The Best Media Writing of the Week

Is Stephen Glass Ethical Enough to Be a Lawyer? (This is Not a Zen Koan)

It's the Best Media Writing of the Week

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Hayden Christensen as Stephen Glass
Hayden Christensen as Stephen Glass

Just writing the words "Stephen Glass" conjures a simpler time for journalism, before its business model crumbled, and when its biggest challenge was what do with all the crazies running around fabricating stories, scenes, people and companies from whole cloth. Those were the days! Let's relive them with the news that Mr. Glass, who confused his time at The New Republic in the late 1990s with a fiction workshop at the Learning Annex, is applying to the California bar. His case has reached the state Supreme Court.

It may surprise you to learn that judicial systems don't love it when an applicant has been demonstrated to be a systematic liar in very public forums, like newspaper articles, glossy magazines and major motion pictures. So Mr. Glass has had to prove that he is ethical enough to become a lawyer, adducing a bunch of character evidence that recently became public.

Reuters' Jack Shafer gave us a rundown of the legal argument, quoting liberally from unsealed documents that show Mr. Glass blaming his wayward reporting career on his strict upbringing and antisocial youth. Mr. Shafer included the following nugget, from a judge's footnote in a favorable ruling:

As an example, applicant [Glass] took a family-life class in high school where the boys and girls were paired and assigned to be a 'husband' and 'wife' to study the development of an egg into a baby. Applicant's partner was distressed to be assigned to applicant, and she complained to her parents, who in turn, complained to the teacher. The next day, the teacher continued the theme by having the marriage 'annulled.' As one would imagine, this caused applicant to be ashamed and humiliated.

The New York Times' exclusive -- and bizarrely, repulsively sympathetic -- interview with Jerry Sandusky occasioned a thorough beatdown from Buzz Bissinger, who incidentally wrote the piece on Stephen Glass and authors a Twitter feed that 's something to behold. Mr. Bissinger, writing in The Daily Beast, tears into Times' reporter Jo Becker, for giving the accused molester the "open mic" he was seeking after a disastrous TV interview with Bob Costas a few weeks back:

There was something indecent about Becker's tone of understanding with Sandusky, as reflected in the Times' audio and video portions of the interview. The video was sickening, hardly dispassionate but blatantly sympathetic at the end, with a shot of poor, misunderstood Jerry walking his sweet dog, pondering his own unsweet future. It would have brought me to tears, except I still hear the smacking sound that was apparently made when he was allegedly violating a little boy in the shower.

Business Insider's Nicholas Carlson had another scoop on AOL, this time with a memo in which CEO Tim Armstrong communicates his new consulting arrangement with the McChrystal Group. You may remember that firm's leader, Stanley McChrystal, from the war in Afghanistan, where he led U.S. forces until he crapped on Joe Biden and other administration officials to Rolling Stone and was fired. Well, now he has a management team full of former Navy Seals and, apparently, a preso style that 's just as lethal. As we see from the memo, Armstrong's heart and mind was won, with him quoting choice bits of intel like this one that will no doubt have the struggling company loaded for bear:

Set high expectations and figure it out: The Special Forces set incredibly high expectations and they deliver on them. They also have an attitude that everything can be figured out and accomplished. It was very inspiring to hear how they led people to accomplish objectives that seemed out of reach and our of scope.

I enjoyed this strange, possibly unedited list of technology predictions from Theodor Holm Nelson, whose bio says he's a "well-known dissenter in the computer field" and inventor of the browser's "back button." He also possesses a writing style that could fry an egg:

WILDER SPECULATIONS There will be a secret porn channel for the Department of Homeland Security's body scans.

Facebook will team up with the Library of Congress to bring real-time history streams to the user. Be a friend of Benjamin Franklin! But it will somehow lack suspense.

A new copyright law will forbid the typing of any sentence that is not in the public domain. The National Security Agency will be told to enforce this, but without additional financing.

Other new laws will forbid posting anything that is of possible use to terrorists, including music, history and recipes. Some will think the paper publishing industry is behind this.

Writing in this month's Washingtonian magazine, Tom Bartlett gave us an illuminating look at Washington Post humor columnist and features writer Gene Weingarten, who is as eccentric as anyone who's read him might suspect:

You might wonder why the best writer in American journalism would have fake poop as his Twitter icon. Or spend an inordinate amount of time making prank phone calls. Or concern himself with monkey sex, fake sneezes, or bacon taped to cats. As he once put it in a column, "I mostly write about underpants."

Weingarten is not a horrible person, but there may be something wrong with him.

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