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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Are There Any Real Journalists at OU?

The University of Oklahoma's student newspaper is typical of campus publications in seeking to make academic journalism conform to the same politically correct obsessions that shackle so much of the mainstream media. The best description of this process is found in Bill McGowan's "Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity has Corrupted American Journalism."

The OU Daily's coverage and analysis of the Joel Henry Hinrichs bombing is a case in point. Yesterday's issue carried an editorial that ranks among the best illustrations I've yet seen of how PC obsessions blind journalists and journalist wannabes to facts.

The point of the editorial is to call on the FBI to make public its evidence on the Hinrichs bombing. So the public can get all the facts? Hardly. Federal authorities should show what they have because doing so will confirm what the OU Daily editors already know - there is no way the Hinrichs bombing had anything to do with a Muslim terrorist group or activity.

Here's how the student paper put it:

"For example, unsubstantiated claims that Hinrichs had been frequenting the Norman mosque have managed to seep onto television news broadcasts even though everyone we have contacted at the mosque says Hinrichs was never seen there.
"So who is lying? Inherently, people should perceive the unfounded news broadcasts as the liars, but that doesn't always happen. And even if only one person sees and believes such a report there or online, word of mouth can transmit that 'truth' to hundreds or thousands within a matter of days."

Amazingly, the OU Daily's editors admit they know no more about the FBI's evidence than anybody else, but that doesn't keep the campus scribes from pronouncing as "liars" all those real-world journalists and bloggers - some of whom are also experienced journalists - behind the "unfounded newscasts" that disagree with the official version of Hinrichs death.

It is sad that the OU Daily's editors apparently have no clue how to assess conflicting evidence in a complicated major news story like the Hinrichs bombing. If they do have such skills, let's see a display ASAP with a balanced, comprehensive presentation of all of the facts uncovered thus far, not just those consistent with the FBI' version.

What is even sadder is that they also likely can't see the terrible irony in their blind acceptance of the official explanation. Such uncritical acceptance is precisely the submissive, non-confrontational, captive "reporting" and "analysis" characteristic of a controlled press. They will do well in George Bush's dream media.

Which is exactly the opposite of the zealously independent, often cantankerous and occasionally even courageous press that James Madison and the Founders knew is essential to the survival of republican government, and which many believe is being reincarnated today in the Blogosphere.

Clearly, we can't expect that kind of journalist to graduate from OU if the OU Daily's work on the Hinrichs bombing is indicative.

The Jawa Report's Dr. Rusty Shackleford also has an incisive fisking of the OU Daily editorial that is well-worth your reading.

And yes, if you're wondering what's behind this post, I've spent too many years in too many newsrooms to not be by turns dismayed, bewildered and finally just plain disgusted by the attitudes behind efforts like this OU Daily editorial.

UPDATE: 10/4/05

This survey of party registration of faculty at 18 major journalism schools explains a lot about the state of academic journalism. Here's the money quote:

"America's professional schools of journalism ... have collectively become a one-party state. Students have little chance of encountering any ideological diversity in the classrooms of these schools. Only one school we surveyed, the University of Kansas Journalism School, showed geunine intellectual diversity."