Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Anyone who has known me for a while knows that I have long railed against those who seek to judge and comment on journalism but do not know how journalism is done.

News, at least in the proper form, is the examination of facts and issues that are either interesting, important or unusual to an audience.

In many cases this includes shining a light on the extreme, even hateful, offensive and dangerous. To interview someone such as the self-described anti-Jewish alleged killer Frazier Glenn Miller and expose his hatred is an important aspect of coverage in the wake of the horrible criminal act he is accused of perpetrating.

The key is to find out how and why he has taken the extremist views he has. This does not mean that a journalist agrees with him or wants to promote those views. A good news person wants to find the facts and report them, and when those facts need to be questioned and challenged, engage in that as well.

And to write a story, as Rolling Stone did last year, about what led the Boston Marathon suspects to commit their horrible bombings is also important journalism. As criminologists seek to find motives and causes of crime, reporters must seek to find them as well.

So when Variety's Brian Lowry this week criticizes Howard Stern of all people for having Miller on his radio show years ago while he was a candidate for U.S. Senate, he misses the point. 

Yes, Stern is more of a comedic entertainer than a journalist. But if anyone has ever heard him conduct an interview, they know he is one of the best. From Dan Rather to Lady Gaga, Stern has had a knack for getting interview subjects to open up and speak honestly about everything from sex to parental abuse to money.

In the Miller interview, Stern gave listeners a good insight into his hateful rhetoric, including Miller calling Hitler "the greatest man to ever walk the earth." That showed how evil and dangerous Miller was. And he did so without supporting Miller and actually exposing him. 

Sure, he did it in a comedic way, which is his approach, but he and others who have had Miller on, such as Alan Colmes and filmmaker Sasha Baron Cohen, do a service by showing how horrible he is, not supporting him.

As Stern noted on his show today, other broadcast veterans from Phil Donahue to Oprah Winfrey have had their share of racists, child abusers, and other disreputable guests. But if they are on to show the world how they got that why or why they are dangerous, it is effective journalism.

Donahue once even had leaders of NAMBLA, the North American Man Boy Love Association on. Clearly a group without any defensible positions, but in a forum that showed how they think and why they exist -- clearly an important element in seeking to stop such activities and prevent them from occurring.

If news people want to really do their jobs, then exposing the truth behind Miller, the Boston bombers or any other criminal is an important aspect.

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