Back in March, RT host Liz Wahl made news when she abruptly quit on the air, claiming that she could no longer be part of a network that whitewashed the sins of Vladimir Putin. She says she made the decision after the Kremlin-run network put her in a position of having to essentially lie about the Russian invasion of Crimea. That intervention marked the start of the chain of events that led to yesterday's downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight by a surface-to-air missile -- one more than likely fired by pro-Russian forces.
Now another RT personality has quit -- in part because of yesterday's tragedy and the Russian reaction to it. Earlier today, Sara Firth handed in her resignation at RT and announced that she was leaving, saying on Twitter, "I'm for the truth." But her scathing attack on the network and what it stands for didn't stop there.
From the Press Gazette:
Firth described the Malaysia Airlines flight crash coverage as “the straw that broke the camel’s back for me” and handed in her resignation this morning.
Russia Today has been criticised for suggesting the crash is the fault of Ukraine. Most other media outlets have suggested that a more likely explanation is that pro-Russian separatists were responsible for shooting down the passenger jet. So far it is estimated that around 300 people died in the crash.
“Yesterday when the story broke you get the kick in your stomach when you’re going to get the facts and it’s this huge story,” she told Press Gazette.
“And I walked into the newsroom and they were running an eye-witness account of God-knows who the person was blaming the Ukrainian government, and it is such a volatile situation.”
Firth, who told Press Gazette in an interview in 2012 that facts are her “religion”, said: “I said it then, if I was asked to burn the facts and not tell the truth I’d be a goner, and so I’m gone...
“And it’s the level of disrespect for the facts that really bugs me.
“And so I made my decision yesterday when we started covering the story and this morning woke up and I just knew that I can’t go back in any more.”
She added: “The thing is once I made the decision, you have to be honest with yourself and it’s so difficult.... Once you start telling the truth it’s brutal.”
In response to her resignation, a Russia Today spokesperson said that the channel and Firth "apparently... have different definitions of truth".
Firth told Press Gazette: “They believe that fully, definitions of the truth. There you go, that’s RT. What can you say?”
More from an interview Firth did with Buzzfeed:
It's flirting with that border of overtly lying. You're not telling a lie, you're just bringing something up. I didn't want to watch a story like that, where people have lost loved ones and we're handling it like that.
"I couldn't do it any more. Every single day we're lying and finding sexier ways to do it."
That's an interesting point she makes about "just bringing something up" and it speaks to a much bigger problem in what passes for journalism these days. Throwing out a bunch of facts or claims and hinting at a connection, then leaving it to the audience to fill in the blanks and create the narrative you obviously intended, isn't good journalism. It's a cheat. It's lazy and at times outright corrupt.
Of course journalism is supposed to raise questions, but it's also supposed to answer them to the best of its ability. To foment suspicion by merely suggesting something isn't what a good journalist does. He or she has to at all times be looking for definitive answers. If you don't have those, you've got nothing more than a theory -- you've proven nothing. Any blithering idiot can come up with a theory (as we're very well aware).
What Firth is pointing out here is the way that relying on that kind of cheat is a form of, yes, lying. She got tired of doing it for RT -- and who can blame her?