Reading Claremont Mckenna's latest press release, it appears he has gotten very close, too close, I'd wager, for anyone hoping to have a career in respectable journalism. Instead, he's become something of a stenographer, dutifully copying down official pronouncements. I have accused him of this in the past, but never did we have such a smoking gun as his own words.
Those are tough charges, but your correspondent will explain the charge from drawing from Michael Wilner CMC '11's own, unguarded statements. He does this because he believes Wilner could possibly have the makings of a good journalist, were he to actually investigate things on campus and in our world. So far, he's written mindless pabulum on the Forum's website about the responsibilities of being a journalist. He mouths the words, but does he live the life?
I doubt it. Here's how Michael describes his foray into journalism.
At the time, I had begun writing for one of the campus publications and had recently interviewed President Gann for the first time. Upon mentioning the dilemma at our next meeting, she suggested I contact Professor Massoud for advice on how to properly prepare with such a short time frame. I did so with a relatively frantic three-paragraph e-mail (mind you, to a tenured professor I had never met before). His response? Every Wednesday morning after that, at 8 a.m., he would personally tutor me in a crash course in finance over breakfast in Collins. For me, it defined the top-tier liberal arts experience. Ultimately, the internship went well and they extended an offer for me to return. But the next summer the financial crisis hit, and as was the case with many firms, discretionary programs, such as paid internships, were unfortunately cut. They informed me of this pretty late in the spring, and I again turned to Massoud for advice. He forwarded me to Professor Balitzer, and an alumnus who works with him, Ted Gover. They asked me what else I was interested in besides finance, as it wasn't a great year for the field. I said journalism. Shortly after that, my resume was sent to The Straits Times and I was offered an internship—and awarded a $4,000 grant by CMC, the McKenna International, to make the trip. CMC also helped me secure my internship with Anderson Cooper, whose executive producer, David Doss ’75, is himself an alumnus and close friend of the college.Note how he interviews President Gann and then immediately uses her to get a job offer in journalism. This is called a conflict of interest when one reports and Michael should not have used connections to her in this manner. How can we expect him to comment critically on the administration when he reports for them? He's used that access before, of course, to help secure access to Mitt Romney and other Ath speakers and he's written the stories that President Gann effectively wants him to write. That's not journalism; that's stenography and it's part of the reason he was essentially let go by The Claremont Independent which remains one of the few places on campus that still does serious reporting.
Of course, to date, very little has gone online about John-Clark Levin CMC '12 and nothing has gone up about Elise Viebeck CMC '10, both of whom won pretty prestigious journalism internships and $10,000 awards. (In fairness, they did write something on John Wilson -- not, anything, of course, on his writings in The New York Post. John Clark winning it makes it a three-peat for The Claremont Independent.)
Nor has the college written anything about yours truly, despite having published a bit more than Mr. Wilner and on matters that got a bit more attention. I must say I don't particularly mind, but it does strike me as a little dirty. But that's neither here, nor there. I'll be writing the stories that deserve to be read.