Letter to the Editor

Don Kaul's Journalism

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In the Saturday, September 11, edition of the Pilot Tribune, there was an article on the commentary page by Don Kaul, in which he, as a self-professed "mainstream, fair minded journalist" "set the record straight" on numerous "falsehoods believed to be true by many of the bewildered among us". As a former journalist, journalism professor and journalism lawyer, I just can't let his article go by without calling it to account.

I don't know Mr. Kaul--he may have built a reputation as another Walter Cronkite (or not), be tremendously revered as a journalist (or not), and be a popular nice guy (probably is)--I don't know. What I do know is that his commentary "to set the record straight" should be an embarrassment to a mainstream journalist.

Mr. Kaul presented five "falsehoods" that we bewildered believe, with his "corrections in the spirit of truth and justice". Unfortunately, he presented his "truths" without one shred of substantiation or validation for any of them--which makes them pure (and obviously biased) unsubstantiated opinion, cloaked in the prestige of "journalism". Such practice, as I taught my journalism and law students, is the kiss of death to a journalist's believability and reputation (although it is not uncommon today). Mr. Kaul offered the following "falsehoods" , with his "corrections":

1) that the proposed Mosque planned to be built near "ground zero" in NYC is to taunt the survivors of 9/11. Mr. Kaul deflects such idea with assertions that the Mosque will be a community center for all, with only minimal use for Muslims, and that he "would think" it should not bother visiting survivors to the site. He offered absolutely no basis for his assertions;

2) that Obama is a Muslim. Kaul reported: "No he is not." He gave only that terse declaration, with no further comment;

3) that Obama is planning a stealth tax hike to fund his socialist schemes. Kaul stated: "Not really", and submitted his perspective. But again, he presented no basis, no evidence, to the contrary--just his opinion;

4) that Obama is not a native born American. Kaul stated: "Yes he is". He gave no other comment. You are expected to take his word on his faith;

5) that "the Left Wing has a stranglehold on the government, and that the mission of conservatives (the Right Wing) is to rescue future generations from Socialist Hell". Kaul asserted that there is no Left wing, not much off a Right Wing (just the commotion it makes), and that the great majority of Americans belong to the "Party of Indifference". True to form, he again presented a sweeping "correction" with absolutely no corroboration.

I am not clairvoyant. I do not know for certain if Mr. Kaul's falsehoods (I have to wonder where he got them) are true or false; or whether his "corrections" (I also wonder where he got them, he never said) are valid or invalid--but they weren't justified in his article. But what I do know is that a journalist who professes to enlighten the "bewildered among us" with "truth, justice and setting the record straight", and who makes direct sweeping assertions as fact without any substantiation (no records, statistics, sources, data, surveys, authoritative quotes--nothing) for any of them has to be suspect.

With all due respect, Mr. Kaul is full of himself (and his bias is showing).