A news website that claims to conduct hard-hitting investigative journalism on the United Nations faces questions over its credibility and motives. The Inner City Press posts articles with on-the-record quotes by high-level UN officials while exposing shocking details of alleged corruption.
This seems relevant for the mainstream media, since there are many rumors and innuendos of rampant corruption at the UN, while officials enjoy diplomatic immunity so they can act with impunity and above the law.
Yet, Inner City Press’s sole reporter is rarely mentioned by legitimate journalists when they write UN scandal stories even if Mr. Lee broke the story in the first place. Oh wait! Fox News wrote about Mr. Lee on February 18, 2008.
The catchy headline, ‘Journalist Who Exposes UN Corruption Disappears from Google.’ Coincided with a lead that reads, “How big do you have to be to earn the wrath of the United Nations and Internet giant Google?”
The piece portrays Mr. Lee as a victim of so-called UN intimidation tactics by quoting him as saying, “I think they said, if we can’t get this guy out of the UN, let’s disappear him from the Internet.”
But is Matthew Lee really a victim? The UN provides him with free office space inside the headquarters and the right to attend all UN-related public events. Readers can click his “How to Contact Us” page to find his UN mailing address along with a UN phone number.
By the way, the UN can tap phones or eavesdrop, since the US has no jurisdiction over its property. That’s not to say these activities do occur, but it’s important for sources to be aware of the legal privileges that the United Nations maintains.
Mr. Lee boasts of receiving accreditation at the UN. One wonders how he obtained it considering the global agency’s complex bureaucratic system. His blog is poorly-written, little-known and often inaccurate, but the UN gives him free office space anyway.
His website remains obscure, which doesn’t appear to show any paid advertising, with the exception of a link to BloggingHeadstv.com. Mr. Lee shows a link of a New York Times video website report of him, but should not be deemed an actual ad.
Inner City Press shows a “Donate” link for readers that seems to be Mr. Lee’s only means of financial support, but who are his donors?
The UN Post asked Mr. Lee about his sources of income through a series of text messages. He was asked if he receives money from the UN or other government organizations. He answered, “No.” Yet when asked about his free office space, he texted, “there’s no provision for that – no media pays. But it’s a cubicle. I’m never in …” But his statement raised suspicions when he asked, “do you have info?”
Mr. Lee’s reporting skills lack credibility. His headlines are too long without making any sense. Here are random examples: “At US Bash for Rights Committee, of Sliders & comfort Women, Tennis with Falk;” “Amid UN SC Stalling with Palestine Ping Pong, Monsour October Conclusion;” and “As Capital One Plays Chicago, Fed Plays Hide the (Predators’) Ball.”
His articles are equally as difficult to comprehend that convey shameless self-promotion schemes. Readers are likely to read these types of sentences: “a reception at a swank apartment in Fifth Avenue. In full disclosure, Inner City Press went there too…”
Almost every paragraph refers to Inner City Press as nearly each sentence written seems to scream, “look at me!” Yes, he has exposed numerous scandals, but his reporting has failed to bring about necessary UN reforms since the rest of the media doesn’t take him seriously.
Even Fox News pointed to flaws in his character, “his writing is clunky, his methods unorthodox (and often highly annoying) and his news judgment sometimes more than a little off the mark. Fox News has earned respect for its reporting of the UN, but they slam Mr. Lee for inaccurate reporting.
Nevertheless, many confidential sources working at the United Nations have confided to me that they read Inner City Press daily, while claiming high-level UN officials express irritation at his reports, questions and exposure of scandals, although he writes haphazardly, asks long-winded questions and acts rude and arrogant.
Mr. Lee actually fills a void for many UN employees sincerely seeking reforms of the institution after witnessing first-hand the appearance of incompetence and misuse of power. They want the UN to be held fully-accountable for its actions, so they contact reporters from major media outlets.
But they’re often dismissed as small-time bureaucrats. New York reporters will only listen to them if they can convince them of a “local angle.” National and International reporters request their assistance to get on-the-record interviews with higher-ranking officials.
Of course, these on-the-record interviews are near impossible to obtain and even so, these officials won’t talk about alleged UN scandals, unless they have political implications, because their employment contracts forbid them from talking about these matters.
Mr. Lee has become the voice of disenfranchised UN employees, but he appears to be undeserving of this role. Other bloggers, who are better writers, willing to abide by basic reporters’ etiquette can still be more hard-hitting and effective than Mr. Lee with reporting on the UN if given an opportunity and credentials. But most bloggers can hold little hope of obtaining UN credentials.
A good reporter intends to tell the truth. They frown upon Mr. Lee’s behavior as an obnoxious gadfly; atrocious writer and routinely inaccurate reporter. The UN raises a legitimate argument when they criticize him.
Mr. Lee calls himself an “investigative reporter” but a true reporter acts as a “messenger” not a circus barker desperately seeking an audience and attention. Journalists should understand that the story, not the reporter, makes journalism more effective as a tool to wipe out corruption.
Nevertheless, disgruntled UN employees should not lose hope if they seek to expose nefarious activities at the UN. They could always contact myself or other staff members at the UN Post, since we’re all ears.
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