Call this a seminal moment in the decline and fall of political journalism … real journalism, not the puff “profiles” in admittedly left- or right-wing publications. “Vanity Fair” has creds: among the best writers and columnists when dealing with politics. So I was very surprised to read the following in this week’s issue of “The Week” magazine.
“In order to get extensive access to President Obama for a new book and Vanity Fair profile, author Michael Lewis agreed to give the White House approval over all Obama quotes. Quote approval — once seen by journalists as an unacceptable form of censorship — is often now a prerequisite for interviews of business executives and celebrities.” — The New York Times.
They’re quite right about celebrities and some business leaders. Even the top-level entertainment shows and publications, and many second-tier business pubs, agree to quote approval and even article review. It’s a nasty practice, but deemed necessary to compete in the entertainment news world. But politics used to be on a different ethics standard.
There’s a reason why hard-right sources and far-left sources should be mostly enjoyed by the reader and ignored by others. They are designed to increase a particular bias, not fairly evaluate opinions and observations. “Vanity Fair,” its editor, Graydon Carter, and Michael Lewis have done a huge disservice to real political journalism. They have eliminated real inquiry at the expense of access. Lewis’ “journalism” is one of prior restraint, already vetted to ensure maximum puffery for the president. Neither the profile or the book is worthy of anyone spending a moment reading. Both should be sold in the gift store section of the future Barack Obama Presidential Museum.