Up in flames

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Unable to get the Pentagon, the Congress or mass media to pay attention to his allegations that Lockheed did shoddy work on a government contract, former Lockheed engineer Michael De Kort aired a video on YouTube to publicize his complaints — which started a ripple effect of media attention. If you’ll bear with me I’ll explain why this incident calls to mind the famous picture, above, of Buddhist monk Thich Quong Duc, who set himself on fire in 1963 to call attention to the goings-on in then little-noticed Vietnam.

MediaPost reporter Tom Siebert details how De Kort spent three years working through official channels, then contacted 75 different media outlets befor he decided to air a 10-minute video on August 3. Siebert writes:

“His allegations were subsequently reported in the Navy Times, and then picked up by The Washington Post, NPR and other news organizations.”

I found a CBS News report that contained these comments from various members of the officialdom:

“The Homeland Security inspector general is investigating. The Coast Guard says it’s already ‘taken the appropriate level of action with respect to each of (DeKort’s) stated issues.’ And Lockheed Martin says the claims are without merit and don’t pose safety or security issues.”

But here is the statement that I’ll chew on over the long weekend ahead. It comes from Siebert’s analysis of this new media whistleblower incident. I paste the appropriate paragraph below:

“Is this a case of citizen journalism sounding an alarm so loud that the mainstream media has to act? Not really, says one expert. ‘This is terrific, certainly if the guy is speaking the truth. But it’s not journalism,’ says Edward Wasserman, Knight Professor of Journalistic Ethics at Washington & Lee University in Virginia. ‘It’s his story–his side of things. A journalist would take his claims and talk to other people to reach the truth.’ “

Okay, I get it. So if the he-said cannot be balanced by the she-said, or the smoking gun cannot be found (a tough act given that De Kort had been flogging this story for three years) then it can’t be journalism.

But of course there’s still hope. All a whistleblower has to do is set him or herself aflame, professionally-speaking, of course — and this act of self-immolation justifies the attention of the Fourth Estate.

Hmmnnn. Perhaps this helps explain why modern American journalism has all the firmness of white bread dipped in warm milk, as I have ranted previously.