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Re: Advocate

Posted by R. Berg on March 08, 2003

In Reply to: Advocate posted by Lewis on March 07, 2003

: : : : : : : : : : : When the media quotes someone they often introduce the expression with a phrase or two that include the word "expert". I just read something of this sort on nytimes.com [Dr. Somebody, an EXPERT, on Iran at the University says....bla.bla bla..]. How does one come to be designated as an "expert".

: : : : : : : : : : You get qualified as a pert and then resign.

: : : : : : : : : It's called Rolodex journalism. If your name is in their card file and you are willing to talk on record, you are an expert. If you can string two sentences together and look good on camera, you're golden.

: : : : : : : :
: : : : : : : : I was an Internet "expert" for the BBC. If they'll take a camel, they'll take anyone!

: : : : : : : And I am sure you were a great expert!

: : : : : : : Now, be alert! The world is going to need more lerts!

: : : : : ROLODEX JOURNALISM -

: : : : : CLAUDE RAINS AS CAPTAIN RENAULT: Major Strasser's been shot. Round up the usual suspects.

: : : : : BOB GARFIELD: Here's the difference between Captain Renault, Prefect of Casablanca police -- and the media. [EXPECTANT CHORD] [POLICE WHISTLE, POLICE SIREN] Renault -- had a whistle. Otherwise the methodology is pretty much the same -- a story breaks, expert analysis is required, turn to the rolodex and round up "the usual suspects." If it's a legal issue, find Alan Dershowitz. If it's an FBI investigation, call ex-G Man James Kallstrom. Conservative politics --William Kristol. Advertising -- [LAUGHS] -well -- modesty forbids. [CLIP OF INTERVIEW PLAYS] .

: : : : : ROBERT THOMPSON: Because journalism goes off at the alarmingly quick rate that it does, people do collect rolodexes; they're people they know they can get a hold of on a moment's notice, and I think there, there is this kind of aristocracy of commentators that gets created as a result of it.

: : : : : NORMAN J. ORNSTEIN: I find now compared to 10, 15, 20 years ago a lot more laziness on the part of reporters --people who turn to the same sources because they pretty much know what they're going to get and there isn't any use in looking around.

: : : : : BOB GARFIELD: The result, says Professor Thompson, is the usual suspects phenomenon which for all its advantages to reporters and producers can be antithetical to genuine inquiry.

: : : : : ROBERT THOMPSON: I think the rolodex in the end becomes part of the-- is one of the most important tools in the toolbox of a good journalist. I think what we may be looking for is a need for that rolodex to have a more diverse set of voices within it.

: : : : : Excerpts from Rolodex Journalism, June 21, 2002, on National Public Radio's "On The Media."
: : : : : http://www.wnyc.org/onthemedia/transcripts_062102_rolodex.html Accessed March 6, 2003.

: : : : Complete pain. I did an article and didn't use the source my editor suggested, even though that source couldn't be bothered to comment. Lo and behold, my article was re-written by the editor inserting his source instead of mine - so that the guy got a plug. I didn't get any more articles commissioned by them and they nicked my ideas for other writers' articles. Professionalism? Pah!

: : : Journalism has gone to heck in a handbasket. My opinion. I was a reporter for several years and then I went over to the dark-side. I'm a government information officer. When I went to j-school, we were taught that a reporter (as much as possible) is impartial. Now we have we-are-on-your-side advocacy "journalism." It's predetermined what the story will be and then the facts are mangled to fit. Do you know what I mean? I'm not sure if I am expressing this well.

: : : You did very well. I have often thought that we have finally evolved into a twenty-four hour, non-stop cyle of babbling talking-heads, enamoured with the sound of their own voices, entranced by their own opinions and full of their own importance. Truth and fact are no longer more important than opinion.

: I suppose it is OK to have some journalism that is written from a defined perspective - I guess you object to the "hidden agenda" style. Having done a little writing work, I have found that some editors give you free rein and others see you as their tool. Perhaps it is more rife in business journalism and despite my background as a lawyer, I'm not cut out for being used: I want to write accurate pieces without a hidden agenda and without scratching somebody's back that doesn't deserve it. I should decide who deserves any plugs going and any promotion should be earned by being right, being fair & honest and delivering quality.
: IMO it is acceptable to promote a viewpoint, providing that one is being up-front about it - and all the relevent facts are delivered.

Ah. A lawyer who spontaneously brings the value of fairness into a discussion. Might you be interested in advising/representing me in a matter involving intellectual property and contracts? I'm serious.