August 23, 2005
An Open Thread After a Closed One
Some people aren't too happy that I shut down the comments on the previous post by Austin Bay, Roll Forward: Why the Bush White House Needs the Press to Win the Big One. But in blogging, life goes on. So here's an open thread to talk about it. Or what Austin said.
Some people (like the up and coming neo-neocon) aren’t too happy that I shut down the comments on the previous post, which was by guest writer Austin Bay: Roll Forward: Why the Bush White House Needs the Press to Win the Big One.
(See other reactions by Neuro-conservative, Don’t Press, Don’t Think, and Norma, “what a hypocrite.”)
But a weblog’s life goes on. So here’s an open thread to talk about it. Or what Austin Bay (“Weekly Standard writer, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, Republican, conservative, blogger with a lit PhD…”) said:
“The Bush Administration must revitalize its public diplomacy, and that means ‘rolling forward’ and establishing a new, more mature relationship with the press…But the NY-DC-LA axis must also ‘roll forward.’ It’s in their institutional interest as well as simple survival.”
And here’s my suggestion to participants in the previous thread. The bias discourse, however justified you may find it, is making many of you dumber by the day. You should be concentrating on getting more of your people into the mainstream media, and making great journalists out of them. And you should be discussing the bias the press should, in your considered view, have.
Instead you have driven yourself into a logic loop. Deep down, you don’t believe in an objective press. Deep down you don’t believe our press is objective.
Meanwhile, Dean Esmay has something to say about the big comment shut down at PressThink (after 168 posts):
The criticism was withering and went on for days, and he finally said “screw this” and shut off the firehose. Maybe he was a little snippy about it.
Does it need to be analyzed further than that? I mean, Jay’s just this guy, you know?
So talk to him. Thanks to Dean for his words, too.
I think my point in the previous post could have been better put: say what you will about the performance of the press, Austin Bay is talking about what we need the big institutional press to do. Let’s make sure to have a discussion about that. If you’re suggestion is: we need the big, institutional press to die, fine. Maybe in the end it will.
It’s an open question. This is an open thread.
A PressThink sampler on the matter of “media bias.”
- The View from Nowhere: “Is ABC the most anti-war network? Ridiculous, says Peter Jennings. And it is… to him.” (Sep. 18, 2003)
- Maybe Media Bias Has Become a Dumb Debate, Part One: “Denouncing bias in the media has become a dumb instrument. The cases keep coming. The charges keep flying. Often the subject—journalism—disappears.” (Oct. 24, 2003)
- Maybe Media Bias Has Become a Dumb Debate, Part Two: “The charges keep flying. But often the subject—journalism—disappears. Now there’s a Party of Peace in the bias wars. They favor perspective, and they’re telling us something.” (Oct. 25, 2003)
- The News From Iraq is Not Too Negative. But it is Too Narrow: “The bias charges are getting more serious lately as the stakes rise in Iraq and the election. The press has every reason to keep reporting aggressively on the investigation of Abu Ghraib. But there is something lacking in press coverage, and it may be time for wise journalists to assess it. The re-building story has gone missing. And without it, how can we judge the job Bush is doing?” (May 26, 2004)
- “When I’m Reporting, I am a Citizen of the World.” “That’s a quote from CNN’s Bob Franken. A tour through his press think shows why I ask the Big Journalism Deans: if schools like yours are supposed to spread the gospel, how do they know they have the religion right?” (June 10, 2005)
Posted by Jay Rosen at August 23, 2005 10:57 PM
I have a question for you. We both agree that a constructive discussion of the press involves what we want the big press to do. I would say something along the lines of Democracy Now! only with mass distribution so the truth is not a boutique offering , but potentially common sense for the country.
What I want to know is, where do you draw the line between constructive presstalk and dumb bias course?
I find myself quite mystified by how clear and intuitive the distinction seems to appear to you. From my perspective, Austin Bay is very articulate and he is very uncharacteristically diplomatic and inclusive. But at the end of the day, he is a man who makes his living as a professional right-wing media operative.
He is uniquely ambitious in the sense that he thinks from the perspective of someone like Karen Hughes--about how to shape the original message-- than he does like Hugh Hewitt, someone who is concerned with how to spin the message what brung ya. But the three of them share essentially the same goals and biases, and every word Bay has to say on your blog is toward the end of advancing the same agenda Hughes and Hewitt are advancing.
My question: Why are the neo-con trolls on your blog more annoying than Austin Bay? What makes Bay more than a super neo-con troll on steroids presenting his design for full-spectrum neo-con media dominance aside from his having better manners?
Where is this mysterious line between constructive discussion about how to build a better neo-conservative media system, and brain dead neo-con bias criticism?
Austin Bay is laying out his PR strategy for PROGRAMMING right-wing bias into press coverage. Why do you see Bay's PR strategy as a serious discussion about the future of the press and your commenters affirmation of the bias Bay self-consciously advances in his post--in precisely the manner he intended to elicit by what he wrote--as dumb bias discourse?
Wasting my time reading a respectful and articulate neo-con plan for full-spectrum neo-con media dominance that is not as immediately self-destructive and reality-challenged as Karl Rove's totalitarian approach bores me with its relentless "media not following my agenda are broken media" ranting.
Austin Bay's bias rant makes me feel dumber. Why do you post it? Why aren't you bored by it? Being annoyed with the commenters' bias-oriented responses to your posting Austin Bay's bias rant is like being annoyed that Yankees fans show up for Yankees games.
Bay is playing the bias game, and when you put his post on your site, so are you. Why the judgmental praise and blame about commenters playing the game you started with your conservative friend?
Recognizing that you are biased is a good thing.
Doing your best to tell the truth is your (or our) intellectual responsibility. The way to reconcile those two points is not to say "I'm biased and I'm proud", but to say "I'm biased and so I must make additional effort to make sure that I'm confirming things that agree with my bias, make an additional effort to find sources that disagree with my bias, make an honest effort to report them fairly, and give thought to what must be done to be a trustworthy source in the face of that bias."
You got off on a better track this time: you quote Bay's point as: “The Bush Administration must revitalize its public diplomacy, and that means ‘rolling forward’ and establishing a new, more mature relationship with the press…But the NY-DC-LA axis must also ‘roll forward.’ It’s in their institutional interest as well as simple survival.”
I don't care if you think it's fair to criticize "bias", frankly. But it's in the profesional mainstream press's self interest to figure out why they have so lost the confidence of the people who are buying their output.
There are some obvious things that can be done:
- reveal your editorial and publishing staff on the masthead (are you blushing, Steve? You should be.)
- be careful that you aren't using the adjective "conservative" any more often than the word "liberal," (and for some instruction on that, look at how often Judicial Watch is described as "conservative" when attacking a Democrat, but merely as a "watchdog group" when attacking a Republican.)
- break the habit of thinking that because someone disagrees with you, they must be mentally insufficient (Jay, you might want to rethink "making yourselves dumber".)
- care more about trying to find truth than which side you're on; criticize Paul Krugman's falsehoods as well as Rush Limbaugh's.
If the mainstream press can put their greater resources and existing infrastructure to work in a way that increases the currently abysmal level of trust they receive, there may be a place for them. Otherwise, they're lost. If's come down to that: reform or die.
OK, I'll bite.
Let's work on Mr. Bay's question, as Mr. Rosen frames it.
If the Bush administration believes the most important legacy they can leave is continuity in foreign policy, then they need to try to re-engage not only the institutional press, but a significant portion of the public.
Members of the administration may believe that they are communicating perfectly clearly. But as I'm sure any human has experienced, sometimes you understand what you're talking about but the listener doesn't. That's the signal to ask "Where did I lose you?" and start over again from there.
In a way, I think the bigfoot press is hungry for this sort of discussion. It's clear that there's a search on for people outside the administration who can explain the thinking of those inside it, because reporters can't get anyone inside to explain. (I saw a story on this somewhere recently, about the meaning of the phrase "a source close to the administration.")
There's a phrase I use for this when I'm dealing with newsmakers who refuse to explain themselves. "I'd like for you to treat me like a grown-up." When officials make an announcment and then act without much explanation, it's hard to tell their story well. It's much better if they explain their reasoning, tell you about the options they considered and discarded, share some background documents, etc.
Yes, treating reporters like grown-ups means you legitimize them.
This may not sound like a good idea to you if:
--You believe that reporters are mostly Democrats lying in wait to destroy a president they despise, and are thus incapable of listening.
--You believe that reporters are accidental or intential allies of the sworn enemies of the United States.
--You believe that big media will be dead in five years, replaced by an anarchy of bloggers.
Although if you believe the last, It would be interesting to hear what any administration's media strategy should be after the revolution.
It's great you have an open thread here, Jay -- I really appreciate you putting up with the abuse your conservative readers, like me, give you. Dean Esmay's comments defending you, about being tired, were seconded by Steven Den Beste.
Please read David Frum's Another Lost Opportunity about how Bush failed to say much in his last big speech. Lots of emails complaining about Bush repeating repeated repeats being booooring. You'd like it!
Funny how Instapundit talks about Bush PR failing; and some Bush supporters almost echo Dean -- "he's tired."
I believe "objective" journalism is good, is worth striving for, and is difficult because of bias. However, I also believe, passionately, in "advocate" journalism, where the reporters/ paper is on a crusade to "make a difference." It's not honest to claim to be doing both types of journalism, in the same article.
Insofar as the press wants to "make a difference" in Iraq, there are these main possible measures. (1) US soldiers/ citizens killed; (2) all folk killed; (3) separate tallies of Coalition forces (possibly just US with notes on others), Iraqi gov't, terrorists (any young dead Arab men? how to know?), civilians.
You know that an honest, objective Free Press kills more US soldiers in Iraq than does Public Relations for Bush. I support such a Free Press, and the additional US deaths, but accept there is a cost. In lives.
But Public Relations against Bush kills even more US soldiers in Iraq. This enrages me, and makes it hard be anything but cynical about a press that won't even try to "measure the difference" they're making in Iraq.
Finally, a subversive thought. Reps have the House, the Senate, and the Pres.; they don't quite have the US SC -- though this is prolly coming. Still, many moderates do NOT think the Reps control gov't Branch #4 -- NY DC LA media. This allows us Reps to continue believing we're "victims" of the unjust oppression of Leftist news, and thus voting for Reps to stop the injustice of such news (plus NOT watching it anymore, now we got Fox! except not in Slovakia, except internet.)
I see on the right sidebar: Psst...The Press is a Player (in the campaign).
Yep. Also in the war on terror, and in Iraq.
As it was in Vietnam. Whose side is the Press playing for? How do know?
Steve Lovelady writes
No matter how often Jay tries to stretch the rubber band, it snaps back to its default position:
"Don't confuse me with nuance; the press is biased and I'm not."
End of story.
I don't know any other way to put this, so I'm just going to be blunt. This is a lie.
No one has ever said they aren't biased and the media is. No one! Only a fool would say such a thing. (Clearly Steve thinks many are fools, but that's only his opinion.) However, journalists' constant mantra, "We're not biased!", smacks of Macbethian blindness.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's see if we can begin a honest dialogue. (I have very little hope of it, but I am willing to try, one more time.)
What the (so-called) "right" is demanding is not bias, it's balance. For example - stop calling murdering thugs "insurgents". They clearly aren't. Any fool can see that, and using the word "insurgents" decreases the credibility of the story. "Insurgents" might have been the right word early on, but it clearly is not any more. They're also not "rebels", for God's sake! The use of these words implies an agenda. If your style guides are telling you to use those words, then get new style guides!
Stop using anonymous sources. Nobody believes them any more because it's obvious they have an agenda - both to promote the administration story and to denigrate it. Journalists might think it's "sexy", but it is not. If someone doesn't have the guts to put their name behind a story, then the story shouldn't be written. Period. Not using anonymous sources would probably increase press credibility 10 percentage points in short order.
Stop quoting political flacks and presenting it as "news". It isn't. It's political bs. Everybody knows it. Saying "Senator So and So said this" is meaningless. It's the Senator's opinion. Get some facts and present those as news.
And my personal pet peeve - stop reporting US military deaths as if they occurred in a vacuum. 7 Marines were killed in western Iraq when a bomb went off is meaningless without some context. Were they sitting around smoking cigars when a bomb suddenly appeared out of nowhere? Or were they fighting insurgents and 12 of them were killed in the same operation? (A big part of this problem is the media's completely irrational fear of "embedding". Some of the absolutely stellar reporting in Iraq has come from embeds because the story has context.)
That's a start. If this doesn't degenerate into another food fight, I'll add some more.
From a speech by Donald Rumsfeld in Dallas Aug. 2.
"Indeed, the murders of innocent Iraqi citizens now appear to be hardening the majority of the Iraqi people's determination to defeat al-Qaida and to defeat the insurgents, and to succeed in building a free country."
In June, Rumsfeld used 'insurgent' three times in brief remarks to the Senate House Services Committee.
Take it up with Rummy, antimedia. It's what the military and the government have used to refer to the forces opposed to a new Iraqi government since before there was one. Which is, by definition, what an insurgent is. Any press agenda is in your mind.
This is why I find the whole 'bias' argument empty. The press largely reports things as they are said. There is no quarterly meeting to determine which usage/facts will best further the cause of liberal ideology. If the commander at the press briefing or Rumsfeld or the president calls them insurgents, you write 'insurgents' in your notebook.
But because it doesn't fit your perspective of the moment, it's bias.
And, Kilgore, for your edification, life in the Green Zone is dangerous. That's where the car bombs go off. That's where journalists and diplomats are kidnapped and sometimes killed.
Yet they do go out with army patrols. They go to cities other than Baghdad, often traveling in packs for safety. Or they work with local stringers who can travel more easily. And reporters are the targets of IEDs. So they can do their job and you can take snotty shots at them.
To suggest they're reporting from their hotel rooms solely to avoid danger is a flight of fantasy I don't think you want to take.
This presents a real dilemma, and the necessity of a real decision, for news media that purport to serve the entire globe from a single, consistent stance...
I agree with almost every word of that, Larry. You make excellent points.
It might interest you to know that in 1999 I wrote a book about the problem. It was called, What Are Journalists For? meaning: what do they affirm, stand for, and what are they willing, in the end, to stand up for? I added a question mark to the title of my book because I did not think it easy to give a good answer. For the reasons you mention. There's also a critique of "adversarialness" in there.
I questioned whether CNN's Bob Franken understood what he was saying, when he argued that as a journalist reporting in Iraq he operated as a "citizen of the world," because his statement (in the circumstances he was in...) struck me as absurd.
Any political sociologist or cultural historian would, I think, agree with several posters here that professional journalism is a national "formation" (an academic term), and so the question of its relationship--or loyalty--to the nation is deep, serious and unavoidable. If you blow it, you lose authority and ultimately market share. Technology can force these issues forward, and I think most of us feel it has lately.
I agree, in particular, that those who have tried to avoid it with various strategems of neutrality are paying the price. On the other hand they were also wary of some very real dangers in appearing to be "for" anything at all. The risks of claiming no position ("objectivity") never, I think, occured to them. But we can see them more clearly now. If you claim objectivity as basic to your authority, then every time you fail at it, you weaken your base.
I also think, reaching back to the previous discussion, that critics of the press--and any dissatisified citizen or user I consider a "critic"--ought to know what they want journalists to be for, and why that's a good thing to ask of the national or local press. Some disagreements that come out as "bias" may actually be about differences in what can and should be affirmed by journalists.
Anyway, the point of writing a book called, "What Are Journalists For?" was to raise these questions, and show how I answered them, in the years 1989-99.
Thank you, Jay, for opening up this thread and especially for the rich set of links to go through. I have been working my way through them, but I have not had a chance to read them all (much less their subsidiary links), so please consider my comments provisional:
First off, I find myself in substantial agreement with your e-mailer, Scott Harris. The idea of the being a citizen of the world is: a) nonsensical, as there is no such world government issuing, passports, press credentials, or protection of free speech; b) intrinsically undemocratic if not anti-democratic; c) not likely to be popular domestically, as an overwhelming majority of Americans consider themselves to be citizens of the USA; d) not deserving of Americans’ trust in reporting on War on Terror, as most Americans trust that their country is morally superior to the enemy.
Most importantly with respect to the original topic of Austin Bay’s post, it would make absolutely no sense for the Bush Administration to entrust such an entity with special privileges in the setting of America’s destiny. To the extent the press holds this attitude, they should not expect to be treated any more warmly by George Bush than Jacques Chirac.
So, one aspect of the “religion” of journalism, as Jay has described it, is this “view from nowhere.” While this perspective is consistent with the dominant myth of objectivity, it is also important to point out that it is more consistent with left/liberal ideology than with conservative thought. (If this does not seem obvious, I would be happy to elaborate in future posts.) Note that I am specifically not trying to play “gotcha” in a bias game; I am merely trying to demonstrate one reason why many conservatives might observe the effects of the-view-from-nowhere religion in action and shout “liberal bias.”
Moreover, the objectivity religion seems more likely to be a comfortable fit for someone who views concepts like good and evil, as applied by George Bush (and most Americans) to the terror war, to be Manichean if not downright primitive. If you view the enemy as evil, certain “balancing” techniques, commonplace in the coverage of this war, would never occur to you. How often did the White House press corps challenge FDR with Goebbels’ perspective or with fears of inflaming the German street?
Again, forgive my reference to a website maintained by the players of the bias game, but I would interpret this report as an almost comical example of a bizarre ritual practiced by followers of the objectivity religion (in this instance almost literally a cargo cult religion):
(T)he Taliban . . . claiming, first, that the United States was trying to poison food. The United States, at its briefing, saying that in fact, the concern was that the Taliban would be poisoning the food so it could blame the United States. So you can see the kind of battle that was going on. The U.S. offers no proof of its claims, the Taliban offers no proof of its claim.
The reporter: Bob Franken!
If you believe, as George Bush and most conservatives do, that our Islamofascist enemies are morally equivalent to Nazi’s, then certain forms of reporting (including the sniper parable) become unthinkable. And many forms of reporting, such as the identification of heroic acts by American soldiers, would naturally occur to broaden the horizon of Iraq reporting (think Iwo Jima photo vs Eddie Adams photo). Ernie Pyle was not a citizen of the world.
I think there are several other governing myths in this religion, which perhaps Jay has also written about, which owe their intellectual provenance to the historical left. The so-called skepticism of the reporter (usually applied to American institutions, as opposed to say, the UN) actually seems to me to be a form of utopian cynicism, if I may coin a phrase. I believe that the tendency to somewhat relentlessly criticize the shortcomings of American policy and actions stems from a deeper utopian belief that man and his institutions are perfectible.
Similarly, the philosophical origins of the idea of “fighting for the oppressed underdog,” are certainly not to be found in Edmund Burke. More importantly, it begs the question of who is to be identified as the underdog. Who decides, for example, that the prisoners at Gitmo were the underdogs who needed defending?
To return to Austin Bay’s original post, he was operating under the principle that all participants shared an underlying set of goals, and needed to take steps to repair the dysfunctional relationship that impeded the achievement of those goals. It is not yet clear that his underlying assumption was correct. As a conservative, I do not believe, for example, that Bush should work more closely with the UN on terror policy – I believe that in many cases he should work around (where possible), and against (where necessary) the United Nations, which is demonstrably not seeking the same goals or valuing the same ideals as the US.
Finally, I know that I am far from alone amongst conservatives in thinking that the most decisive factors in the outcome of war are belief and will: belief in the rightness of your cause, and the will to keep fighting. I believe that Islamofascism represents an existential threat to our way of life, but that America will prevail as long as we maintain our belief and will. When Americans lost these two pillars of our fight in Vietnam, the war was lost, as General Giap has described in his memoirs. And many conservatives believe that the role of the American press was critical to that loss, as has been described here, here, and here. Please be aware that the passion of the bias gamers of the right derives in no small part from the fear that history will repeat, with much greater consequences.
I also think [...] that critics of the press--and a dissatisified citizen or user I consider a "critic"--ought to know what they want journalists to be for, and why that's a good thing to ask. Some disagreements that come out as "bias" may actually be about differences in what can and should be affirmed by the press.
"Dissatisfied user" fits me pretty well. I know precisely what I want from the press, and I'm not getting it, so I don't consume or pay for its product. Instead I find other sources, or do without.
It comes to this: I can't be everywhere. Sometimes I need, and very often I want, to know what's happening in places I can't be, because I can't afford it or I'm in some other place that's also important or of interest.
So what I want of the press is to be my eyes and ears elsewhere. By aggregating all the contributions from advertisers of women's underwear and different sorts of soap, and all those quarters dropped in newspaper machines, the press can afford to send reporters who will then report back what's going on. It's also less intrusive on the scene to have one or two people, perhaps with cameras, than to have everybody who's interested go look for themselves.
And if you have any agenda or intentions other than seeing what went on and reporting back, you've failed me. Bias makes it worse, but the failure at the beginning is the "make a difference"/"speak truth to power" agenda, and fundamentally the whole "Fourth Estate" paradigm. If your self-image requires you to participate in the scene in any way, you are not a "reporter" -- you're an actor, and actors by definition have an agenda within the action.
What you should be teaching your journalism students is invisibility. It isn't truly possible, but it ought to be the ideal -- the reporter should not be attempting to influence the action, or participating in it in any way; he or she should be a fly on the wall, invisible and impalpable, simply telling the rest of us what happened and what is to be found there. We have to make decisions, and need data. Supplying data is what the press should be all about.
As I said, bias makes it worse -- but the opening wedge is journalist as participant. Several people have remarked that everybody is biased, reporters no less than anyone; that's true enough, but once the fatal decision to join the action is made, the journalist's bias leads him or her to choose a side and promote it. The data I get is then filtered through a model that includes the journalist as one of the actors on the scene, and that contaminates the data, often beyond usefulness.
Reporters are useful. They tell me what happened, and I can decide what it means to me. Journalists are an insult. They tell me what it means, implying that I'm too stupid to figure it out. We have a surfeit of journalists, but reporters are fairly thin on the ground. How about training up some reporters, Jay?
The case of Jim Lehrer and the Presidential debate suggests there are situations where the journalist is inevitably an actor even if the same journalist is careful not to advance anyone's agenda.
::sigh:: well, yes. But in that case Lehrer is not acting as a journalist; he's acting as a referee. The reason he got picked as referee is because he has a reputation for not having an agenda, which if true makes him an above-average reporter; but while he's acting as a referee, he isn't acting as a journalist of the debate. He might be collecting data for an article on how one goes about being a debate referee, but that's at least one step removed from the debate itself.
You asked, further up, what you and J-schools could do to get me back as a customer. It will be a long process; but it would begin with your teaching your students that they are reporters first. The reporter is not my representative, authorized to act according to his judgement on my behalf; he is my deputy, authorized to act as I would, if at all. Since he cannot (and probably would not) act as I would act, the best he can do is report the data to me, so that I can act accordingly.
The ideal report is a transcription of the event, with the context fully described and nothing left out. That will never happen; reporters are human beings. Here is the priority list.
1. Correct -- the report faithfully describes the event, without manufacturing anything.
2. Context -- the report specifies the context of the event, rather than describing it as occurring in isolation.
3. Complete -- the report fully describes the event, such that the consumer of the report can make the same decisions and judgements as he would have made had he attended in propria persona.
Number three is the goal. If the report gives me enough data to act just as I would have if I had actually attended the event myself, it serves the purposes I require. If it does not, it is either defective (incomplete, poor depiction, etc.) or corrupt (intentionally misleading), and in either case I won't be back for more.
As for ami --
...reality is "biased" against the bigotry, greed, and prejudices of the right wing...
Yeah, sure. Y'know, you make me nostalgic. Your discourse has gotten to the point where it sounds precisely like beer-joint and porch conversation among my Southern Cracker friends, relatives, and neighbors circa 1962, with a few of the proper nouns changed via search and replace. Anybody whose basic fixed position is that we shouldn't be in Iraq because the Iraqis aren't worth it and are too stupid to benefit anyway has nothing to say to me about "bigotry".
Go tell somebody else, hey? It's off topic.
You bring up some good points about perspective and limited human analysis abilities.
While it is true that war is complex, and the soldier on the ground, however virtuous, is limited by his perspective. It is not true that in the overall picture, the news from soldier blogs are incorrectly assumed to be more accurate in the bigger picture than the news from reporters and editors.
The reason for that is because many retired officers, current active officers, aswell as linked units are represented in the MilBlog subsector.
That means if you want to know about Fallujah. You can hear some tidbits from an officer in charge of a platoon, maybe a Major in charge of Intelligence, or the grunts at the ground level, people in Armored Platoons firing main tank rounds in Fallujah, and so on. From those sources, you piece together a complete picture. From those sources, you gain the image of the ground pounder and that of the officer, whose job is to think of the big picture.
You would have to actually peruse and look around the various MilBloggers.
There is actually some Special Forces blogs. They say nothing about current or past operations, but you can tell a lot just from their training stories alone about how Special Forces operate.
How does a reporter report "news" about a Special Forces Operation btw?
I can say without a doubt, that it would be far inferior to finding out yourself by reading milblogs and piecing together the clues. Because self-taught information is always superior to distilled and osmosed information from a tv set or a press report.
It's a lot better to be on the attack, so to speak, than to be on the defensive.
I, for one, don't hold you accountable for the content of the media. However, I would like to hold your feet to the fire on the consequences of your ideas.
In the last two days (actually nights), I have spent a fair amount of time perusing your archives. And I think it is clear from my comments that I find your approach to the press "religion" quite insightful. But I find that some of your essays stop just short of drawing a full conclusion.
For example, your discussion of the contasting coverage of Abu Ghraib (wall-to-wall pictures) vs the Nick Berg video (self-censored) very skillfully demonstrates the logical inconsistency at play. But you then express a hope/expectation that the media might show the Berg video after a brief delay for "absorption," and then launch into a lengthy attack on the bias-hunters.
You conclude with a diagnosis with which I fully agree (quoted below), but I would like to hear your thoughts on possible prescriptions for the patient, Dr. Rosen:
"Way, way underneath these debates I find a disturbing fact. Even the smartest people in the major news media—and this is especially so in television news—have not really determined for themselves or explained to us exactly what their role should be in the worldwide fight against terrorism...Terrorism can be many things, but it is always an attempt at communication; and a free press in an open society “completes” the act."
I would argue that this problem goes far beyond the airing of a single gruesome video, into just about every decision that the political and international press must make everyday, including the conduct of White House press conferences. In this context I would like to ask you to respond to my comments about Vietnam and Tet, to which you refer in passing in the Nick Berg essay.
More broadly, do you have any thoughts on the following observation?: Many core precepts of the press religion that you have identified are actually intellectual residua of the last two centuries of Leftist thought. Thus, is it possible that the bias-hunters, while perhaps focusing too much on the ephemera of specific "gotcha" moments, are actually pointing towards a deeper phenomenon?
A dialogue with conservatives about the press isn't going to work right now. Their motives are purely politics, as a political gambit their strategy works perfectly, and they are going to keep at it until it fails. The best possible thing journalists could do would be to ignore them.
A useful response to the question of "why is the mainstream media so liberal" is "why is the rightwing media so crappy, so devoted to the ruling party's propaganda and so little devoted to the truth." Pointing out that the right-of-center press in other countries is capable of doing good journalism, that you have no trouble seeing that the Telegraph is a much better paper than the Mirror and the Economist is a better magazine than almost any in the U.S., also helps to some degree sometimes.
But you've done a fair bit of this; it only works on people who care at least a little about journalism and have at least a little shame, and not so many of your commenters seem to. So the best thing is probably to ignore the people who don't actually engage your arguments.
I get frustrated here too, frankly, in that the comments of people on the left who actually care about journalism--were journalists and left the field because they were disillusioned by it in my case--are completely ignored in the vain hope of engaging people who will never, ever listen to what you say.
As far as objectivity: it seems to me that if objectivity is worth something, it means not assumming your conclusion. You will have opinions of your own of course, which may predispose you to sympathize with one side or believe certain things, but those should stay out of your story unless independently confirmed by factual reporting & should not be a reason to skip steps in your story.
As far as which stories to run, I think there is no better alternative than going with those you consider most important, asking yourself "would I consider this equally important if the party affiliations of everyone were switched" if needed.
What "objectivity" usually means in practice, is one of three things:
a) failing to come to a conclusion, instead just transcribing the "he said she said" and skipping the part where you actually look at the evidence and see what is actually true.
b) assuming in advance that the Democratic and Republican arguments are equally truthful, equally reasonable, equally moderate or extreme, equally right or wrong. This is assuming the conclusion in advance as surely as, and no more likely to be accurate than, assuming that the Democrats are right and the Republicans wrong or vice versa.
c) covering stories not based on your own judgment of their importance--actually thinking would be far too subjective--but based on how many people are talking about them at what volume.
I dunno about this discussion. Although the elephant in the living room has been mentioned, it hasn't been dissected. It's still there, its presence barely remarked and its meaning either unremarked or assumed.
Let me be a bit clearer.
Before the last presidential election, CBS connived in the promulgation of bogus documents wiht the clear purpose of swinging an election. Whether you think Rather was actively involved or he was too eager to check; whether you think his immediate staff was guilty or were too eager to check, whether you think the entire news division was guilty or just too eager to check...the fact was, they fought the obvious as long as they could.
Here's the point: If they'll do this, what less obvious and less egregious but still dishonest stuff will they do? What is the cumulative impact of scores of efforts one-tenth or one-fiftieth as bad as Rathergate?
Following that was the untended ammo dump, about which CBS and the NYT had intended to write, but maybe a week later than they could have, but, strangely, closer to the election, which, coincidentally, meant too little time for the administration to respond before the election and, which, coincidentally, became a non-story just after the election.
Now, I understant that CBS didn't stand up and say, "We lied like rugs in order to swing an election." In fact, they denied it.
Where is the rule that we have to believe them about their pure motivation?
If a major news outlet will do this on the eve of a presidential election, what smaller things are they doing daily?
Well, some of us catch them at it.
Maybe it's not bias. Maybe it's a...umm..., a banana.
The problem is that the presence of the banana means lots of people don't trust the media. And no amount of chin-pulling by journos is going to change that until the banana goes away.
It's up to the media. Don't expect to keep the banana around and simultaneously use your mythical authority to keep the rest of us believing in your mythical authority.
Neuro: Here is part of what I think, in reply to your questions. It's material for a whole post, which I hope to draft some day.
At some point in the evolution of the current (but dying) professional model in journalism--which stresses objectivity, neutrality and being a watchdog or adversary of those in power--the press lost the capacity to think politically about itself and what actually connected it to the country, including the two-party system, including the drift of things in the electorate.
Journalism schools were complicit in this. We should but we don't teach courses in the politics of the press, for example, where students might be asked to think about how, say, a consensus in mainstream journalism is shaped by political consensus in the country. When one shifts the other is affected. But they don't know that. What is the relationship between the political class and the class of journalists reporting on politics? They should be able to think about this, but in fact what we teach them (the "religion") disables them.
I believe that without quite realizing what it was doing, the press slipped into rationales and routines that blithely (superficially) accepted "pariah" status for itself within American society. This became one of the theories connecting professional journalism to the American people. It's a very serious thing--actually being a pariah--but if it's accepted superifically one might not realize the consequences of thinking that way.
If you think, for example, that people resent you and always will because you tell the uncomfortable truths they do not want to to hear, you have said to yourselves, "we will always be a pariah." A softer version of it is when a journalist says about criticism, "well, we're not here to be loved."
I equate this with the incapacity to think because it set out before journalists a false choice-- striving for adulation vs. accepting pariah status--neither of which is wise, sustainable or in the interests of a mature institution.
One may interpret what is happening today (where journalism is caught up in the culture war) as: American society is actually granting to the press the "pariah" status it unwittingly took on in its own mind. One may interpret the bias wars as: critics are "thinking politically" where journalists failed to do so.
When September 11th happened, these deeply-set weaknesses burst forward. As I argued here ("What if Everything Changed for American Journalists on September 11th?"):
"On the whole the American press has not seen fit to start its own story over after the attacks of 2001, just to see if 'journalism' comes out in the same place, if 'ethics' are the ones that were adequate before, if duty to nation looks the same, if observer-hood still fits."
I understand your frustration with the accusations of bias. Many of them are unfair, but...
Consider a wife who catches her husband cheating on her. Even if she continues in the relationship, it has been unalterably changed. Her trust in him has been shattered. She will inevitably be suspicious whenever he is alone with another woman - no matter his innocence. And perhaps, some of the time, she is right. Maybe he still does play aroung a little on the side. Even if her specific suspicions are provably false in individual circumstances, her general suspicions may be correct. He still has a roaming eye, and maybe sometimes other roaming body parts.
That is exactly the situation the MSM in which finds itself in regards to conservatives. We feel, heck we know, that we have been betrayed in the past. So your protestations of media innocence may be correct in a technical sense, but our suspicions may also be warranted at the same time. There are just too many examples of the MSM continuing to betray conservatives for us to justify reinvesting the MSM with the trust it once enjoyed.
Trust, once lost, is very difficult to restore. You may not personally be guilty of any violations, and there may be many journalists who are also not guilty. But you suffer from guilt by association. Unfair? Sure. But are conservatives necessarily "dumb" because they withhold their trust? I don't think so.
Also, I think that we get caught up in labels - conservative vs. liberal, Republican vs. Democrat. But those labels are just shorthand for how people view issues. The defining image of the press is where it comes down on issues on a case by case basis. The real damage to press credibility is that on issue after issue after issue, the press, taken as a whole is almost completely disconnected from the values of the average American, and even hostile to "conservative" positions on issues such as
1) Abortion (Parental Notification)
2) Economics (Socialism vs. Free Market)
3) Business (Profit motivations)
4) Feminism (denigration of Men)
5) Racism (false charges and race baiting)
6) Family (gay marriage)
7) Public Morality (sex on TV, and in the movies, local strip clubs)
8) Energy Policy vs. Environmentalism (conservation vs. preservation)
9) Affirmative Action (racial preferences, quotas)
10) Multiculturalism (American exceptionalism, melting pot assimilation vs. identity politics)
11) Internationalism (Using foreign platforms to criticize our elected officials)
12) Patriotism (Citizen of the World)
13) Religion (most Americans are religious and specifically Christian)
14) and many others.
When the slant of writing comes down again and again and again on the opposite side of the issue from conservative positions, is it wrong to recognize a pattern and call it out? "The press is biased" is just shorthand for "we don't agree." And that disagreement is widespread on issue after issue.
It seems that the press isn't as concerned with what American really think as compared to trying to tell us what we should think. And when we refuse to fall in line, we are called morons, misogynists, homophobes, morons, racists, bigots, and yes, "dumb."
The "citizen of the world" position is just the most eggregious example of the MSM philandering. The press claims to represent our interest, but seems to have no interest in us. We are left at home taking care of the kids while the philandering press is out bed-hopping on almost every issue that matters to us. And like the philandering husband blaims his wife, we are also blaimed.
In this environment, is it really any wonder that we cry "bias?" We feel betrayed. Our trust has been shattered. You are correct in saying that we need to cut the press some slack if the relationship is ever going to be repaired. Some, like Austin Bay think the relationship needs repairing. But just as many, if not more, are considering "divorce." Can you blame us? Sure. But that doesn't solve the problem. The real question is who gets custody of the "kids" (the issues.) That is the actual battle being fought over in the alternative media.
I don't deny that the blogs are parasites on the MSM. But I prefer to choose my own filters. By reading left, right and center, I get a sense of the issues from different points of view. But unlike with the contrived congeniality of shows like Crossfire, I prefer my bias undiluted.
When I read Kevin Drum, I know where he stands and can compensate. Likewise for Glenn Reynolds, or Ed Morissey. When I read John Hinderaker at Powerline Blog, I can compensate for him as well.
As I said in my original email to Jay, there is much in the press that is immune to political bias. I used to read the Washington Post everyday. I think it is a decent paper, sometimes.
But increasingly, much of what is reported on weblogs bypasses the MSM completely. A lot of reporting on the Iraq War is only available online. Kevin Drum likes to link to government documents. And all bloggers link to other bloggers as much or more than they link to each other.
A single MSM story may be a catalyst for discussion, but the discussion threads are much more interesting because you get to see what real everyday people think about the issues of the day. And they are usually much longer and more detailed than the original story.
As a consumer of news, I prefer to know up front what the ideologies of my screeners are. The filters I use help me screen out the noise and separate the information from the raw data.
Also, newsmakers, the wholesalers of news, as opposed to retail news deliverers, are learning how to deliver their message directly to the consumers, bypassing the middle man. That is not necessarily a bad thing for the consumer. It is not such a good thing for the retailer.
You might say that wholesale newsmakers have an agenda and might trick the unsuspecting consumer of news. That's the "value-added" argument for the MSM. And there is some validity to that argument.
But I would argue that when news organizations engage in "investigative reporting," they have themselves become newsmakers on the same level with other newsmakers like companies, politicians, and PR firms. We, as consumers have every right to consider the agenda of the "investigative reporter" as we do the agenda of any other newsmaker. And we are not so gullible as you might suppose. As much as we are critical of the performance of the press, we can be just as critical of the performance of other actors in the news.
But when the MSM denies being an actor, it loses all credibility. We might read the report, but the game of trying to claim the moral highground of "objectivity" is pretty much discredited.
Yet when some right-wing ideologues and some angry vets go after Kerry's war record with innuendo and half-truths, that's fine to you. That's 'facts.' But you also want equivalency. Much of the information in Kerry's combat record came out in news reports, substantiated in interviews with boat crew and, for heaven's sake, old Vietnamese. But it's media bias because the press didn't force the issue on revealing his papers.
Once Kerry released his papers, the information confirmed his service and his heroism and made the critics look silly. But it's still bias to you.
This made me laugh so hard it hurt.
I won't bore you with all the details. Two examples will suffice. The Rev. David Alston was a speaker at the Democratic Convention. Spoke eloquently of his service with John Kerry on the day he got his Silver Star. Very inspiring. Kerry bravely beaching the boat, running through a hail of enemy gunfire, killing an enemy before he could kill Kerry's men, etc., etc.
Once, he even directed the helmsman to beach the boat, right into the teeth of an ambush, and pursued our attackers on foot, into the jungle. In the toughest of situations, Lieutenant Kerry showed judgment, loyalty and courage. Even wounded, or confronting sights no man should ever have to see, he never lost his cool.
These are Alston's words, referring to the one
incident in which Kerry beached his boat - the day he won the Silver Star.
Only one problem. David Alston wasn't on the boat with John Kerry that day. In fact, he was wounded in action before Kerry took over the boat and was on the hospital ship being treated for a severe head wound when Kerry's Silver Star incident took place. (Whether he served a single day with Kerry is still an open question. Alston isn't talking. Neither is Kerry.)
But don't take my "biased" word for it. Call Alston and ask him to release his records or provide on iota of proof that he ever served with Kerry.
Jim McDevitt, one of Kerry's "Band of Brothers", a brave Swiftee, appeared with Kerry at the DNC.
Only one problem. McDevitt was a US Marine. Never served a single day with Kerry. Kerry met him in a hospital stateside after Kerry had returned stateside and had already joined VVAW.
But don't take my "biased" word for it. Call McDevitt up and ask him where and when and with whom he served. Ask him to release his military records.
Know how many major media outlets reported this? Not one.
So when you say "made the critics look silly", I don't get angry. I laugh. Because it's so silly you can't get angry.
To Dave McLemore, the media professional who insists there is no agenda and no bias, I issue a direct challenge. Prove me wrong, and I will reveal my identity right here on Jay's blog. I will shed my anonymity right here (and make Jay a very happy man, apparently.)
If you can't prove me wrong, then apologize publicly, on this blog, for smearing the good men of the Navy who stood up for the truth and publish an article revealing the facts of David Alston's and Jim McDevitt's service records and the lack of veracity of their and Kerry's words.
If you don't do one or the other, then you have precisely zero public credibility here, Dave, because I have just called you out. You have all the resources of the professional media at your disposal. It will take two simple phone calls to at least get your investigation going. Do you have the courage to seek the truth, Dave?
One of us has to be wrong. You can convince Jay's readers, right here and right now, that the media isn't biased, Dave. All you have to do is prove I'm wrong.
Kerry has "released" his records to three, sympathetic outlets; The Boston Globe, The LA Times and The Associated Press, not one of which has produced a single article discussing the records except to say, "Yup, looks good to us."
I'll let the readers of this blog decide if the above facts make "the critics" look silly.
Jay, you wrote well and repeated:
"Part of the vehemence of the bias discourse is that people who are passionate speakers of it want someone to stand and be judged guilty of all that bias, or take responsibility for it, own it, and since this never happens, they take the tools of justice into their own hands, and use them on whomever "represents" the absent offenders."
Previously you had mentioned that nobody seems able to fire the News Anchors.
I'm sure enraged by Americans who supported a policy but then deny responsibility for the results of that policy.
I supported Bush going into Iraq, I oppose "torture", yet I know from the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment that under-trained guards will likely commit abuses. To me that's part of the "hell of war." One of the almost inevitable bad consequences of a policy whose good benefits I think outweigh the costs.
I'm enraged by the policy of the Press on Sudan, today -- where are the interviews with UN officials about dealing with weekly, daily, slow-genocide levels of death? Or interviews with Chinese officials?
And of course, Vietnam. Where America failed to do nation-building, and let S. Vietnam lose the war.
Katherine, where is your complaint that the press fails to discuss the facts about Vietnam? That Cronkite opposed the war (~= OUT NOW); that the US got out (failed to build democracy); that SE Asia suffered genocide.
Cindy says Bush killed her son, when obviously it was terrorists/ insurgents (if Rummy calls them insurgents it IS unfair to complain of press bias for not calling them terrorists). But the logic that says Bush killed, or supported the death of Casey is true in the sense that, had Bush not ordered the Iraq invasion, it's almost certain Casey wouldn't have been killed there. (The fact that there have been some 18 000+ service men die in accidents between 1983-2000 is also underpublicized; Casey was nearly as likely to die in an accident.)
That logic says whatever caused the US pullout caused/ supported the SE Asian genocide.
The double standards on applying accountability and responsibility keep enraging me.
Sorry, but you are living in an alternate universe.
"There was never any media obsession over Bush's military service --- the Globe articles from 2000 drew scant national attention, and no one was looking into Bush's records in 2004---until the right made Michael Moore's comments an issue"
I have worked in television for over 10 years. I obvserved how much attention was paid to those records. They were made an issue in the 2000 race, even no credible evidence surfaced.
Then they were made an issue before the 2004 election. There was weeks and weeks of coverage on this, and I watched the press conferences where question after question was asked about this.
Mary Mapes, of the CBS forgeries fame, was described by as obssessed by the story by CBS's own report on the event.
And, the fact that the press would take the lead of Michael Moore, a person who I hope everyone can acknowledge is not a objective observer and lacks honesty, is telling in itself.
As far as questions about Kerry's service and questions about that, you are also wrong. Ask John O'Neil and the thousands of other vets who heard themselves slandered by him whether is service is what he said it was. The fact that they did not really get the same forum as Kerry to spout says alot.
Kerry was also involved in the Winter Soldier 'hearings' in which many if not all of their outrageous allegations were proven to be without merit. Some of them turned out to have never served.
Yet, Kerry used those hearings as the basis for alot of his testimony before Congress.
Finally, Kerry, at those hearings, claimed to have committed atrocities while serving in Vietnam. How does this NOT raise questions on his service? He is, by his own admission, a war criminal, but yet there is no question regarding his service?
Think, Ami. John Kerry in large part promoted his military service in the campaign.
"Reporting for Duty!"
Yet, the press focused on his daring exploits, and then his brave testimony before Congress, but how much attention was paid to the war crimes he committed? How many press people asked, "Do we want a war criminal for President?"
Now before you, and everyone else, goes off on me for right-wing nuttery, just take a breath. I am not saying anything in this last part that was not claimed by Kerry himself.
Anyway, as they say in the military, incoming...
Of course story selection is subjective. That's why they call it news judgment. And I'll be first in line to agree editors make bad judgments.
It's good to remember, however, that it is editors plural. They sit around in meetings several times each day to assess the myriad news stories - local, wire, national, international, etc. and pick those that will run Page One and on section fronts, etc. So cat lovers and dog lovers hash it out and make their selections.
From what I can tell, though, if the dog is doing something familiar and usual and the cat is picketing the president or holding up a bank, the cat will get the better placement. Doesn't matter of the big editor likes dogs better.
In some circles there is something called 'the mix.' It's an alchemy we lesser reporter beings aren't privy to, but is has something to do with trying to guess which mix of stories - hard news, crime news, features, community news, etc. -- that will fit on the front page. And more importantly, will snare the interest of the reader. Readers that have a much more diverse set of interests than the usual blog reader.
And, of course, news is an ever-continuing event. New facts, new topics, new cats and dogs arrive every news cycle that change the dynamic.
Why does a murder in Aruba or yet another "missing pretty white woman" become an obsession? I have no idea. Notably, it's a offense committed more by cable TV news and talk shows. But print makes plenty of its own miscues and errors of judgment.
So, yes, story selection and placement is subjective. And frequently haphazard. But my experience tells me it's driven more by tradition and an ever-changing effort to grab reader attention than it is the personal bias of the reporters and editors.
If they were going to select and print news based on ideology, newspapers would look more like Daily Kos or Powerline. Is that what you really want?
Dave M., you support Kerry and attacked Kerry critics at least twice before being called on it.
Kerry LIED about being in Cambodia at Christmas. Then you're amused, on a blog about Press (& bias!), that kerry-haters respond to your troll-support
Earlier you said:
We will work at emphasizing facts and a clearer assessment of events, cut through the bullshit from whoever is in power and report what's going on.
Please show me the MSM link that emphasizes how Kerry's 1986 Senate testimony (in opposition to Reagan fighting communism) was a LIE.
If the press really attacked both sides equally (Marc Cooper is best I've found), that would be OK with me. But they don't.
Dave, you lie again (or is it merely wrong?):
But the accusation by many here that there is an overt and intentional bias by the media against conservative political and social values is simply not true.
If any "accusation ... is simply not true", such an accusation can be refuted with simple facts. Bias is not such an accusation.
What IS true is, for instance, that in the first Bush-Kerry debate, ALL the questions were about (against) the President. As you would expect if bias was true, but would NOT expect if the press was making any effort to cut through Kerry's bullshit.
Similarly, unemployment and inflation, the two most key "misery index" numbers, are very low now -- the economy is great, by the numbers. (Housing bubble bust coming? Prolly. Sell now????) (When did the dot.com bubble become a "fact"? Dec. 96 was too soon...)
Jay, here is something else to think about.
What if Bush and the Reps do better, in elections, because the press is biased against them? What if they've figured out that when Reps are upset at a press they can't vote against, it means the Reps will vote against the Dems? Like you say, somebody must pay!
What if, despite leading in the House, the Senate, the Presidency, and soon likely the US SC, as long as Reps are the "underdog" in the Press, they can get MORE VOTES, more passion, & more contributions from their base -- so they actually win more often?
In a certain sense I'm more angry at the press than I am at Kerry. My perception of unjust, unfair press bias against Reps has helped me switch from Libertarian into Republican. And as long as I stay as filled with my "righteous anger" angainst the press, I'm pretty likely to keep voting for Rep / against the Press=Dem candidate.
It might be that the dysfunctional Bush-hating press actually helps Bush, in the voting crunch.
Steve. How do we know Kerry's were complete? Voluminous is not the same thing, as you know but hope we'd miss, I'm sure.
How do we know whether Kerry's had any discrepancies unless somebody looks at them? How can you look at them if they're not released?
How come no journos asked for them to be released so they could be reviewed and you would know they are both voluminous and complete?
It seems an example of bias to presume Kerry's records were in such good shape that they didn't need to be looked at. I mean--this is going to be a toughie--how would you know?
You got the time-sequence thing wrong. Earlier stuff comes before later stuff.
Kerry's records were complete--for the purposes of discussion--and so they didn't need to be released so that people could find out they were complete and didn't need to be released so people could see if they were complete because they were complete. Which you knew how?
You're telling me that the important people in this situation knew--without the records being released--that the records were complete and uninteresting and so didn't need to be released.
How much do you think you could sell that for?
And, in fact, Kerry's frequent references to his military service didn't mean somebody ought to look? I recall a local pol in the Pacific Northwest getting caught having falsely claimed to have served in Special Forces. Somebody must have thought his bragging merited being investigated.
You want to try something else?
Chelsea's treatment by the press and, say, Cheney's daughter, or Bush's kids.
Don't bother, I'm just making the point that there are more. If you waste your entire substance vainly trying to excuse not having journos ask for Kerry's records, you'll have nothing left for other issues. And there are other issues.
This is beginning to get hilarious.
Dave McLemore writes
This obsessive quality of yours is disturbing, AM. I never took Kerry's reference to McDavitt, Alston, et al as his 'band of brothers' as anything more than a metaphor for surviving a tough battlefield. Where ever it happened to be
And we readers thought you were reporting facts. It would be nice if you could let us know, in the story you're "reporting", that the "facts" you've giving us are actually metaphors.
I believe he included Jim Rasmussen - the man whose life he saved on the river - as a brother in the band. Are you going to call them frauds because Rasmussen was Special Forces? Oh, wait, you already did, didn't you.
Actually I haven't said anything about Jim Rasmussen here. But since you bring him up, one point will suffice.
Rasmussen was widely reported as "a lifelong Republican", yet when he was questioned about his voting patterns (by a small, local, southwestern media org) he stated that he voted for Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Gore. The major media never changed the tagline - "lifelong Republican" and never reported Rasmussen's real voting record, even though he freely admitted it.
Perhaps you could explain, Dave. Is that bias? Or incredibly sloppy and unprofessional journalism? Or perhaps you have some other explanation? The vaunted layers of fact checking somehow broke down? Or the importance of presenting Rasmussen as a "lifelong Republican" overrode any desire to be factual about his voting patterns?
Brave men performed extraordinary things under fire and you want to pick at nits solely because you don't like their politics? You're shameless, antimedia.
And you're silly, Dave, for if you had even bothered to read my blog, you would know that I was originally opposed to the Swiftvets. I wrote several articles about what a horrible idea I thought the 527 orgs were and how it would unleash worse attack politics than we had ever seen.
I even decried their use of a detective to dig up information on Kerry and his "band of brothers". Yet, when I began to actually investigate the story, (something you might actually consider doing some day), I discovered more and more discrepancies in Kerry's version of events.
And after the campaign was over, I wrote of my mixed feelings about 527 orgs, since they had been the source of tremendously negative advertising, even though they gave a voice to the Swiftvets which they might not otherwise have had. (The media didn't even bother to cover their first press conference. It was apparently not deemed newsworthy.)
John McCain is a brave man. He endured captivity in North Vietnam. Yet I've called him "the world's biggest hypocrite" on my blog because I investigated his "non-profit foundation" and discovered information which I think proves he is extremely hypocritical about campaign finance reform.
Is that "picking nits because I don't like his politics", Dave? You've already put me in a neat little box and you don't know anything about me except what I've written here (and at my blog if you've ever bothered to go there.) What does that say about your bias, Dave?
It's all there on my blog. If I'm lying about it, it can be easily refuted. I have nothing to hide.
Try to imagine just how little I care what you think about me. Got an image? Well, it's even less.
But you see, Dave, it is not me that has a reputation to worry about. It's you, your industry and your career.
And it's a sad commentary that you haven't the guts to accept my challenge and prove me wrong, when it would take you just a few minutes to do so, if I'm wrong. That you can't be bothered with such "nits" speaks volumes.
The readers of this blog will judge your words, just as you have asked them to, and they will decide whether or not your words are credible. My only purpose was to give you the opportunity to prove the cry of "bias!" wrong. Since you're so thoroughly convinced there is no bias in the media, most rational people would think you would jump at the chance to disprove such a bold and specific claim.
The challenge remains. Unanswered so far. I will now make the same challenge to anyone reading this forum. Prove me wrong.
Steve Lovelady writes
Or could it be because Bush's records were (and remain) strangely incomplete ... whereas Kerry's were voluminous, even before he finally released the final segments, which were, to the everlasting disappointment of those looking for something incriminating, utterly unremarkable ?
(Ya think ?)
Again, this is hilarious.
Bush's records are not strangely incomplete. The media understanding of them is. I can explain where Bush was for his entire Guard service. I can explain what he was doing. I can explain how he got in the Guard, whether or not he was "helped" and whether or not he got "special treatment".
On the other hand, Kerry's military records, which he "released" on his website during the campaign, were strangely incomplete and included combat reports (which he claimed were his) that actually belonged to Ted Peck (David Alston's skipper on PCF-94). Curiously, it was those very combat records that "proved" that Alston and Kerry served together and saw combat together. When Peck pointed out that those records were for his service not Kerry's, they myseriously disappeared from the Kerry campaign site.
Furthermore, no one has seen his "released" records except some people at the Boston Globe, the LA Times and the Associated Press, so we have no way of knowing what is in those records and whether or not the support or weaken any claims that either Kerry or the Swiftvets made. And if you think we're going to take the word of the Globe, the Times and the AP for what's in them - after Rathgate, you must be delusional.
We do know that Kerry lied about being in Cambodia on Christmas eve. Both his own biography and his campaign admission prove this. We also know that Kerry wrote things in his diary (revealed in his biography) that cast doubt on some of the claims that he has made about his service, including some of his medals.
None of this will ever be resolved by the media because it's peculiarly unimportant to them, just as Bush's Guard Records seem peculiarly important to them.
And none of that mattered a whit to the electorate. Which only goes to show the press can only raise the questions. It can't assure the issue will have any traction whatsoever.
Which is as it should be.
Again, this is hilarious.
Kerry's poll numbers dropped precisely when the Swiftvets' claims began to gain traction in the blogosphere and their book was released. Kerry never regained his footing after that, and the subsequent media focus was on how Kerry should respond to charges they had reported only partially and grudgingly, which must have made a major-media-only consumer wonder what in the world they were talking about.
I do have to credit you media folks for one thing, though. You sure can toe the party line!
For maybe the 20th time, folks, it's the bias discourse--a specific way of talking, and thinking--that is making you dumber. I could put it a different way: most bias talk is bad pressthink. But I don't feel like it. (And the evidence for the "making you dumber" proposition keeps pouring forth in this thread.) If you think that sentence means "you are dumb," and you're offended that's your problem. Easily solved by a critical re-reading.
You don't seem to want to accept our answer at face value. Quite simply, we don't trust the national press. So the argument that Bush needs to engage them more falls flat with us. You can say we are being unreasonable, and maybe we are being so. But how does that solve the problem of your industry?
We don't have any obligation to give credence to any particular organization. The national press once had our trust. Now they don't. Is that our fault? Another word for bias, and perhaps a better word, is dishonest. Another word might be unfair. Or haughty. Or antagonistic. Or arrogant. Or unresponsive. Or bullying. Or destructive. Any of those words could apply to different situations.
No, Scott. I know you want someone to answer for it, but first off, it's not my industry. "We don't trust the press" is an answer I do accept at face value. I believe it's true, and sincerely stated. It says what it means. Many people don't trust the national press any more, and this is a problem journalists cannot ignore. If they do, they're in trouble. For a long time they did, and there's now big trouble because of it. With this part of your message I agree.
It's the answer, "we don't trust the press because it's a fifth columns for the Democrats," or "we don't trust the press because it's run by the left," or we "we don't trust because look at how it tried to get John Kerry elected" that I do not take at face value. I would be a fool to do so.
Here's Rick Ballard in the previous thread making the same argument you did: it would do the Bush team no good to engage the national press, as Austin Bay recommends, because it cannot be trusted.
What objective, concrete goal of this administration could a press that promised 15 points to John Kerry possibly be expected to advance?
Face value? Ballard's fantasy proof is a bizarre comment on CNN from a Newsweek editor, Evan Thomas, saying that reporters want Kerry to win and that's worth 15 points in the election. As if the press held that kind of power over voters! Thomas later said was a stupid thing to say, and then changed his idiotic estimate to a slightly less idiotic but still fantasized, "maybe five" points. They were just numbers pulled out of his ass, but here's Rick a year later making stuff up (the press "promised" Kerry 15 points) using those numbers.
Face value? This, in my view, is wholly characteristic of the bias discourse, which in the main isn't truth-seeking but point-scoring. Listen to Richard crowing about his unanswered charges (...the winner and still champion, Awesome Aubrey!), or anti-media with his absurdly macho, WWF-style "challenge." ("You haven't the guts to accept my challenge and prove me wrong.")
He'll speak for himself, but Steve Lovelady would probably admit that the bias discourse, as practiced here, can bring out the worst in him, too. In that sense it's making everyone dumber. It's also, as I have said, a victim's discourse, which is both pathetic and dangerous to the quality of one's judgment.
Now to return to Austin Bay's argument: to win the "war on terror" (an insidious phrase I don't like even though I don't dispute that we are at war with what Paul Berman calls Islamofascism) you need to engage the press. You say: no, we don't trust the press. Question: wouldn't a worldwide war on terror require the people fighting it from the White House to sometimes engage with people they don't fully trust?
Jay wants the discourse to go away from "bias" because he thinks it's making everyone "dumber". But the task is made much more difficult because the media folks refuse to admit that there is any bias at all.
Here's a clear example:
Steve Lovelady writes
That's quite a conspiracy theory -- the Boston Globe, the LA Times and AP band together to hide ... what ?
Perhaps a story that would that would make front pages worldwide ?
That would certainly take a super-human effort of self-abasement -- to ignore a story that could advance your career and make you a household name.
Maybe there's another explanation. Maybe -- just maybe -- they each in their own way examined the newly-released records, realized they didn't add anything not already known from the file cabinet full of records already on file and freely available at the U.S. Navy, and reported that.
Nahhh, couldn't be that -- implies no agenda.The fact that you find this impossible to believe says something about your perspective of the problem, doesn't it?
First, you assume facts not in evidence. You assume they've actually examined the files when in fact we don't know that. But you're not alone. Many media people seem to assume that.
Second, no records were "freely available" at the US Navy. Kerry had to specifically authorize their release, and he has only recently done that and then only to hand-picked outlets.
Finally, how do you explain the fact that the media made FOIA requests to get Bush's records yet not one media outlet even bothered to do the same with Kerry's records?
I submit to you that they, like you, "knew" he was a "war hero" and "knew" there was no story there.
But let's get away from Kerry, since no one seems to have the guts to tackle simple questions and answer them, and address a very current problem.
Air America has recently been revealed to have some very serious financial problems - problems that have motivated Elliot Spitzer to investigate. Yet the New York Times hasn't even bothered to carry the story until very recently and even then in a timid and less than enthusiastic way.
I'm willing to entertain any plausible explanations for the Times ignoring a blockbuster story in their own back yard in what everyone claims is "the slow news month" of August and Cindy Sheehan is dominating the headlines.
Can you explain it Steve? Can anyone?
It's impossible to deal with every example of curious coverage or lack of coverage in Jay's blog, and I don't think it's even fair to him. But something clearly makes some stories "more important" to the major media than other stories, and frequently that "something" smells a lot like, well, bias.
Yet you can't even seem to wrap your mind around the possibility that at least some of what goes on in the media could be driven by a perspective that is not designed to maintain balance!
All I can say is, the (as complete as I can make it) story of both Bush's and Kerry's service records is available on my blog to anyone that wants to read it. I allow comments, so you can prove that I've gotten my facts wrong, and I will correct the articles and give you prominent credit. I defy anyone to read what I've written and find anything substantial wrong with it, and I can assure you it will not agree at all with the "official" media versions.
I could care less about Bush or Kerry. My interest isn't politics. It's the media. The media got both of these stories so completely wrong that, if there were laws against malpractice, some reporters would be in jail now.
kcom: "Just adding ever more 'er's' to the word 'dumb' is not showing you in the finest light and not up to the standard I have seen from you in the past."
My standard, as you kindly put it, didn't work for this particular pathology.
I decided to try something else, and express how I feel in blunter terms. You're probably right--it's not putting me or my blog in the best possible light, but you aren't thinking about all the people who have chosen to stop participating in these threads because of bias monomania from the Richard Aubreys of the world. They're gone. Who speaks for them?
By the way, I just took a vacation and I have been on sabbatical for a year. I feel fine. It's the bias discourse that is exhausted-- and exhausting.
AM: "But the task is made much more difficult because the media folks refuse to admit that there is any bias at all."
I tell you it's making you dumber, and dumber, and dumber, Mr. Anti. That was one of your dumbest bits yet.
Sick of hearing that? Excellent!
"I defy anyone to read what I've written and find anything substantial wrong with it."
We get it, Mr. Anti. You and your facts will take on all comers. Mano a mano, etc. Please repeat your "challenge," if it needs more reiteration, at your own blog. If you keep going with your "I challenge you..." spam, after receiving fair warning, I will start erasing your posts. Then you can crow about censorship. Deal?
The Air America story was a very good story, and as soon as it became known that Spitzer and New York City officials were investigating the story should have been covered in the New York Times, especially considering how much ink the network got before. I figured Calame, the ombudsman, would have to address it, and that he would probably find for the bloggers who were pushing the story; he did-- more or less. (Link.) I don't have a good explanation for why the story was ignored.
Similar thing happened with the Downing Street Memo story (much closer to a "blockbuster" in my view.) I don't have a good explanation for why it was pretty much ignored by the Times. The ombudsmen looked at it, and agreed with the bloggers and critics on that one, too. (Link.)
I think he was right both times.
That is why it's so difficult to draw hard conclusions from a case, as Scott said.
"But while I have your attention, AM, have you given any more thought to whether it's OK for the media to use 'insurgents' since Rumsfeld and you do? Or is it just bias when the media uses it?"
Given any more thought to the Kerry in Cambodia questions I asked you? No, of course not. You are above defending your own posts, right?
Yeah, I know, I was supposed to ignore you, but it looks like this thread is winding down. When the foreign spam hits, the fat lady is singing. Plus, you seem so comfortable demanding answers from people, asking them to defend statements they made. I thought you might have had a change of heart.
But probably not. What applies to others does not apply to you. You are special. You are in good company here, then.
So what have we learned from this discussion? Half the people say there is media bias; they see it everyday. They've stated their case, and given examples.
Half the people say there is no such thing. They are further divided between the "we're not biased, we're making a difference" crowd, the "its not bias, we're just incompetent" crowd, and the "how dare you say that you right-wing, Bush-loving Neanderthal!" crowd.
We also learned that bias or not, many people who claim that the press are true to the facts have a hard time doing it themselves. Some of these people ARE in the press, which is certainly enlightening. When shown their facts are wrong, they will either ignore those pointing it out, or attack them on irrelevant matters, or personally.
This has indeed been a sad display, but for the reasons many of you can even imagine. Some of you have no idea how bad you have come off, and that is the truly astounding thing.
Spare me the smart-guy responses and keep this in mind. The viewing/reading/listening public does NOT need to convince you that there is a problem. They don't. Repeat it to yourselves.
YOU need to convince them you are responsible and fair, because you can't compel them to watch, read or listen to you. You need to convince them that you are worth their time, or they will spend it elsewhere. If they spend it, then you are out of a job. As it is, its probably too late anyway. But, we can at least said we tried.
But why did we try? Why bother? It was not to beat up on the Press, or Kerry, or because we are mean, "dumb" people. We tried because, believe it or not, we did think Austin Bay had a very good point. We do think that a less confrontational or hostile relationship between the government and the press might be a very good thing. We would certainly welcome it, as a matter of fact.
But, a funny thing happened on the way to discussing the problem. The "pro-press" crowd, if I may call it that for convenience, was really receptive to the idea that the administration needed to change its ways. "Yes," they agreed, "Bush and the administration has rolled us back and locked us out, and they need to rethink that horrible policy. It is wrong, and it is not helpful to the country as a whole." When it came to blaming the administration, they were all behind that, fo' shizzle!
But when it came to Austin's other points, the ones where the press's behavior and responsibilities are questioned...
Well, that was acknowledged not at all by Jay originally, and when it was raised by others, then we saw anger, resentment and a good amount of arrogance on the "pro-press" crowd. The responses varied a bit, but a lot of it seemed to boil down to "I don't want to hear it!".
Well, you don't have to hear it, I guess. I have seen for myself how skilled some people at tuning things out. You can go on blocking it out as long as you like. That's your choice. Just don't surprised when the general public decides to tune you out as well. They've already started to do so in large numbers, have they not? You expect that little trend to reverse anytime soon?
Well, at least you have your smug comments to keep you warm at night...
First of all, why couldn't you have answered me in the first place? Wait, let's take a look why...
"Kerry told a war story about being in Cambodia at Christmas."
The 'war story' involved tales of an illegal, clandestine mission, and he told it multiple times, including on the floor of the Senate. It was not just some tall tale he was telling his campfire buddies.
"As I recall, his campaign acknowledged that he had 'misspoke' on the issue."
His campaign acknowledged it only after the accusations of the Swift Boat Veterans finally made it into the MSM, and discrepencies were found. This was months later. And, however his campaign characterized it, it was a lie, because he told it several times on the record over the years. Misspeaking the same thing a number of times is not telling the truth.
"Frankly, I don't care."
Apparently not, but why? You should. It speaks directly to your claim that Kerry's critics, the Swifties in particular, had no credibility. The one I challenged you on. The one you claimed proved there was no bias when it came to press reporting on Kerry's record.
"As a recall, Kerry fought with some courage in Vietnam - something you guys ignore."
Kerry's courage is not the issue here. It was his honesty. His courage is irrelevant to what we are currently talking about. That is why I am "ignoring" it right now. Why are you bringing it up?
"He lost the presidential election but his message appealed to about half the electorate. Something else you guys want to ignore."
His appeal is also irrelevant to the point, so again, I am indeed guilty of ignoring it right now.
Dave! Please, PLEASE! Can you not understand that;
-your misstating of facts that are clearly in the record which present person A in a better light, and persons B in a worse one
-your refusal to acknowledge your error when confronted
-your later spinning of information by providing only part of the story above in order to mimimize the impact for you and Kerry's reputation
-your attempt to deflect from the error by bolstering Kerry with irrelevant information
Is emblematic of some of the very problems we have been arguing over here for days? THIS IS THE KIND OF THING SOME OF US HERE ARE TALKING ABOUT!
Sorry to "shout", but I am hoping, hoping that you can at least acknowledge that behavior like this would lead people to see an issue with fairness. C'mon, Dave. Think about it, would you? Its right there in front of you. You might not even realize, but try taking a look at it while you are away.
I apologize, Jay, but I simply cannot resist.
anti-media, Aug, 24:
"Insurgents" might have been the right word early on, but it clearly is not any more. They're also not "rebels", for God's sake! The use of these words implies an agenda.anti-media Aug. 29:
I didn't say that using the word "insurgent" instead of terrorist was due to bias. I said it "decreases the credibility of the story."
You have just provided the quintessential example
of media bias. By "cherry-picking" my words, you make it appear that I said something that I did not say. This is common practice
in the media, and whether it's bias or standard practice or voodoo or whatever name you want to give it
it distorts the truth and gives a false impression.
The "these words" referred to "rebels" not "insurgents", as I made clear by stating (as you accurately quote) that the use of the word "insurgents" "reduces credibility".
Now, you can argue that you quoted me accurately, and that is true. You took part of what I said and quoted it accurately. But you did not accurately reflect my thoughts on the matter as a complete inclusion of the context would have reflected.
Now I could care less what name you give it, but it needs to stop. Can you not see that the reason the industry is going in the toilet is because everyone universally despises the selective quoting that distorts the interviewee's comments?
It's common knowledge among those who get interviewed that their interviews will never accurately reflect what they said. So common that people simply accept it as established truth.
Please, for just one moment, put aside your industry hat and put on a consumer hat and ask yourself this one question. If everyone who is interviewed expects the story to inaccurately reflect what they said, then what is the problem?
If you can answer that, you'll go a long way toward moving past the "dumber and dumber" bias dialog to something substantive that might actually save the industry from complete collapse.
Kilgore Trout, I don't think disclosing biases upfront is a bad idea, but it has never seemed terribly practical for a newspaper. Many of the bias claims relate to frequency of coverage, which usually is the call of the news editor or managing editor; to placement of a story on a page, which is the call of the page editor or wire editor; to the headline, which is usually written by the copy desk; or to internal balance within the story, which is the reporter's responsiblity but which should be carefully monitored by the city desk. That's an awful lot of biases to disclose.
Another problem is that, as I have argued elsewhere on this site, the liberal vs. conservative bias is far from the most important bias that jouralists deal with. Yes, I do have some built-in political biases (I was born deep in Yellow Dog Democrat country) but those are relatively easy to keep under control. As a business owner, I struggle not to be biased in favor of people who advertise in my paper, and I struggle to avoid bias against people who refuse to buy ads or who have cheated us on a bill. As a reporter, I fight bias in favor of people who treat me kindly, give great quotes and who return my phone calls. That may be the most difficult bias of all to fight.
Again, one example: The new Democratic governor of Montana is a charming and smart fellow. He is quick on his feet, bursting with ideas, and a master at schmoozing up reporters. Occasionally, he calls me on the phone just to ask what I think about what's going on, and he gives his own opinions with amazing candor.
For a newsman, this is extraordinarily seductive stuff, far more enticing that whatever sympathies I may share with his actual political positions. I try to be a principled fellow and set this sort of thing aside when I write about the governor. By and large, I think I succeed. But how do I really know?
The biases I can recognize I usually can deal with. It's all those internal biases, inevitable and natural to all humans, that give me a devil of a time, and I don't know how in the hell you could disclose all of that.
Jay: "I have never seen--not even once--any hit of a resolution of any factual dispute involving the Swift Vets."
[I think you mean hint of resolution?]
Anyway, I'm waiting for Kerry to sign ... the Form that must not be named! Oh he did? But not yet, not really -- neither Jay nor Steve nor Dave can do a FOIA and get a copy of Kerry's, but they CAN get one of Bush? (Including some missing time...)
The resolution waits for documentation against the critics, including some explanation (or apology?) for the deceitful 1986 Senate Testimony about Christmas in Cambodia.
It seems Bush-haters don't understand why Kerry-haters (PressBias-haters?) are upset at official, on-record mis-representations (lies?) of service in order to gain Moral Superiority for their views.
One thing I really appreciate, Jay, is how Cap'n Wrath's rant echoed so many of your own prior complaints/ questions about the press. (Though he then complained about you.)(It IS hard to keep disagreeing; glad you had a nice sabbatical)
Your post about the Persistence of Memory, newly searchable, comes to mind.
David Crisp asks about what if bias-bashers could be causing a backlash? Backlash should mean, in effect, more Dems (those who the bias-bashers bash) getting elected, and more market share to the bias-bashed media.
David instead talks about pro-life coverage at the paper. I think coverage is a reasonable measure, but elections are more important. (Coverage is more clearly under control of the media.)
I asked, earlier, what if a biased pro-Dem media is actually to the Reps favor? That should mean more Reps getting elected, and only a very slow market share decrease of the biased media. (Don't want to lose this secret "underdog" advantage too quick.)
A youth variation: what happens when it becomes "cool" in college to dismiss the biased PC views of the professors (& media) "establishment"?