Joe Biden’s Beach Party

One of the things everyone made clear to me when I left the Atlantic to come work at CAP/AF was that I wouldn’t have the same kind of credibility working at an advocacy/education nonprofit as I would as a real journalist.

Meanwhile, Marc Ambinder ponders some tough questions about the nature of the profession:

Does an afternoon of leisure with senior administration officials violate journalistic ethics? To many, the self-evident answer is: “Absolutely.” I have a different view, although perhaps it’s a way to rationalize my own decision to attend the Bidens’ first beach party for journalists. Later today, I’ll lay out some thoughts about the ethics of all of this, but to whet appetites, here’s a bit of video I recorded. The players include the president’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, David Sanger of the New York Times, and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Note the teasing banter between Emanuel and Sanger. (Note, too, that shortly after I shot this video, Emanuel sprayed me in the shirt with his Super Soaker. I have a picture of that, too.)

At any rate, journalistic ethics is just the standards of conduct that journalists do in practice hold themselves to and it’s clear that attending parties hosted by the powerful officials they’re nominally covering is more-or-less par for the course.

The only non-obvious thing I would add to this is that not only do reporters get captured by their sources, but important officials come to be unduly concerned about the press coverage they get. It’s in the two-way nature of the dysfunctional dynamic that the tempests in teapots that plague the Beltway are born. Reporters spend too much time writing up gossipy items, and public officials spend too much time reading them and courting the press. Everyone would be better off trying to think harder about what’s really important and/or socializing with their actual friends.