Monday, September 15, 2008

Unprofessional Behavior

BAGnews has a post on the story of Jill Greenberg's deceptive photo shoot with John McCain for the Atlantic. Basically she took unflattering photos of him for the magazine's cover and then put the unused images on her website, altered and captioned to highlight the candidate's odious politics. On the magazine's blog, the author of the cover story responds, and I think his final line says it all: "What I find truly astonishing is the blithe way in which she has tried to hurt this magazine."

Yes, heaven forbid anyone ever do anything to tarnish the sterling record of the vaunted Atlantic. By all means, let us put aside the distasteful question of whether John McCain is, in fact, a bloodthirsty warmonger, and focus on the real victims here, those noble truth-seekers who so wisely and soberly beat the war drums as the US geared up for Iraq, and who never miss an opportunity to undermine progressive values at every turn.

It is no surprise that the likes of Jeffrey Goldberg find words such as "bloodthirsty" so very unseemly when applied to McCain. The Atlantic's entire editorial board has blood on its hands, and it is only by hyperventilating over a photographer's startling lack of professionalism that they can forget their own complicity and sleep at night.

Greenberg's actions were "unprofessional" in that she allowed her humanity to trump the genteel detachedness of professional journalism: she refused to treat John McCain as a decent man, because he is not a decent man. That kind of behavior is also known as integrity, and to the extent it is in conflict with professionalism, we should be very, very concerned with the question of whether "professionalism" is something we should value in journalism.

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