Monday, December 19, 2005

Memories of Investigative Journalism

My last post was meant to remind folks that voting irregularities have been being noted by all levels and types of folks for the duration of W's time in office. But my real motive I am reprinting (below) Bev Harris' comments on the death of Jack Anderson this past weekend.

I cannot help but feel that I have seen a major cycle play out in the course of my lifetime. When I was a little girl I would read anything I could get my hands on, and that included the newspaper we received, The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that carried Jack Anderson's column. As the major Democratic paper in NE Indiana it was supposedly liberal, but coming from a decidedly midwestern community that liberal nature was fairly conservative. I remember Jack Anderson's columns being very "big city." That's how I thought about it. I must have been influenced by them. I was encouraged to pursue a career in journalism after winning a statewide writing competition in high school. I consciously decided not to go into journalism because I didn't want to be a propagandist for "imperialists" and that is how I saw the newspaper industry. I didn't have enough self-confidence to think I could make it big enough to be able to do real investigative journalism. So I pursued degrees in anthropology.... a career that teaches the investigative and elicitation techniques... and much later along the long and winding road I end up writing a blog that has the flavor of a journalistic endeavor after several years of writing nonfiction trade articles. I guess I've been thinking that I should have acknowledged my debt to Mr. Anderson for nourishing my fascination with political writing. That's one personal debt that I probably share with folks all over the country. Another bigger debt owed to Jack may well be for inspiring Bev Harris "with the idea to dumpster-dive Diebold where he had Bev in stitches describing how he dumpster-dived FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover."

I am somehow greatly heartened when I think of Anderson cheering Bev and the folks at on from the great beyond. One of the last major investigations of which he was instrumental in starting may well be one of the most significant investigations in the history of the United States.

As the verifiable list of abuses of power and illegal acts by the Bush administration continues to grow, so does the likelihood that the indisputable proof of the illegitimacy of their administration will be made. At that point we will face a huge challenge in attempting to navigate the fouled waters of years of illegitimate decisions and appointments. But we will be a stronger democracy for surviving it.

Thanks Jack.


Bev's recounting of these events from Black Box Voting:

From Bev Harris -- I had the great honor of working for Jack Anderson for a while, doing primarily editorial and marketing writing for two of his publications. His passing, not unexpected, saddens me greatly. Would you believe, the idea to dumpster-dive Diebold came from a lunch with Jack Anderson, where he had us in stitches describing how he dumpster-dived FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover?

Among the articles I'm going to post, along with some commentary and reminiscences of my own, is one that is really quite chilling. Specifically, Jack Anderson's commitment to ordinary people is chided as biased and "populist-based." In one astonishing bit, after citing one blockbuster investigation after the next and leaving out some of the most important, and admitting that Anderson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the reporter says Anderson represented an era where investigative reporting was "less objective." Ye gads. I have included that article in the post below this.

Most investigative reporting has been cut from the budget now, and much of what remains is corporate-toadying pablum. We will all miss Jack Anderson so very much. He was one of a kind.

The Associated Press - Saturday, December 17, 2005; 9:10 PM

Muckraking Columnist Jack Anderson Dies

WASHINGTON -- Jack Anderson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning muckraking columnist who struck fear into the hearts of corrupt or secretive politicians, inspiring Nixon operatives to plot his murder, died Saturday. He was 83.

Anderson died at his home in Bethesda, Md., of complications from Parkinson's disease, said one of his daughters, Laurie Anderson-Bruch.

Columnist Jack Anderson testifies before a Government Information subcommittee in this May 1972 file photo, in Washington.

Anderson gave up his syndicated Washington Merry-Go-Round column at age 81 in July 2004, after Parkinson's disease left him too ill to continue. He had been hired by the column's founder, Drew Pearson, in 1947.

The column broke a string of big scandals, from Eisenhower assistant Sherman Adams taking a vicuna coat and other gifts from a wealthy industrialist in 1958 to the Reagan administration's secret arms-for-hostages deal with Iran in 1986.

It appeared in some 1,000 newspapers in its heyday. Anderson took over the column after Pearson's death in 1969, working with a changing cast of co-authors and staff over the years.

A devout Mormon, Anderson looked upon journalism as a calling. Considered one of the fathers of investigative reporting, Anderson was renowned for his tenacity, aggressive techniques and influence in the nation's capital.

"He was a bridge for the muckrakers of a century ago and the crop that came out of Watergate," said Mark Feldstein, Anderson's biographer and a journalism professor at George Washington University. "He held politicians to a level of accountability in an era where journalists were very deferential to those in power."

Anderson won a 1972 Pulitzer Prize for reporting that the Nixon administration secretly tilted toward Pakistan in its war with India. He also published the secret transcripts of the Watergate grand jury.

Such scoops earned him a spot on President Nixon's "enemies list." Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy has described how he and other Nixon political operatives planned ways to silence Anderson permanently _ such as slipping him LSD or staging a fatal car crash _ but the White House nixed the idea.

Anderson's biggest misstep also took place in 1972, when he reported that Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri _ at the time the Democratic nominee for vice president _ had a history of arrests for drunken and reckless driving. Anderson later acknowledged that his sourcing was faulty and apologized to Eagleton, who eventually dropped out of the race after revelations of treatment for mental illness.

Over the years, Anderson was threatened by the Mafia and investigated by numerous government agencies trying to trace the sources of his leaks. In 1989, police investigated him for smuggling a gun into the U.S. Capitol to demonstrate security lapses.

Known for his toughness on the trail of a story, Anderson was also praised for personal kindness. His son Kevin said that when his father's reporting led to the arrest of some involved in the Watergate scandal, he aided their families financially.

"I don't like to hurt people, I really don't like it at all," Anderson said in 1972. "But in order to get a red light at the intersection, you sometimes have to have an accident."

Anderson began his newspaper career as a 12-year-old writing about scouting activity and community fairs in the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Utah. His first investigative story exposed unlawful polygamy in his church. He was as a civilian war correspondent during World War II and later, while in the Army, wrote for the military paper Stars and Stripes.

After he went to work with Pearson, the team took on communist-hunting Sen. Joseph McCarthy, exposed Connecticut Sen. Thomas Dodd's misuse of campaign money, and revealed the CIA's attempt to use the Mafia to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Anderson also wrote more than a dozen books.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1986. In a speech a decade later, he made light of the occasional, uncontrollable shaking the disease caused.

"The doctors tell me it's Parkinson's," he said. "I suspect that 52 years in Washington caused it."

He is survived by his wife, Olivia, and nine children.


(See below for more problematic article.)
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message

BBV Admin
Board Administrator
Username: Admin

Post Number: 3000
Registered: 12-2004

Best of Black Box? N/A
Votes: 0 (A keeper?)

Posted on Sunday, December 18, 2005 - 09:27 pm: Edit Post Delete Post View Post/Check IP Move Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

This article gave me the creeps. It shows how much the free press has deteriorated.

The Washington Post / AP as covered in the Seattle Times - Dec. 18 2005

Jack Anderson was Pulitzer winning columnist

WASHINGTON — Jack Anderson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who for years was America's most widely read newspaper columnist, died Saturday at his Bethesda, Md., home at age 83. He had Parkinson's disease.

Unbounded by contemporary notions of objectivity, Mr. Anderson was highly successful in the 1950s and '60s, when few reporters actively sought to uncover government wrongdoing. At one point, his column appeared in about 1,000 newspapers with 45 million daily readers.

From Bev Harris: Unbounded by contemporary notions of objectivity. Translation: He was honest. Everyone who knew Jack remembers one very strong characteristic: He was absolutely honest and his stories checked out.

As we have learned in the voting issue, "contemporary notions of objectivity" mean reporters are supposed to report B.S. without checking it out ("HAVA made me do it") and can go only so far when covering obvious wrongdoing on the part of the private company that OWNS OUR VOTES. But okay. I hope we get more reporters like Jack Anderson, who are unbounded by contemporary standards of "objectivity."

The number of scoops that he had a hand in was amazing: the Keating Five congressional-ethics scandal; revelations in the Iran-contra scandal; the U.S. tilt away from India toward Pakistan, for which he received the 1972 Pulitzer Prize; the ITT-Dita Beard affair, which linked the settlement of an antitrust suit against ITT by the Justice Department to a $400,000 pledge to underwrite the 1972 Republican convention; the CIA-Mafia plot to kill Fidel Castro; the final days of Howard Hughes; U.S. attempts to undermine Chilean President Salvador Allende; allegations about a possible Bulgarian connection to the shooting of the pope; an Iranian connection to the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

From Bev: And this leaves out amazing work on the Kennedy assassination, where he ripped into the Warren Commission for its coverup of the combined role of Castro and organized crime figures in the assassination. It fails to mention breaking the Savings & Loan scandal in the 1980s. The heavy lifting on that was done by his lead assistant, Mike Binstein. In another hilarious lunchtime conversation, Jack related how this happened: They were hot on the trail of the S&L deterioration, where owners were loaning themselves money, defaulting, then (in the case of Dallas mayor Starke Taylor, who was alleged to have been rigged into office by Conny McCormack, resulting in a two-year election fraud investigation by the Texas Atty. General) they sometimes sued the failing S&Ls for making bad loans to themselves. At any rate, the Jack Anderson story: Mike Binstein was hot on the trail, but needed something rock solid. After all, it would trigger the biggest bailout in U.S. history. He approached his source, who nervously let him into the building after hours, then locked him in the copy room. Binstein spent all night copying incriminating S&L documents, and wasn't let out even to pee until 6 a.m. the following morning, when he hurried out with satchels of evidence and a full bladder.

"He had such huge strengths and huge weaknesses," said Mark Feldstein, director of the George Washington University journalism program, who is writing Mr. Anderson's biography. "He practiced journalism like a blue-collar craftsman with a populist point of view. He was practicing a crusading craft rather than a profession, and [investigative reporting] has lost some of its juice, its verve, its gusto in trying to be objective. Anderson didn't try to hide his politics or his agenda."

From Bev - No, investigative reporting has lost some of its juice because it is toadying up to corporate backers and bribed editors. I've seen so many reporters called off of live stories with witnesses and armloads of proof that it would make you sick for days. And investigative reporting has also lost some of its juice because in making the stories more palatable to the power structure, newspapers are (deservedly) losing circulation. People want to read the truth. We are bored when everything is politically correct. Newspapers would make more money if they went back to real reporting.

Mr. Anderson was an investigator from the start, when he went to work in 1947 as a "legman" for his predecessor Drew Pearson's column. Pearson died in 1969 and left the column to him. Mr. Anderson ran it, with an ever-changing cast of interns, until he unofficially retired in 2001, when Douglas Cohn, his writing partner since 1999, and Newsweek's Eleanor Clift took over.

The column ran until July 30, 2004, when United Feature Syndicate announced its end.

Mr. Anderson's work enraged those in power. President Nixon tried to smear him as a homosexual, the CIA was ordered to spy on him, and, according to the Watergate tapes, a Nixon aide ordered two cohorts to try to kill the journalist by poisoning.

from Bev - Specifically, Jack told me that G. Gordon Liddy tried to slip LSD into his drink. You'll see that in the movie "Nixon" by the way -- a movie by Oliver Stone that, interestingly, rehabilitates Oliver Stone's film on the Kennedy assassination to some extent, changing the story and matching it up to Jack Anderson's investigation. The "Who Killed JFK" report that I edited and updated for Anderson as one of my last assignments for him led off with "Oliver Stone got it wrong." Then the Nixon movie came out and made subtle changes in the Kennedy assassination story, and mentioned the LSD story, which Jack told every time I saw him. Because of that, I've always wondered if he was a behind the scenes consultant for Stone's "Nixon" movie.

Despite all his scoops and his high profile in middle America, the power elite in Washington, D.C., saw him as an uncouth gossipmonger and shameless self-promoter.

From Bev - Huh. Imagine that. A shameless self promoter. That's what they say when you're right over and over and lots of people start listening to you.

Mr. Anderson, a Mormon who eschewed smoking, drinking, cursing and caffeine, was cast from the dissenter mold of journalism. He called himself a muckraker, a term from the turn of the 20th century.

From Bev -- Actually, he told me he called himself a muckraker because people were using it as an insult so he decided to take ownership of the term. He proudly called his publishing company "Muckrakers Inc."

He launched the careers of scores of journalists, employing them as uncredited interns and underpaid associates. They included Brit Hume of Fox, Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg News Service, Howard Kurtz and Jonathan Krim of The Washington Post, Roll Call columnist Ed Henry and novelist Les Whitten.

From Bev -- "underpaid associates." I met a lot of them, and they considered it an honor and a hoot to work for him. And by the way, when do you ever hear of interns being highly paid? I worked with his newsletter a lot, and I specifically remember proofing the CREDITS which appeared at the bottom of EVERY newsletter. This article shows us exactly how things are "spun" to rewrite history.

Mr. Anderson himself grew into a multimedia personality, penning not only a syndicated newspaper column but more than a dozen books and subscription newsletters. He was Washington bureau chief for Parade magazine. He broadcast a syndicated radio show; had a years-long gig on ABC-TV's Good Morning America; and had a TV show, "Truth," which featured public figures hooked to a lie detector.

As well as the Pulitzer, he won the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi "Service to Journalism" award in 1987 for his role in breaking the Iran-contra story and later was inducted into its Journalism Hall of Fame.

"I have to do daily what Woodward and Bernstein did once," he told The Washington Post in 1983, without a trace of embarrassment.

From Bev - Yes. One thing he seemed to rue was not telling "the story behind the story" as he referred to "All the President's Men." The story behind the story is usually more interesting than the story itself. I'm not sure I want to read the biography written by the guy they refer to up above, but I'd love to read the story behind the story. Jack was legendary. It was related to me two months ago by a cohort who attended his last birthday party that he once jumped off a dock in his suit and swam to the bottom of the pilings, to check out whether some secret booty was stashed underwater, as had been rumored. (It wasn't.)

Born in Long Beach, Calif., but reared in a small town outside Salt Lake City, Mr. Anderson was interested in newspaper work from an early age. At 12, he edited the Boy Scout page of the Deseret News and soon advanced to a $7-a-week job with the Murray (Utah) Eagle.

Upon graduation from high school, he joined the staff of the Salt Lake City Tribune. He attended the University of Utah briefly and on Dec. 7, 1941, became a missionary, a typical rite of passage for devout Mormons, working in the South. Two years later, he enrolled in the Merchant Marine officer-training school. After about seven months, he persuaded the Deseret News to accredit him as a foreign correspondent in China. He was supposed to report hometown, local-hero news, but he soon found that assignment dull.

So Mr. Anderson hitched a plane ride to a secret, behind-the-lines base operated by the Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the CIA. OSS brass sent him to contact a band of Chinese Nationalist guerrillas. From them, he found that a Chinese civil war was still raging, but he could not interest any U.S. paper in the news.

His draft board had been looking for him for some time, and it finally caught up with him in 1945. He was inducted into the Army in the Chinese city then known as Chunking and served with the Quartermaster Corps until 1947, working on service newspapers and Armed Forces Radio.

Upon his discharge, he applied to work for Pearson, who had been exposing government corruption for more than a decade. Mr. Anderson was hired immediately. In his off hours, he attended Georgetown University and took a course in libel law at George Washington University but did not earn a degree at either school.

His anonymous labor for Pearson finally irked Mr. Anderson enough that in 1957 he threatened to quit. Pearson promised him more bylines and pledged to leave the column to him.

In 1965, Mr. Anderson finally achieved full partnership in the column, sharing a byline with Pearson, although he was paid a paltry sum — about $15,000 in 1969 — for his work on the biggest column in the nation. Upon Pearson's death, Mr. Anderson inherited the column and split the proceeds with Pearson's widow.

Mr. Anderson's columns on misappropriations of campaign donations by Sen. Thomas Dodd, D-Conn., were recommended for the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1967, but the Pulitzer advisory board rejected the choice of the nominating jury.

Mr. Anderson was considered significantly more accurate than his predecessor, although he was not error-free. He admitted he wrongly charged Donald Rumsfeld with lavishly decorating his office while cutting expenses on programs of the Office of Economic Opportunity. The columnist also admitted giving covert aid to Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the early days of his anti-Communist crusade, although he turned on McCarthy later.

From Bev -- Actually, since Jack has been basically retired from his day to day news responsibilities for a decade due to his fight with Parkinsons (he had great difficulty even typing) I'd have to wonder if this was his error. He may not have fact-checked something his interns or staff did, and he was sick. I wonder about the date of the Rumsfeld story.

Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Olivia Farley Anderson of Bethesda; nine children; 41 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.


Speaking for myself, the folks at Citizens Against Government Waste, Muckrakers Inc., and all the others who knew Jack Anderson, we'll miss him and it was an honor to watch him show what happens to government when someone unafraid tells it like it is.

Bev Harris
Black Box Voting, Inc.

No comments: