Journalists! Who are we!?

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The horrific death of journalist James Foley at the hands of ISIS has, quite appropriately, shocked and sickened all decent people. Now, the Boxing Rabbi knows very little about the art and craft of journalism, other than as a reader and viewer of journalistic work. However, I must wonder what some of those who practice the craft must think of the death of their incredibly brave colleague. I know that most journalists labor in relative obscurity, known mostly to their editors and friends, producing day after day outstanding pieces in the effort to tell the truth and write the “first draft of history” to the best of their ability. But the journalists whose names we tend to know, the TV pundits and pontificators, and Op-Ed writers, seem much more pre-occupied with their own fame, access and careers than with any kind of genuine truth telling. Watching “Morning Joe” this morning, there seems no other word to describe the likes of Chuck Todd, Mark Halperin, et al, than “smarmy” and condescending, and their greatest worry seems to be whether the latte their personal assistant hands them is sufficiently warm. What must they think of the likes of a James Foley, who gave his life in the course of (what is nominally) their own profession? Not long ago I was watching a “news” anchor on CNN ask a reporter in Tel Aviv with earnestness if the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier would change the dynamic in the war with Hamas. The Tel Aviv based reporter had to awkwardly and gently remind the “news” anchor that said soldier had been discovered killed and was buried three days earlier, at a funeral covered, in fact, by CNN. Do our current crop of celebrity journalists and pundits, whose words in fact do matter in terms of our national debate feel anything at all when they see the work of a James Foley? (The title of this piece is taken from the cheesy movie 300 as Gerard Butler asks the Athenian soldiers who they are, and in fact they reveal themselves to be something other than real soldiers). Is that now the truth behind the celebrity journalists of our time?

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