ABC’s senior political correspondent Jonathan Karl, of the now infamous Benghazi email lie, is an alumnus of a conservative media training program Collegiate Network. He stands now accused of making himself vulnerable to being used for political purposes, as he still refuses to apologize for taking the word of a Republican and passing it off as having access to the actual documents.
Fair Org reported:
Karl came to mainstream journalism via the Collegiate Network, an organization primarily devoted to promoting and supporting right-leaning newspapers on college campuses (Extra!, 9-10/91)—such as the Rutgers paper launched by the infamous James O’Keefe (Political Correction, 1/27/10). The network, founded in 1979, is one of several projects of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which seeks to strengthen conservative ideology on college campuses. William F. Buckley was the ISI’s first president, and the current board chair is American Spectator publisher Alfred Regnery. Several leading right-wing pundits came out of Collegiate-affiliated papers, including Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, Michelle Malkin, Rich Lowry and Laura Ingraham (Washington Times, 11/28/04).
The Collegiate Network also provides paid internships and fellowships to place its members at corporate media outlets or influential Beltway publications; 2010-11 placements include the Hill, Roll Call, Dallas Morning News and USA Today. The program’s highest-profile alum is Karl, who was a Collegiate fellow at the neoliberal New Republic magazine.
CN has received funding from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, Scaife Family Foundation, The Carthage Foundation, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, John M. Olin Foundation, and the JM Foundation. But it’s administered by ISI. ISI claims to be non-partisan and tax exempt (cough), but read Reagan’s thanks to ISI for the “troops”, “By the time the Reagan Revolution marched into Washington, I had the troops I needed—thanks in no small measure to the work with American youth ISI had been doing since 1953.”
On January 27, 2010, Talking Points Memo reported that three of the four men arrested for allegedly attempting to wiretap Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office were involved with conservative student newspapers that were supported by the conservative Collegiate Network, administered by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. TPM also pointed out that the Leadership Institute is a “group that aims to recruit and train conservative activists.”
Does this mean that Jonathan Karl is not a good reporter? No, it doesn’t. One can have an ideological bent and still be an excellent reporter. If not, most reporters would be out of work. However, it’s troubling that our media doesn’t require the disclosure of this bent (thanks, Fox). But the real problem comes from him allowing his desire for an anti-Obama scandal to be true to cause him to drop his standards. His crime isn’t being taken in by a source with a grudge or running with that source, even, though you’d think he would want to get a second, non partisan source to corroborate the claims of a Republican from Capitol Hill.
Jonathan Karl did something unforgivable when he claimed to have reviewed the emails.
Journalism experts are not impressed with Karl, and say that he has made himself vulnerable to being used for political purposes. They call his reporting at best sloppy and at worse a deliberate attempt to conceal the nature of his source. Here’s a roundup from Media Matters:
“At best, it’s extremely sloppy. At worst, it’s a deliberate attempt to conceal the secondhand — and possibly distorted — nature of the information ABC was relying on so as to put its shoulder to the wheel of a highly prejudicial reading of the affair,” said Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Miami Herald columnist. “Whether best or worst is true, it’s highly problematic ethically, and the failure to acknowledge and correct is even worse.”
Tim McGuire, journalism professor at Arizona State University and former president of the American Society of News Editors, criticized Karl for failing to adhere to basic standards of ethics.
“If the ethical journalist is dedicated to transparency Mr. Karl seems to have failed that standard,” he said in an email. “The Benghazi story raises such trust issues anyway it seems to me all the details of what Mr. Karl saw are crucial to both sides.”
Tom Fiedler, dean of the Boston University College of Communication and former Miami Herald executive editor, (snip) said that Karl’s reporting has suffered from its inconsistent and at times false descriptions of what he had reviewed.
“At minimum, Karl should have acknowledged on the air and in his on-line postings that he had only seen (or had read to him) summaries, and that he couldn’t say whether those summaries were in context of the original e-mails,” he added. “This caveat is no small thing as Karl could well have left himself vulnerable to being used for political purposes.”
Following his lead, CBS’ right wing Sharyl Attkisson “also presented a set of email “summaries” as authentic emails, but stopped short of explicitly claiming that she had “obtained,” “reviewed,” or ha otherwise actually seen the real emails…”
This is not acceptable. It’s made worse by Karl’s partisan background and the stench of O’Keefe-esque associations. If this were Fox News, we’d be headlining, “Jonathan Karl started his career in the living rooms of serial liars and extremists, pallin’ around” with Ann Coulter, Dinesh D’Souza, Michelle Malkin, Rich Lowry and Laura Ingraham.” But remote associations are not character indictments per se, no matter how cravenly the right used Sarah Palin to suggest otherwise. They do, however, smell a bit rotten when the same person just forwarded the agenda of said associates by misleading the public in the same sort of way as the associates.
Karl has won numerous awards for his reporting, but he’s also accused of being a bit naive in reporting Republican talking points. This time, his ability to believe got the better of his judgment and what I presume to be his standards. That’s not something to be brushed aside lightly.
Bias should be disclosed, but bias should also inform your values, not your facts or your standards.
Yes, everyone makes mistakes and yes, it’s not entirely Karl’s fault that he got taken by a source. It is his fault that he did not explain that the emails were never provided to him directly, and that he was taking a Republican’s word for what they said. That was also just plain stupid, and unworthy of a blogger let alone an award winning journalist.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.