28
Jun
10

Gen. McChrystal Ambushed by Rolling Stone or Gonzo General undone by Gonzo Magazine

Preamble:

Yup the Baltimore boy is going national with this. For a long time I’ve been chomping on some national issues but believed it was beyond  this  blog’s scope and if this was in a typical print publication then that thinking would stand. But hey I’m in blogland where anyone with a keyboard can make an impact.  The individual can now be a media giant and this medium is all about the little guy weighing in on big issues, so rather than creating another blog with a big reaching title, I opted to  reveal my vantage point from chair in Baltimore and thereby comment that really you don’t have to be an insider or  politico geek to throw down an opinion. Therefore, on occasion I’m gonna comment when I see a void in the public discussion. Here’s my first foray:

When I saw the Smack  Quotes coming out about Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the Rolling Stone article that had yet to be published —  questions marks started to fly in my head. First, what was the Four Star General thinking or snorting?  He had to know such low brow  childish chest pumping is gonna force a beatdown that even he can’t win. The insanity behind the news never fails to amaze. But then as a reporter, I started questioning Michael Hastings methods. Based on Web info, Hastings at the meek age of 30 (ck) has already paid some dues reporting from battle lines in Iraq, like the in the trenches story where he follows the Louisanna National Guard. See www.http://www.businessinsider.com/10-great-pieces-michael-hastings-wrote-before-he-brought-down-gen-stanley-mcchrystal-2010-6

For Rolling Stone, He was basically allowed to shadow McChrystal, on his day to day. I don’t know. I may just be a bloke from Baltimore but I would bet that many a discolored quotes would be popping around a General in the field of battle. I’ve seen my share of War movies. I know. Actually, I’ve done my share of stories with cops, with politicians, drug addicts, hustlers with regular folk to know you’re gonna hear some rancid shit under certain conditions. I mean I’m doing a story about Baltimore Barbershop culture and a few times when the discussion turns to women or race …. let’s just say I have to put the tape recorder on pause. Seriously, a reporter, I believe, needs to set the tone  with his/her subject. On any given story even ones that seem about as dull and boring as it can get, say about a talent show at a mall, there will times when off the wall comments is dispensed and as a reporter you could easily just glam on to that and in fact come up with some must read copy for once for the local weekly throw away. But you don’t whether you’re in the locker room with the Ravens or doing a story on an ex-drug slinger trying to go mainstream. Not at first. Not if you aren’t a snitch or an ambitious asshole cut throat. You let the first miss-step  roll by, but if it gets to be a pattern, if it starts dominating the moment then, of course you as a reporter have to judge whether the attitudes being expressed define the story unfolding before your eyes. For example, when the General’s getting ready to chow with the French Dignataries and he’s blowing off steam and says something, “I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people  than go out to this dinner.” as a reporter, knowing right there how this would play, you might wanna show that he’s on the record. Sometimes I show the subject that yes I’m taking notes or even say, Hey General are we still on the record here?” And what do you think his answer would be? “You print that and I’ll shove that notebook up your ass.”

At some point the reporter has to set the tone. Early on during those interviews when the loose talk starts flying, the reporter needs to ask are we on the record? This way the subject knows what he’s dealing with, what kind of environment he’s has to tread. It’s only fair. The subject will then see oh we’re dealing with a starchy by the numbers reporter than all candor and down to earth talk will cease and everything would turn in a professional dull exchange. Not what we want. We want some semblance of reality. And based on Hastings previous impressive work with Newsweek where he seemed to thrive on being in the action, see his article, “The Battle for Haifa Street” www.newsweek.com/2007/01/11/the-battle-for-haifa-street.html
  — the General made the fateful mistake that Hastings had earned his stripes, he was one of them and he could talk freely. Did Hastings infer this when he was establishing his relationship? Did he encourage this, by laughing  and playing the part of one of the guys, signaling that he’s in on the joke? 

From Hastings Newsweek Article

 

Reporters are always complaining about being smothered by handlers, PR flacks practically forcing the story to come out as a sorry piece of boredom. Real reporters fight for reality, get off The Campaign Bus, hang with the grunts — why  — to get some semblance of truth. McChrystal story now stands as total validation for the overpriced Public Relations Industry. Now any firm can hold up the Rolling Stone cover  featuring Lady Ga Ga wielding guns, bare assed BTW –and say Don’t let this happen to you.

Of course, Rolling Stone and Hastings could counter by saying this is about the bigger good. Sometime the journalist has to sacrifice himself and his hard earned status with sources for the greater good. This is a true and tough situation, where you as a reporter might find you become basically a scumbag  and sell out your source for the well-being of US  readers. And it seems, based on the Rolling Stone’s headline, The Runaway General,” they seemed to be making this insinuation, that we have an out-of- control cowboy  in Afghanistan. And if this is Rolling Stone’s case, there’s still a major problem with the magazine article perhaps even graver mis-step  than the suspected violation of trust between reporter and subject for glory of juicy quotes —  and that is the fact checking:

Gen. Stanley McChrystal at Airbase

 

According to the Washington Post, Rolling Stone fact checkers offered 30 questions, but never went over  the controversial quotes.www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/25/AR2010062504194_3.html?sub=AR&sid=ST2010062504101.Why?

Even here in the “deviled details”  of reporting there are questions with the fact checking  process. For example, according to the Washington Post article, McChrystal’s Military Flack had issues with Rolling Stone’s depiction of McChrystal expanding the morning briefings to include thousands of officers. The Military PR suggested over 400. And the military had a problem with the magazine’s depiction of McChrystal  “Situation Awareness Room”  being modeled on New York’s Mayor Bloomberg’s offices. McChrystal’s people said the room wasn’t modeled but was similar. Rolling Stone took none of the responses to heart.  

These are nit-picking crumbs, perhaps, but they also speak to the larger issues about the decision NOT to float the incendiary quotes by the General or the flack , according to what is offered in the Washington Post. And what is the rationale? Perhaps the RS editors just felt that McChrystal would obviously deny them. That he would realized he’d violate the old military adage, “Loose Lips sink ships” and claim his rants were taken out of context. But there were those second source quotes, the most controversial in the articles that you’d think the editors would want to check. Second hand info can be dubious and if it’s gonna be damaging to the subject than just out of self-preservation, you might wanna float those. For Example the quote about Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, “The Boss says he’s like a wounded animal.” And Rolling Stone isn’t going to check that? Think about how the reporter got that quote, he talks to a bunch of Ballsy Soldiers and sooner or later someone’s gonna say something non too wise. 

Again why not run these quotes by someone? I know as a reporter when I get something that’s obviously going to detonate a commotion, I prefer running the quote myself even before the fact checker so I can say to the editor I did so. This is out of self-preservation rather than courtesy. Because editors are removed from the story, they may be quick to delete such inflamatory diatrab, some don’t have the stomach for taking on such flack. Plus the fact checker is normally unknown to the writer, many are interns and have power to change something. Publications are notorious for break downs in communications and a major contributor to  good chunk of misakes that find their way in print. But most editors I would figure would want a sampling of fire-storm that’s sure to follow and test one of these hot comments out there to see if  the story. Hastings isn’t even a Rolling Stone staffer.

Rolling Stone's Cover

 

Based on the layout, you got to figure that maybe Rolling Stone see the noise it would get from this article, which turns out probably the magazine’s biggest in decade(s). 

Hence; The cover is Lady Gaga, then headline, Dennis Hopper final days and then down below in small print “Obama’s General why he’s losing the war.” This cover seemed to be in place before the media went nuts with the story. Colbert showed it before it hit the newsstands. 

Still from my prospect as a consumer who picked up his copy at the Port Authority, you got to wonder if Michael Hastings, a freelancer was throwing down his card, going snitch for the cause. Was it to protect America from a renegade General? Please. Who wouldn’t figure a General who emerged out off the ranks Special Forces wouldn’t think that he alone knows all — that he’s surrounded by Asses. This just in: Four Star General anoints himself King. Instead of an important article debating the merits the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, which by the well  is pretty well done in the article, we have “gotcha ya” scandalism dictating public policy.

Disclaimer:

I’m no basher of the media as some left wing junta pulling strings. Hell, I cut my teeth on Rolling Stone and watched it go glossy, shrink in power and size not just on its politic impact but even on the music front which they (and everyone else it seems) can’t get a handle on anymore. That’s why I was surprised when I first heard of  The General Rukas was brought to you by  Rolling Stone and was bemused  when the New York Times, didn’t mention them by name higher up in their articles. What a comeback for the Gonzo mag. but at what cost? Check out Eyesoreproductions.com

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1 Response to “Gen. McChrystal Ambushed by Rolling Stone or Gonzo General undone by Gonzo Magazine”


  1. 1 case
    March 8, 2012 at 6:17 pm

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