As we reported yesterday, on June 27th Glenn Greenwald addressed, via Skype, the annual U.S. ‘Socialism Conference’, a speech which was characteristically loaded with sophomoric platitudes, contemptuous diatribes directed at the U.S. government, and smears of his critics.
While you can view the entire video yourself to glimpse Greenwald’s triumphalism over his partnership with Edward Snowden, the following quote from his talk is especially worth exploring as it reveals much about his highly skewed understanding of what it means to be a journalist.
At roughly the 15 minute mark, Greenwald makes the following claim:
David Halberstam defined the measurement of good journalism as how much you anger the people in power that you’re covering…while most establishment journalists measure it by how much you please the people in power that you’re covering. And, for me, if you are pleasing the people in power with the things that you’re disclosing you may be very good at your job, but your job is not journalism.
Is that really the job of professional journalists? Should reporters at the Guardian and other news sites measure their effectiveness by the degree to which they “anger the people in power”?
I’m sure most people working in the profession could easily refute such a facile and appallingly juvenile understanding of what it means to be a journalist, but a good answer to Greenwald’s hackneyed cliché was recently provided by a commenter beneath the line at a blog friendly to Greenwald. Here’s what the commenter wrote:
Glenn Greenwald is really full of himself these days. Good journalism is not measured by “how angry you make the people your covering.” That is a conceit that only Greenwald could come up with.
Good journalism is measured by how deeply, accurately, and objectively one covers a story or event. In doing so, a good journalist may indeed anger those he is covering. But not necessarily so. If Greenwald thinks that good journalism is only that which angers those being covered, he has a very narrow, pinched view of what constitutes journalism.
If Glenn Greenwald wants to be a political activist that is of course his right. However, those who read and fancy his commentaries at ‘Comment is Free’ must at least disabuse themselves from the increasingly absurd notion that what he’s engaged in at the Guardian even remotely resembles professional journalism.