The McChrystal Bombshell

Friday, June 25, 2010


How did Michael Hastings get such candor from McChrystal and his advisers? CNN's former senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre was on the military beat for 16 years. His theory comes down to the beat reporter versus freelancer divide. Beat reporters may be less likely to use such candid moments in their stories for fear of losing future access. For a freelancer like Hastings that's not much of a concern.

Comments [26]

Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

As for chummy reporters, I cover that in the comments on Biden's party last week.

Jul. 01 2010 01:31 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Yeah, but even when reported, such as Rummy's failure to back the original CIA search for Bin Laden in Torah Borah, our public fail to respond.

Meanwhile, for what it is worth, I believe that President Obama took advantage of Rolling Stone (and the volcano) to order McChrystal to fall on his sword for the mission, allowing for the "re-setting" (a word and process of which he is fond ) of the campaign and, especially, the relationship with Karzai.

As in Iraq, there will be benchmarks and metrics that must be met with the implicit threat of our public's impatience but, also, the new wrinkle - announced by Holbrooke, tonight, on the PBS Newshour - of demanding Afghan - Pakistani cooperation and coordination.

It's all about those shared Pashtoon tribal areas and Pakistani nukes!

Jul. 01 2010 01:29 AM
Darrel Plant from Portland, Oregon

If "beat" reporters aren't going to mention the things they see behind the scenes that are screwed up -- and the staff of the guy running things in Afghanistan being stupid enough to make derisive comments about the administration to a reporter they don't know is screwed up -- what are the beat reporters reporting on? Garfield gave McIntyre two chances to describe some concrete information that he got by hiding whatever he's seen on planes or in meeting or whatever.

"Calibrating" your reporting? Give me a break. I think we can go back over the range of CNN's coverage of the Afghanistan war -- now the longest war in US history -- and find more examples where if the truth about what was going on had been told instead of whatever jewels of misinformation the military fed to McIntyre and his ilk that America would be far better off.

Jun. 30 2010 02:12 PM
K Wilson from Kansas City

I used to be a newspaper reporter covering a range of stories. If politicians trust you, they'll give you all sorts of information. If a politician dislikes you then you're toast. The general public doesn't realize how much power elected officials have. If you offend an elected official you'll have police officers, judges and others who will make your life miserable.

Jun. 29 2010 04:24 PM
Rob from n mexico

Media gasbags on parade. You people think it's 1972, but at least in 1972 you were relevant.

Jun. 29 2010 03:27 PM
tom in Portland

The idea that a reporter can treat "important" or "historic events" as "off the record" is absurd on its face. How can someone who calls himself a journalist make such an assertion and then expect to be taken seriously by CNN's viewers? I stopped watching CNN when they gave Wolf Blitzer a platform for his right-wing stenography. McInttyre's statements confirm that I made the right choice.

Jun. 29 2010 03:26 PM
Anthony from Toronto

McIntyre's comments--and follow-up post--reveal his ignorance about the relationship he enters into with the people he's reporting on. McChrystal and other people in power impart off-the-record information as a way of manipulating reporters, essentially buying their silence. McIntyre hears something frank and revealing--making him feel trusted and important--and he agrees to tune out things that are, strictly speaking, not off the record.

But for us plebes, whose only access to these people is through the work of journalists, the idea of "off the record" is anathema. Why should reporters be the gatekeepers of such information? Isn't that precisely the opposite of their stated function?

Government institutions are, by their very nature, secretive. Reporters are supposed to break through that wall of secrecy, not help maintain it.

Jun. 29 2010 01:15 PM
QuidPro from California

I think we are starting to fawn a little over Rolling Stone's nobility.
I would like to know what convinced a 4-star general to agree to give a stringer from a left-leaning music magazine such access to his HQ? What did Michael Hastings say he could do for the general? Was Hastings offering puff piece or was he gathering material for McChrystal's memoirs?
I don't belive you rise to command in this country simply by being a good soldier. You have to have a lot of savvy and good political instincts. What led this special forces guy to let his guard down.
Is McChrystal looking over the horizon to an unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination in some in-play congressional district?

Jun. 29 2010 12:40 PM
raul from san francisco

Leaving aside Bob's snarky (maybe he only has one tone) observation about what people on the blog would write, Jaime McIntyre's whining about what the Stone's story would do to the insider reporter status was par for the course. What is the point of getting "insider" information and using only to give "tone" and "color" to the rest of your coverage.

This is yet another story about the "media's" self involved sense of importance. See the story on Huff Post with Lara Logan slamming Rolling Stone.

When you start to wonder why the public holds the media is such low regard you need only look back at this sort of navel gazing and know why.

Jun. 28 2010 06:56 PM
ed kriner from reading pa.

why not have npr reporters on this segment? Cause they are just like the rest, nothing but propagandists and stenographers.

Jun. 28 2010 11:55 AM
Lenore from New York City

Jamie was given an opportunity to give a specific example of a story that he had run which took advantage of the access he was given to help us understand something that we would not have understood without that access.

He did NOT give such an example. Nuff said.

Jun. 28 2010 10:37 AM
JAFO from here

Jamie McIntyre is an unabashedly go-along-to-get-along guy.

Jun. 28 2010 09:47 AM
Jamie McIntyre

Let me make one thing “McChrystal clear:” My job as a journalist is to uncover truth, not cover-up it up. I have an unambiguous duty to do that to the best of my ability, while acting in an ethical, honest, and impartial way. And at times, agreeing to witness important, even historic events, “off-the-record” can be an invaluable tool in doing that job.
Read more:
In Defense of “Off-The-Record”

Jun. 28 2010 06:39 AM

Using the word "frenemies" to describe the relationship between journalists and their sources really does nothing to persuade me that I should be taking American journalism any more seriously than I take "The Bachelor" or "My New BFF."

Jun. 27 2010 09:13 PM
Richard A.

This is another example of reporters' distorting the import of an incident and being destructive, without addressing real issues. From ancient history, George Romney's Presidential hopes died with his "I was brainwashed" comment regarding his support of the Vietnam war. Examples are legion. Gary Hart's run ended because of his dalliance with a glamorous woman while separated from his wife. Ed Muskie allegedly cried when he expressed anger emotionally at a conservative editor's writing about his wife. Howard Dean shrieked himself into oblivion. Elliot Spitzer had illicit sex and had to resign. Dick Blumenthal has been quoted incompletely and I would say dishonestly by the NY Times.

The press has an inordinately high opinion of itself, behind which it hides to engage in very lowlife practices. Now reporters try to tell us that McChrystal's two comments, that Obama seemed not that engaged in his conversation with McChrystal, and "not another email from Holbrooke" are court-martial worthy offenses.

The press indeed has an essential purpose in a democracy, and the press in America, overall, with few exceptions, has clearly descended to a very low level of integrity, abandoning its responsibility.

Jun. 27 2010 08:22 PM
tristan from CA

If reporters fail to disclose the personal foibles of their subjects in exchange for access, good. The McChrystal story was gotcha journalism at its worst. I do not care, nor should anyone else, if a general has unpleasant things to say about his civilian leadership when he's drunk, so long as he gets the job done and follows orders. If he's not getting the job done, then attack him on that, not on this nonsense.

This story was no more consequential than OJ or the endless parade of adultery stories about politicians and celebrities. News junkies convince themselves it mattered because it was a slow news week.

Jun. 27 2010 05:38 PM
Steve Jones

What really rips me about the coverage of this story is that nobody read past the second page of a six-page story. Hastings laid out a devastating set of facts about why the counterinsurgency is failing, even by its own rules. There is no unity of command, no clear strategy, no consistency of message. The troops are frustrated as hell that they have become policemen in a foreign land.

Millions of words have been written about the controversial statements from McChrystal's aides, nothing about the facts laid out by Hastings. This is definitely one story for Harry Shearer's "buried lede" file. I encourage everyone to read the whole thing.

Jun. 27 2010 05:09 PM
Bob Garfield

@Rudolf Boentgen

There is no such thing as free speech in the military.

Jun. 27 2010 03:14 PM
Rudolf Boentgen from Boston, MA

Is that a form of Newspeak, "insubordinate remarks"? Insubordinate means not following the orders of a superior. There is no eveidence of that in this situation. The remarks may be disrespectful, inappropriate or ill-considered, but how can they be insubordinate if the proper orders were carried out? You may have developed a new free speech crime here.

Jun. 27 2010 02:38 PM
Becky from NJ

McIntyre seems to condone, if not verbally, by his silence the disrespect and ignorance of the military. So what was going on on Rummy's plane? Probably the same things as in the interior dept. and mineral's management? Don't we have the right to know that sleeze balls are running the country or is it more important that corporate media keeps their contacts. So embedded literally means in bed with and don't ever expose the character of your sources because you might lose your job?

Jun. 27 2010 11:40 AM
Steve from Bradenton, FL

Although most people think that this type of non-reporting is solely subject to the military--it's also plentiful with politicians and especially presidential campaigns. I agree with Jamie-- beat reporters know what to report and what not discuss because need access to survive---freelancers don't care if they ever have access to their interview subjects once they're done with them. BLUF: McChrystal made a mistake and never should have provided access to Hastings in the first place. Precedence was set by Rolling Stone via a critical piece on Iraqi Freedom they did back in 2004. My, we have short memories.

Jun. 27 2010 10:53 AM
Robert from NYC

With the exception of Christiane Amanpour CNN reporters are second rate at best. Remember CNN is Time Warner one of the biggest, if not the biggest corporation in the media and elsewhere with it's own agenda and it's agenda does not seem to report all the news, rather it selects the stories and spins them that it's dizzying.

Jun. 27 2010 10:26 AM
Robert from NYC

You got that right, isaac! If any would support the "access" and how to keep it, it should be a CNN reporter. So Jamie McIntyre and Barbara Starr (Brenda's daughter? I've often wondered!) who had her office in the Pentagon always defend the decisions of the military. I was not surprised at her attack of the reporter at Rolling Stone and the paper itself as a rag tag liberal rag (my words not hers, her choice of words was more careful but she made her point). I always enjoyed her walking thru the streets of Iraq war zones with tons of our soldiers around her and she darning a helmut and bullet-proof vest over her full-sized body reporting on the spot. It was comically cartoonish. But as far as "access" and the real story? Is there any connection between the two? I doubt it.

Jun. 27 2010 10:21 AM

I think that this interview kind of missed the mark. My understanding was that none of what was reported was requested to be off the record. The whole point of the Rolling Stone article is that McChrystal was openly questioning the civilian leadership. It is not like he was trying to hide it. He already did so in a public speech. I don't understand why the access angle is what OTM finds so important. As a reporter I would think that you try to get access exactly so you can get a great story like this. The question was: "How did Michael Hastings get such candor from McChrystal and his advisers?" The answer is that he is in Afghanistan observing and reporting. I have an enormous respect for Michael Hastings.

Jun. 27 2010 08:37 AM
Isaac from Ohio

Jaime McIntyre has rationalized the ongoing of a sleazy dynamic between defense reporters and the people they're covering. He's drunk the kool-aid; he's breathing his own fumes.

Jun. 26 2010 05:18 PM
Potomacker from Nanjing, PRC

Mr. McIntyre, how is your book deal working out for you? I cannot hardly wait to get the gossip on Feith and Rumsfeld. Are you going to tell us eventually all about what the public could/should have known to have avoided the fiasco that is become the second Iraq war?
To paraphrase Judith Miller, the first amendment is nothing more than the career minded journalist's perceived right to keep on making a living at the expense of democracy.

Jun. 26 2010 02:11 AM

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