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How Journalism Was Done in The Good Old Days: With Payoffs

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Wash Post's Howard Kurtz has a long article on a new book dealing with his one-time boss, legendary newsman Jack Anderson:

There was a time in Washington when Jack Anderson was a hero, the columnist who kept unearthing Richard Nixon's dark secrets, a Pulitzer winner who revealed the administration's secret tilt toward Pakistan in its war against India.

But Anderson's reputation would have been shredded had anyone learned that he paid off the source who slipped him the classified documents on Pakistan. Here's how it went down: Anderson bought some undeveloped California land from Navy yeoman Charles Radford, using an old high school friend as a middleman to disguise the transaction. "It was really a payoff," Anderson acknowledged a few months before his death.

Anderson made the admission to author Mark Feldstein, an associate professor at George Washington University. When Feldstein worked as an Anderson intern in the 1970s, he says, "I looked up to him and admired him. He certainly had his warts, God knows. I certainly realized that his later career turned embarrassing. Any of us who worked for him knew the tactics he used were not the ones I teach in journalism school."

But, he says, "the blackmail and bribery came as a shock."

Feldstein's new book "Poisoning the Press"stunned me, another former Anderson reporter from that era, and may transform the muckraker's image as well. While detailing Nixon's utter obsession with Anderson—to the point that 16 CIA operatives once kept him under surveillance and Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy plotted to kill him—the author makes the case that each side employed equally ruthless methods against the other.

Oh to have been a journalist when G. Gordon Liddy was plotting to kill people rather than sell them gold!

Whole thing here.

Hat Tip: Alan Vanneman, world's greatest tipster.

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  1. Journalists have ALWAYS had a lot of horseshit oozing off their papers since the fucking things were invented; in the old days they simply made shit up out of thin-fucking-air ’cause there was no way anyone could really call bullshit except for a different newspaper and even then they rarely could be bothered with something as boring as ethics!

  2. Gold!
    GOLD!
    GOLD I TELL YOU, GOLD!

    1. Mock away. Gold just set a new (nominal) high, and my gold mining portfolio is up 14% this year.

  3. I can understand the ethical problem of a reporter accepting a covert payment to induce him to write a story.

    But where, exactly, is the ethical problem with paying a source?

    I can see that paid sources might be less reliable [since someone might make up a story to get the payment] but when we’re talking about data or evidence in the possession of a source that you’re getting him to reveal I don’t see how that credibility impact is really a factor.

    The Zapruder film is the Zapruder film whether you buy it or not.

    1. Because money is evil and someone might profit? Just a guess.

    2. Yeah, full disclosure of the payment lets the reader decide how reliable it is. Currently, many sources are “paid off” in undisclosed ways, such as getting revenge on a boss they don’t like or sabotaging a policy they disagree with.

    3. Agreed Fluffy.

      Journalists and the NCAA both run cartels by agreeing it is “unethical” to pay the people – sources or athletes – who make them a lot of money.

      1. Transplant surgeons can be added to that list, I think.

  4. What IS it about the smell of Vanneman’s nether regions that drives all the Reason boys wild?

  5. While detailing Nixon’s utter obsession with Anderson — to the point that 16 CIA operatives once kept him under surveillance

    Wow. 16 CIA operatives, and they didn’t unearth a mundane money-laundering scheme, much less the blackmail and miscellaneous bribery. I’m guessing the one in charge was Valerie Plame.

    1. Doubtful, since Plame started with the CIA in ’91. My vote goes to the guy who thought up Castro’s exploding ceegar.

    2. CIA wouldn’t be interested in finding evidence of or proving crimes, that would be the FBI. CIA would have been on him to prevent intelligence disclosures and sabotage his efforts.

  6. How did David Axelrod get in that picture?

  7. Vanneman, what did you get for the hat tip? A hat?

    1. He can dance if he want to
      He can leave your friends behind…

  8. “While detailing Nixon’s utter obsession with Anderson — to the point that 16 CIA operatives once kept him under surveillance and Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy plotted to kill him — the author makes the case that each side employed equally ruthless methods against the other.

    Oh, the even-handedness of Howie! Did Jack Anderson have 16 federal agents spying on Nixon? Was he planning to assassinate him? But god forbid that a reporter should suggest that one side was “better” than the other. That would be partisanship!

    1. Yeah, I kind of noticed that too.

      As for Anderson’s actions, I ‘m not bothered by how he got his info so long as it was accurate. The TRUTH, damn it! I mean, that is what I would say to justify it if I was in the screed business.

  9. Nixon. The press goes back to him the way foreign policy interventionalists go back to WWII.

  10. I’ve seen G. Gordon Liddy’s gold commercials. I think he’d going to kill me if I don’t buy gold.

  11. “equally ruthless methods”

    Paying someone for valid information is equally ruthless as a murder plot?

  12. Did you really have to buy land in California to learn that the Nixon Admin. would back a Muslim anti-communist dictatorship rather than a socialist Soviet-leaning democracy?

  13. I haven’t listened in years, but on his radio show back in the ’90s, Liddy used to read the newspaper aloud on the air. And get paid for it. Nice gig.

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