Delusional or deliberate lying:
SOME READERS HAVE ASKED WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS for Barron's now that its parent company, Dow Jones, has agreed to be bought by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. We are hoping that it someday could mean, among other things, a Barron's TV show on the soon-to-be-launched Fox Business Channel, perhaps more distribution of Barron's content in places like India and China, and greater investment in Barron's Online, so that, for instance, readers can more easily exchange views about their investments.Yes, sure. Too bad News Corp.'s track record gives the preceding absolutely not even a scintila of support. In other words, again, it's either naively wishful or a deliberate lie.
What it will not mean is any change in the standards of accuracy, fairness and authority that underpin our journalism. Readers rely on Barron's to give them a front-row seat on Wall Street, so we can let them know what the pros are thinking -- and let them know when we feel the pros have got it wrong or pushed a trend too far. The latest example: this week's cover story on overlooked opportunities in the junk-bond market.
Readers depend on our judgment to help them invest, whether for their children's education or for their own retirement. Any undue influence on these judgments would damage our relationship with readers and damage our business. Rupert Murdoch knows this.
A few weeks ago, in discussing journalistic ethics with members of the Bancroft family, which has controlled Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal for more than a century, Murdoch said: "Any interference -- or even hint of interference -- would break the trust that exists between the paper and its readers, something I am unwilling to countenance. Apart from breaching the public's trust, it would simply be bad business."The above will in fact remain operative until it doesn't.
Toward this end, News Corp. and the Bancrofts agreed on standards that will apply to all Dow Jones publications and are modeled on the longstanding Dow Jones Code of Conduct. Among them:
• Facts are accurate and fairly presented.
• Analyses represent the publications' best independent judgments, rather than their preferences, or those of their owner, sources, advertisers or information providers.
• Opinions represent only the applicable publication's editorial philosophies, based on the core principle of "free people and free markets."
• There are no hidden agendas in any journalism undertakings.
• Accuracy and fairness extend to coverage of any real or perceived business interests of News Corp.
And this ceaseless dishonesty from first-class big journalism is why they're losing readers, their audience and money. First clue: the readers/audience wants information, not horseshit. If I want lies, I really don't need to buy the Journal.
The sublime: my neighbor, Alan abelson writes also in this week's Barron's:
Take, by way of example, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's testimony before a House committee looking into what prompted the Pentagon, when Rummy was still its boss, to issue a false report on the death of Pat Tillman. Cpl. Tillman, a celebrated enlistee who had abandoned a lucrative contract in professional football to sign up, was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. The initial report was that he had died in combat and he was awarded a posthumous Silver Star. A full five weeks elapsed before the Army informed his family of the actual circumstances of his death.Jeez, that's awfully supportive coming from something of a conservative. A "liberal" couldn't be so critical of Our Leaders. (OTOH, I'm sure the comrade will be one of the first to go once the new regime truly takes charge....)
Mr. Rumsfeld indignantly told the inquiring representatives that their assumptions were not only base but baseless and there was no attempt at a cover-up on his watch. After a little reflection, even the most skeptical soul would have to acknowledge the logic of his denial. "Cover-up," after all, connotes deliberate lying, as distinguished from routine lying. And in Washington, of course, lying is nothing if not routine. Little wonder, then, that Mr. Rumsfeld, an old Washington hand, properly resented the idea that he or anyone under him ever lied in any way but routinely.
We might view, in like forgiving vein, another unfortunate case of miscommunication, involving Attorney General Gonzales and his role in the dismissal of a clutch of federal prosecutors. Mr. Gonzales claimed executive privilege when questioned by a Senate committee probing the firings, but while refusing to discuss sensitive details, stoutly provided an overarching defense by insisting he doesn't know anything. Which happens to be the literal truth, so why, pray tell us, do those hideous legislators continue to badger the poor fellow?
George Bush, of course, bears the ultimate responsibility for commanding his underlings to invoke executive privilege, which boils down to not having to blab about what they may have told the president or what he may have said to them in the privacy of the Oval Office. His grounds for ordering them to remain silent is that his trusted aides might otherwise be deterred from offering him their unfettered advice. Which, alas for his argument, considering the kind of advice Mr. Bush has been getting, might be something devoutly to be wished for.
To be sure, even without the dubious excuse of executive privilege (is the nation's security really at risk if it's revealed that Karl Rove played his usual seamy role in the canning of the prosecutors?), it's traditional in Washington, no matter who happens to be running the show, to avoid an unpleasant truth. Wall Street's prime gift to this administration, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, when he can spare a few moments from busily bashing China for its strong currency, tells anyone who will listen that the subprime credit crisis is contained.