Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jonathan Krause: J-School Flunkie

I have a lot of issues with Jonathan Krause's lazy brand of worthless commentary, but today on his blog he made a bold venture in to real reporting and failed so spectacularly that it would actually get most journalists fired.

Here are the first paragraphs of Krause's post this morning:
I got the following e-mail from yesterday from Zach Lowe, the Press Secretary for Senator Russ Feingold:


I saw your “Where's Our $100-Million????” blog post this morning and wanted to point out a couple things on background.
Wow -- that's a big get: a response from the office of sitting U.S. senator. Unfortunately, Krause was completely oblivious to the sentence bolded above. Feingold's press secretary is submitting this email unsolicited and "on background." For those who don't know the journalistic lingo, here's what "on background" means, from Wiki:
"On background" (Canadian Association of Journalists). The thrust of the briefing may be reported (and the source characterized in general terms as above) but direct quotes may not be used.
That certainly doesn't mean one can print the whole damn email on one's blog.

From Webster's Dictionary:
(Journalism) An agreement between a journalist and an interviewee that the name of the interviewee will not be quoted in any publication, although the substance of the remarks may be reported; - often used in the phrase "on background". Compare deep background.
Again, same as above: this doesn't mean reprint the whole email.

And from the NYU School of Journalism Ethics Handbook:
"On background" is a kind of limited license to print what the source gives you without using the source's name. But most veteran reporters will not use "on background" information until they can verify it with other sources. People try to go "on background" when their information is very sensitive, which is to say, the information is likely to cause a stir. "On background" means the source's name does not appear in the story. In effect it confers anonymity on your source, but allows you to work with the information the source has provided. Again, it's best to consult your professor in these situations.
Again, same result as the above. We could go on and on but I think you get the point.

In other words, Lowe's email was sent as a professional courtesy to the reporter and not as something intended for public consumption (at least directly). This is Journalism School 101. We can have a debate about whether this is ethical or not, but the fact of the matter is that this is how the world works at the moment and Krause just demonstrated for one and all he has no concept of professional ethics as they currently stand. For someone who's title is "News Director" this is supremely embarrassing.

The astonishing thing is that Krause seems to be throwing a valuable potential source under the bus for almost no reason whatsoever. Lowe's email seeks to clarify Feingold's position on the public option. Krause decided to respond like an angry constituent and fired back a silly string of examples that he believes suggests Feingold is full of it, but really it's nothing more than semantics. I don't know if this is part of Krause's on-air shtick or if he's stupid enough to believe that he's caught Feingold's office in a flip-flop or a lie or whatever.

He didn't. Public officials choose their words very carefully and Krause is interpreting some of Feingold's statement a little too loosely. I doubt Krause understands this because, and let's face it here, folks: Krause is not exactly a wonder of Socratic debate.

I can't imagine he's going to be getting many calls returned from Feingold's office after this little stunt (and you can bet word of mouth will eventually trickle on over to Sen. Kohl's staff as well as the rest of the state's congressional delegation in the House). If someone's a public official in the area, working at the state or municipal level, they're probably thinking twice about working with this clown in the future. Basically, Krause just screwed himself and his radio station by pulling a stupid little stunt that gets him absolutely nowhere.

No comments: