The continued relevance of Stephen Glass

The truth is that many journalists today are not much different from Stephen Glass. They distort, pile on facts and anecdotes to support a questionable thesis, suppress and ignore facts and people they disagree with, and often out and out lie. I tell my students that one of the most important things they need to have is a sense of honor. Because, as several of the guest speakers I had this year told them, as a journalist you have the ability to destroy someone. So go deeper. Talk to your subject face to face. See their humanity. And remember the awful things you are capable of all in the name of being cool.

Dave Weigel, another Slate writer, admitted as much when he was caught a few years ago on the infamous Journolist saying nasty things about the conservatives he was supposedly objectively covering. As journalist Moe Tkacik wrote in The Washington City Paper, “two days after Weigel resigned he wrote a mea culpa of sorts explaining that he had been ‘dazzled’ by his admittance into the exclusive Journolist, and that he wrote his more insulting screeds against conservatives in a shameless bid to get liberals to like and accept them by telling them what they wanted to hear.” It is not a far step from this to the scenes in Shattered Glass where Stephen Glass is dazzling the liberal editors of The New Republic with his latest bullshit about crazy right-wingers. Of course, sometimes Weigel just makes an innocent error, like the rest of us. Like this one, which is way down on Slate’s corrections page today:

In a June 28 “Weigel” blog post, David Weigel originally stated, incorrectly, that 70 percent of black voters opposed California’s Proposition 8. That’s the number of black voters who supported the proposition, which banned gay marriage in the state.

Yeah, sometimes it’s just a mistake.

Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.