The Ordinary American, Under Stress and Oversimplified
Ken Grubbs was director of the conservative National Journalism Center until he wrote a piece criticizing Washington Times founder the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Now he's out of a job.
The organization arranges internships and seminars while recruiting conservative and libertarian speakers for college campuses. Grubbs, an editor at the Times in the 1980s, has written for the American Spectator without incident, but his July 2 piece for the Wall Street Journal triggered his downfall.
Picking up on a Capitol Hill appearance by Moon, who proclaimed himself the Messiah and was crowned by one congressman, Grubbs wrote that the incident "has got to be freshly embarrassing to the many fine journalists who work at the Times." He also noted that the Times "has never been a mere lapdog" to Moon's Unification Church.
Ron Robinson, president of Young America's Foundation, which oversees the journalism center, says he dismissed Grubbs because "I don't view the role of director as criticizing the media, writing commentaries attacking the media. I didn't expect Ken to do it." Such pieces make it harder for the center to place interns, Robinson says, and was the "final straw" because under Grubbs fundraising and internships have lagged.
Grubbs says that his writing "only builds our integrity" and that Robinson's request that he clear any freelance pieces amounted to "prior restraint. . . . He said, 'The Washington Times has been very good to us, has covered our events, and you've impugned their integrity.' I don't think he understands journalism, and there was a culture clash."
Inside the Bubble
The most absurd moment comes when New York Times reporter Jodi Wilgoren tells a John Kerry staffer: "I'm told I have to be escorted to the bathroom." He nods.
"But I really have to go to the bathroom."
"Politics & the Media," a documentary airing at 8 p.m. tomorrow on the Discovery Times Channel, provides a backstage look at life on the campaign plane, the scramble among photographers, CNN's Super Tuesday coverage and the role of the Web.
Wilgoren, who's embedded with the Kerry campaign, tells an interviewer for the channel affiliated with her newspaper: "A really big problem in the press corps right now is just a feeling that there's really a total lack of access to the candidate."
Times correspondent Adam Nagourney objects to not-for-publication schmoozing on the plane: "You don't want to be in a situation where a candidate is coming back and going off the record because I think ultimately that benefits the candidate and not you."
No less an authority than Howard Dean says candidates can't trust any off-the-record agreement with a dozen reporters because they all "fear . . . that one of them will cheat and scoop all the other reporters."
Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller, describing the president's "deep distrust of the press," says, "The Bush administration's spin can be quite exhausting because some days it doesn't matter who you call, they all use the exact same phrasing."
So how much do journalists learn about candidates like Kerry by trailing them around the clock? "They're always on," says CNN's Candy Crowley. "You never really know who that guy is."
Footnote: The Times editorial page has now joined the newsroom in admitting mistakes during the run-up to the Iraq war: "We did not listen carefully to the people who disagreed with us. . . . If we had known that there were probably no unconventional weapons, we would have argued earlier and harder that invading Iraq made no sense."
Picture of Restraint
One of the memos to the Fox News staff from Senior Vice President John Moody that didn't make it into the anti-Fox movie "Outfoxed," as posted on Wonkette.com:
"The President and the PM of Canada meet today and will make remarks at midday. Take the remarks, even if Jacko is singing on top of a truck with no pants on at the time."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Life aboard the campaign plane of John Kerry, here playing with a football, is examined in "Politics & the Media" on the Discovery Times Channel.
(Jim Bourg -- Reuters)
_____More Media Notes_____
Dude, Where's My Agenda? (washingtonpost.com, Jul 20, 2004)
Paint by Numbers (The Washington Post, Jul 12, 2004)
After 'My Life,' A Payback Backlash (The Washington Post, Jul 5, 2004)
Phoneless Reporters Can't Make the Call (The Washington Post, Jun 29, 2004)
Hear No Lichtblau, See No Lichtblau (The Washington Post, Jun 28, 2004)