It’s not like Journalism is Fight Club.
I’m kind of running on Doctor Who-time here, but I thought this article/critique of Tom Ricks in the Columbia Journalism Review was, well, rather odd.
The charge seems to be that Ricks ceased to be an objective journalist and has instead become an opinionated advocate for counterinsurgency strategy. Well…yes. And I’m not sure Ricks would disagree. There is a reason he works for CNAS instead of the Washington Post. There’s a reason he produced two books and maintains a blog, rather than doing file copy for a newspaper. It’s because he…ceased to be an objective journalist when he became an opinionated advocate for counterinsurgency strategy.
The article apparently disapproves of that move, because every other paragraph from halfway through is a quote from someone in the Beltway ragging on Ricks’ insatiable appetite for this topic. The author looks to criticize Ricks for no longer retaining the journalist’s virtue of objectivity, but the account of Ricks’ career clearly gives rationale for that: Ricks’ perspective from the embeds he did in the early part of this century gave him the basis to present his own accounting of those events. His books weren’t reporting; they were analyses. His blog isn’t reporting; it is commentary. And he has not somehow lost something by shifting into this other role. He has made a career change in line with his own personal changes.
I don’t really get the point of the article. Was it to deliver a hit to Tom Ricks for leaving the journalists’ club? Was it to claim that he has drunk the counterinsurgency kool-aid? Because it seems rather petty to criticize a dude who no longer claims journalistic objectivity for not retaining that journalistic objectivity.
Speaking of Ricks, he exercised his opinionated, non-newsprint-affiliated voice on Wednesday to criticize the spin put on illiteracy rates among ANSF troops by AP:
The Afghan army is “hard to train.” Why? Because the soldiers are illiterate. Pop quiz: How many of the Spartans at Thermopalye were literate? One reason armies have had officers is to ensure that for every 100 or so soldiers, there is someone who can decipher a map and read orders.
I kind of prefer this feisty, no-bullshit Ricks to WP-affiliated reporter Ricks, I must say.