‘The state of the journalistic art’: In defence of Rolling Stone’s Gen. McChrystal reporter

The furore following Rolling Stone’s General McChrystal feature doesn’t look like calming down any time soon.

Eric Alterman, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress has put together a great post calling into question some of the criticisms of RS reporter Michael Hastings.

Reporter after reporter has complained that by accurately reporting what McChyrstal and his aides said in explicitly on-the-record conversations to a reporter with a tape recorder and/or notepad in his hand, Hastings has violated the tenets of professional journalism.

One comment he refers to was from David Brooks, opinion columnist for the New York Times, who called Hastings a product of the “culture of exposure”:

But McChrystal, like everyone else, kvetched. And having apparently missed the last 50 years of cultural history, he did so on the record, in front of a reporter. And this reporter, being a product of the culture of exposure, made the kvetching the center of his magazine profile.

By putting the kvetching in the magazine, the reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority. He took a successful general and made it impossible for President Obama to retain him.

But in Alterman’s view, the feature was the epitome of quality journalism.

(…) an almost picture-perfect example of skillful interviewing, smooth narrative writing, extremely exhaustive research, and finally (and perhaps rarest) thoughtful contextualizing of extremely complicated material. I recommend it to all journalism professors as an example of the state of the journalistic art.

Read the full post here…

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