In the past week there has been a lot of fuss, including a call for a journalist to be fired for having the temerity to ask questions of the US President during a prepared statement he gave to the press at the White House Friday last.
Barack Obama, feeling safe on what he believed to be his own unassailable Rose Lawn, was pulled up short while issuing a monologue on immigration. Neil Munro, a scribbler with a right wing journal, The Daily Caller, asked questions that many with a liberal or left disposition would suspect are fuelled by ideas they do not approve of, in fact are deeply hostile to: ‘why’d you favour foreigners over Americans?’ and 'what about American workers who are unemployed, while you employ foreigners?' sort of underscore the point.
Questions that send our instinctive radar tracker bleeping as it detects a foreign body in the gene pool of ideas – a right wing conservative working to an agenda which might just spread.
But that is no reason to want to have a question strangled, at least not for writers. Keep others away from the ink well and it is only a matter of time before the well dries up for you too. That basic journalistic principle however failed to prevent a number of liberal writers joining with their conservative colleagues across the US in heaping abuse on Munro.
Munro’s explanation for his actions was straight out of the journalistic school of first principles.
We at The Daily Caller will not try to be easy on him and try not to be easy on the next president. It’s our job to work for the American people through our publication to provide them the information that the politicians are reluctant to hand out. We’ve got to do our job.
What else is a journalist supposed to do? Those who might beg to differ have perhaps been too enamoured of the school of embedded journalism that really dug in at the start of the war Bush and Blair waged on Iraq. Despite his supposed breach of protocol Munro's actions are all the more defensible given that Obama seems to regard these events as a one man show on a one way street.
I know he rarely takes questions before walking away from the podium. When I asked the question as he finished his speech, he turned his back on the many reporters, and walked away while I and at least one other reporter asked questions.
Chris Bray with a keen eye for these matters asked the obvious question on his blog:
Why do reporters go to these things? They get no information that they couldn't get by sitting in their offices and reading the statement on the White House website or by watching the thing on CNN. What is the point of their presence? What are they doing?
And if they don't ask any questions, in what sense are they engaged in "reporting," and in what sense are they "reporters," and couldn't the news media just save resources by pooling their cash and hiring a single clerk-typist to transcribe the television feed, just in case the press office fails to spoonfeed the official transcript in a timely fashion?
Munro might sit on part of the political spectrum far removed for ourselves but being on the right should never be allowed to infringe on his being in the right as a journalist to do journalism.