Comments Off