Reporter Toobin Lashes Out At Reporters Who Use 'Stolen' Documents; Leaves Out His Own History Of Doing The Same

from the it's-just-not-civilized-to-do-real-reporting dept

David Carr, over at the NY Times, has a good article looking at how many of the people who have been involved in reporting on recent leaks concerning government abuses -- from Wikileaks to the Snowden leaks -- have been attacked by more "traditional" journalists, like David Gregory of Meet the Press and Jeffrey Toobin of CNN and the New Yorker. Carr says that this is the war on leaks, "pitting journalist v. journalist," but others have noted that it's a little more involved than that. Ryan Singel simplified it down to journalists vs. sycophants, since those complaining about Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Julian Assange and others tend to be "insider" journalists -- those who rely on good relationships with government officials to "report" the news. Mathew Ingram, similarly, noted that the old school journalists were dealing with "the shock of inclusion," in that journalism is now done in a different way, and they don't like it.
The unavoidable sense one gets — not just from Carr's piece, but from all the other responses by Gregory and others to the NSA story and to WikiLeaks, and even to events like Reddit's attempt to contribute to the reporting around the Boston bombings — is of an "us vs. them" mentality, in which bloggers like Greenwald or more extreme personalities like Julian Assange are treated like invaders storming the barricades of the journalism establishment. As Carr puts it:
“The larger sense I get from the criticism directed at Mr. Assange and Mr. Greenwald is one of distaste — that they aren’t what we think of as real journalists. Instead, they represent an emerging Fifth Estate composed of leakers, activists and bloggers who threaten those of us in traditional media. They are, as one says, not like us.”
Carr also has this interesting exchange with Toobin, who has been among the angriest haters against Snowden, Greenwald and the rest:
Mr. Toobin agrees that an important debate has been joined, but says no story, no matter how big, justifies journalists’ abetting illegal acts, saying, “Journalists are not above the law.”

“The Jane Mayers, Sy Hershes and Walter Pincuses have all done superb work for decades without the rampant lawlessness that was behind these stories,” he said, adding later, “I’ve never heard any of those journalists endorsing the wholesale theft of thousands of classified government records.”
That seems especially ironic, given that just last week it came out that Toobin himself has been accused of taking a ton of classified documents for a book he was writing:
In journalist Michael Isikoff’s book, Uncovering Clinton: A Reporter’s Story, he described how Toobin was caught “having absconded with large loads of classified and grand-jury related documents from the office of Iran-Contra independent counsel Lawrence Walsh” in 1991:

Toobin, it turned out, had been using his tenure in Walsh’s office to secretly prepare a tell-all book about the Iran-contra case; the privileged documents, along with a meticulously kept private diary (in which the young Toobin, a sort of proto-Linda Tripp, had been documenting private conversations with his unsuspecting colleagues) were to become his prime bait to snare a book deal.   Toobin’s conduct enraged his fellow lawyers in Walsh’s office, many of whom viewed his actions as an indefensible betrayal of the public trust.  Walsh at one point even considered pressing for Toobin’s indictment.

Toobin was “petrified” that he would have to face criminal charges for stealing information for a rather dubious book deal. According to Isikoff, he either “feared dismissal and disgrace, or simply wanted to move on.” Toobin “resigned from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn (where he had gone to work after Walsh) and abandoned the practice of law.”

Read that again, then go back and read Toobin's whining to David Carr. And try not to choke back the laughter. Toobin isn't upset that documents were taken as a part of journalism, since it appears that he, himself, had no problem with that. He's upset that it's used in a way that he doesn't like.

It is true that there are differences between many of those old school journalists and the new school who are breaking all of this news. The old school tried to buddy up with government sources to get their story. The new school would rather get the story. Apparently that upsets the old school, because it makes their stenography "reporting" a bit less interesting.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2013 @ 4:06pm

    Sounds more to me like that was probably a defining moment in Toobin's life and he's reacting strongly against a familiar-sounding young man who, faced with the same situation, made the opposite decision. I bet Toobin even "fessed up" to his colleagues and begged for mercy, and years after having gotten off essentially scot-free, he decided that was somehow noble and his greatest redeeming quality from this otherwise embarrassing pathetic moment.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2013 @ 4:35pm

    He used to be a journalist

    I am amazed when people can't see their own hypocrisy.
    We are all hypocrites to an extent, but we are usually aware of it. They must be narcissists. How else can you explain their disregard for reality about themselves.

    Toobin is "obviously" a better journalist in his head.


    Authoritarian narcissist pretending to be a journalist.

     

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    Gwiz (profile), Aug 26th, 2013 @ 4:38pm

    I think the last sentence of this article deserves insightful votes all on it's own.

     

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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 26th, 2013 @ 5:51pm

    Repeat after me: Reporting what the government wants us to hear is not journalism.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2013 @ 6:02pm

    From Iran-contra to the NSA

    Did someone say Iran-contra?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran-contra

    Robert McFarlane resigned on December 4, 1985,[31][32] citing that he wanted to spend more time with his family.[33] He was replaced by Admiral John Poindexter.[34]

    Did someone say John Poindexter?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Poindexter

    From January 2002 to August 2003, Poindexter served as the Director of the DARPA Information Awareness Office (IAO).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_Awareness_Office

    On November 14, 2002, The New York Times published a column by William Safire in which he claimed "[TIA] has been given a $200 million budget to create computer dossiers on 300 million Americans."[31] Safire has been credited with triggering the anti-TIA movement.[32]

     

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    sorrykb (profile), Aug 26th, 2013 @ 6:50pm

    Old school?

    It is true that there are differences between many of those old school journalists and the new school who are breaking all of this news.

    I don't know that it's so much "old school vs new school", as it is "middle school vs new school". Plenty of old-school journalists believed in the importance of "speaking truth to power"; sadly, their kind of journalism died out in the past few decades as news media became increasingly more indebted to the Washington and Wall Street elite. In their place we got the "middle school" journalists who are more about developing powerful connections than challenging power. (Bill Moyers had an excellent interview and essay last week that dealt with this. billmoyers.com/segment/bill-moyers-essay-the-end-game-for-democracy/ ) Now, we have the new school come to challenge them, so naturally they're feeling threatened.
    ...
    And of course there's always the "hey-you-punk-kids-get-off-my-lawn" factor, which seems to happen with every generation.

     

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      Beech, Aug 26th, 2013 @ 7:15pm

      Re: Old school?

      Thats a good point, and it makes me wonder why the old school died out. I'm going to go ahead and assume it has something to do with the "balance" card. See the article earlier this year about how EA effectively silence criticism of their latest SimCity game just by not saying anything at all. There was a whole powder keg about the game not working because of DRM, them saying the game couldn't run without the DRM, the DRM wasn't DRM at all, etc. Then it coming out that surprise surprise, the always on connection really isnt that important and actually makes gameplay worse (by miscounting citizens or somesuch). EA killed the story, more or less, by refusing to comment on it. Gaming sites were afraid to say anything about the debacle without airing EA's "side" of the "argument" for fear of sounding biased, so the sites said nothing. I'm assuming the same goes for goverment and wall street. If you don't like what a journalist is saying, just shut them out. ignore them and they can't say a thing. Maybe slide leads towards writers who are a bit more "sympathetic" to your cause.

       

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      Ninja (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 5:47am

      Re: Old school?

      I'm not sure about this old/middle-school thing. I'm guessing that Orwell's definition suits the issue perfectly:

      "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations." - George Orwell, British writer (1903-1950)

      Fact is both Journalism and Public Relations have sort of co-existed for quite some time now. And honestly we need a bit of both. I do not condemn those journalists that get in good terms with Govt officials and the ones in power so they can dive deeper in that realm. I do condemn when they just report on an issue with complete lack of critical thinking. One thing is to be soft not to upset your connections, another is to blatantly ignore reality. Another condemnable behavior from those people is exactly what's happening now: lashing out at those who do the heavy investigative work. You see, these guys are as important as they are. There's no need for "us vs them" because each portion has their own importance and none can really replace the other.

      There are those that went from being the truly investigative ones to being the ones relying on connections and maybe those are what you can call old school journalists but the terms old shcool and new school are not enough to define what's happening. And it falls back to the millenniums old clash between generations which is a really bad thing. A much more reasonable path would be of cooperation where the old don't limit the new and the new don't dismiss the old experiences as if they don't matter.

       

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    art guerrilla (profile), Aug 26th, 2013 @ 6:54pm

    korporate media turns journalism upside down...

    ...instead of comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable, they have gone full bizarro world...

    kampers, do NOT forget: the sea eye ehh, etc HAVE and no doubt still do, recruit, influence, or simply *are* numerous 'journalists' in amerika...

    *SOMEONE* has to be the spook's water carriers, could be toobin as well as any number of sycophantic 'reporters'...

    just sayin'...
    oh, and he's slime, regardless of being spooked up...

    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2013 @ 7:38pm

    Whats this article about

    Or is it just you indicating your desire to be considered a journalist ?

    Good luck with that. People don't generally consider you a journalist, even if you think you are.

    Journalist's do journalism. Journalists generally don't spend their time talking about other journalists, or copy and pasting their work.

    They do their own stuff.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2013 @ 7:39pm

    wow Masnick you worked out censorship now

    We'll done..

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2013 @ 7:47pm

    Must be great having everyone agree with you

    shame it destroyed any debate of discussion, or questions, we know you don't like to be shown wrong, you don't like free speech, especially speech you don't agree with, or might disagree with your mantra..

    I note it has resulted in a far less interesting site, and less page hits.. So you lose every way, even money..

    All because you want to censor people..

    You might as well do what PJ did and shut the web page down, if all you are willing to do is talk to people who agree with you..

    Makes coming to this site for discussion or debate pointless.

    You might as well just email your 'posts' to the 10 or so people who accept the crap you talk.

    RIP Free Speech..

     

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    techflaws (profile), Aug 26th, 2013 @ 8:00pm

    Jealous much?

     

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    Androgynous Cowherd, Aug 26th, 2013 @ 8:12pm

    Alternate explanation

    Toobin isn't upset that documents were taken as a part of journalism, since it appears that he, himself, had no problem with that. He's upset that it's used in a way that he doesn't like.


    Or, maybe he's jealous that these others didn't chicken out the way he did.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2013 @ 8:51pm

    Matt Ingram

    I read "Matt Ingram" as "Matt Inman" and started wondering what The Oatmeal had to do with all this.....

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2013 @ 9:31pm

      Re: Matt Ingram

      "I read "Matt Ingram" as "Matt Inman" and started wondering what The Oatmeal had to do with all this..."
      Well, if for a moment you can stomach the idea of his drawings making him a "journalist," much like "Toolbin" fellow he either is — or longs to be — part of the corporate elite/in-crowd with access, what with his immersive obsession with the usability of corporations' intelligence-gathering social-media ass-fuckery, shameless product placements, and embrace of out-of-control "imaginary property 'rights'."

      See his "State of the Web" drawings for examples of corporate propagandizing run amok.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2013 @ 9:40pm

    Rules always apply to the "other people"

     

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    bc (profile), Aug 26th, 2013 @ 11:15pm

    This might be a valid argument, if there were a "journalism establishment" any more. It seems more and more, that I find little evidence of journalism, and more of infotainment these days... Talking heads interviewing opinion-ators...

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 27th, 2013 @ 6:17am

    Using 'blogger' as a derogatory term

    What makes these so-called 'journalists' different from Glen Greenwald? Why is he considered only a 'blogger'?

    Is it because his content doesn't regularly appear in print anywhere? Is the the only difference?

    I used to think those doling out the special 'journalism' title just go by whether someone works for an actual newspaper. But he works for the Guardian, for goodness sake. Does that not count?

    To a huge number of people, a blog means either amateur or off-the-cuff (little research) type of writing. Certainly anyone who's followed Greenwald over the past few years can't say either thing applies.

     

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    halley (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 8:30am

    The blogger-isn't-journalism thing again.

    "The larger sense I get from the criticism directed at Mr. Assange and Mr. Greenwald is one of distaste ó that they arenít what we think of as real journalists. Instead, they represent an emerging Fifth Estate composed of leakers, activists and bloggers who threaten those of us in traditional media. They are, as one says, not like us."


    My reply to this:

    If every individual is a member of the militia, for Second Amendment purposes, then also recognize that every individual is a member of the free press, for First Amendment purposes.

     

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      art guerrilla (profile), Aug 27th, 2013 @ 9:28am

      Re:

      Exactly, a million (actually, approx 300 million) times this, reporters are acting as OUR proxies to do the investigations, attend the public hearings, etc, which we citizens could theoretically do, but practically can not.
      Therefore we ALL should have 'free press' rights REGARDLESS of whether we are formal journalists or not.
      Thank you.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2013 @ 12:52am

    To give up practicing law is the same as a dishonorable discharge in the service. You committed a felony. The fees to continue membership in the bar is inconsequential. So I expect to see his tag on many questionable articles.

     

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