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December 21, 2008

Wrong Question

Leonard Downie, former executive editor of the WaPo, asks a question:

The death last week of W. Mark Felt -- Bob Woodward's secret source, indelibly dubbed "Deep Throat," who played such a crucial role in this newspaper's Watergate reporting -- coincided with the appearance of Richard M. Nixon, as played by Frank Langella, on local movie screens. As I watched Langella's Nixon being interrogated about the conspiracy and coverup by Michael Sheen's David Frost in "Frost/Nixon," I relived strong memories. And Felt's death raised the inevitable question: Could the kind of reporting that Woodward and Carl Bernstein pulled off be done today, more than three decades later, in the age of the Internet?

But that's the wrong question, isn't it? With a Democrat in the Oval Office - a candidate the media singularly failed to even make a pretense of vetting, the question isn't "could" the kind of investigative reporting that uncovered Watergate be pulled off today?

It's would it even be attempted? Let's face a few inconvenient truths.

We're talking about a media that recently had the nerve to tell America, "Obama clears himself and staff in Blagojevich case", airily dismissing the entire affair as "a distraction". This is investigative journalism? How many internal White House investigations have been blithely accepted by the press during Republican administrations?

This is a media who, during the campaign, spent only 13% of their time covering the issues and displayed a decided pro-Obama bias in their overall coverage. This, you see, was acceptable because they were "excited" by his candidacy.

In the Washington Post, we are talking about a newspaper that refuses to submit to the same standards of scrutiny and accountability it routinely imposes upon others:

The Post should post its admirable ethics and standards guidelines on washingtonpost.com for all to see. You can find parts of them on the Web site of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The Post challenges the ethics of others; the paper's policies, which are reasonable and elegantly written, should be public and easy to find. I've fought for this internally, but it hasn't happened.

But in the end, It comes down to how the story is spun ... to which stories make it through the media filter and which stories are continually kept in the public eye though saturation coverage even as other stories go unreported or receive scant attention. Perception, in the end, becomes reality and public opinion is deftly manipulated by those who filter what we see and hear on a daily basis:

We know that the Bush administration couldn't keep a secret. It seems like the New York Times or the Washington Post broke a new story about some secret program or activity by the CIA or DOD based on anonymous testimony. Deep Throat is now Old Hat. State, CIA and even DOD are riddled with people who feel it is their constitutional right to talk to the press about secret programs if they have concerns about them.

The press hammered the Bush administration with this, year in and out. There is no doubt that Bush's high negatives track to a large degree to the unrelenting negative coverage he has received throughout his presidency. They did not bring down the President, but he certainly wasn't allowed to run any conspiracies -- not even the ones a President might ought to be running.

This is an example of the confirmation bias at work: once you have decided a person is bad, you readily believe bad things about them. Indeed, it may make something seem bad that you might have thought was good if a "good person" was doing it.

Now comes a new President, and his relationship with the press is different. They chose him. Barack Obama is our President-elect because the media wanted him to be. The positive coverage he has received over the last year is unprecedented in my lifetime; Popes don't usually get this kind of coverage.

We've seen an initial taste of the problem in the FISA controversy. If you were a strong Bush-blaster, the FISA issue was the worst thing in the world. It was about an end to civil liberties, the destruction of privacy, an out-of-control President trying to build a power to spy on the American people. If you were a hardcore Bush defender, it was about a noble man trying to use carefully limited power to fulfill his duty to keep Americans safe at home. The rhetoric was hot and heavy.

Since Obama reversed himself on FISA, it has largely dropped off the radar. People who previously derided it as the worst thing ever haven't changed their mind, as far as I know. But now the President will be Obama, a deliberate and thoughtful man of decent principles, so it's not so bad. We can take some time to work it out. The rhetoric has cooled.

By the same token, people who were glad to have Bush at the helm to guard their families must now consider whether a shady Chicago-way politician with inexplicable foreign ties can be trusted with such power.

As for the media, it elected Obama. He is their guy. If you went to them and laid out a conspiracy, gave them the phone numbers to call, gave them photos of the people they needed to interview, and just asked them to go confirm it -- would they?

Frankly, I doubt it. Confirmation bias is very powerful stuff, and lives right at the foundation of our thinking. I believe they would look at the facts, say to themselves, "There's doubtless some explanation for all this," do a pro forma inquiry just so they felt they had done their duty (the results of which would likewise be colored by confirmation bias), and declare there was nothing to the story.

If that's the case, the problem isn't the lack of editors -- and the new technology may not be enough to save us. Perhaps Obama will enjoy more leeway to carry out the conspiracies that a President ought to carry out. He is likely also to enjoy the leeway to carry out the sort that a President ought not to carry out.

And if that filtering process has a decided political bias?

Hey. It's understandable. Sometimes the press get "excited". How much did we hear from Dana Priest about extraordinary renditions or electronic surveillance during the Clinton years when we were not at war and al Qaeda had not attacked us yet?

On renditions, not a single article before 2004. Imagine that.

And on electronic surveillance? What Echelon program?

U.S. Strikes Terrorist-Linked Sites In Afghanistan, Factory in Sudan
Barton Gellman;Dana Priest; The Washington Post; Aug 21, 1998; A.01;

Top Sergeant Charged in Abuse Case; Accused Says Race Is Basis of Sex Claims
Dana Priest; The Washington Post; May 8, 1997; A.01;

Where was the outrage over violations of international law? Certainly not coming from Vice President, Albert Gore:

'extraordinary renditions', were operations to apprehend terrorists abroad, usually without the knowledge of and almost always without public acknowledgment of the host government…. The first time I proposed a snatch, in 1993, the White House Counsel, Lloyd Cutler, demanded a meeting with the President to explain how it violated international law. Clinton had seemed to be siding with Cutler until Al Gore belatedly joined the meeting, having just flown overnight from South Africa. Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides for Gore: "Lloyd says this. Dick says that. Gore laughed and said, 'That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.'" ”

- Richard Clarke

The current problems with Walter Reed hospital, the military medical system and the Veterans Administration have been festering for decades. Where was Dana Priest when I was having trouble getting the basic care I was promised for my children during the Clinton administration?

Most likely in an undisclosed location. Odd how the media's eagerness to expose government malfeasance takes a holiday during Democratic administrations.

Posted by Cassandra at December 21, 2008 12:06 PM

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Comments

Mind my blood pressure, Princess.

Posted by: spd rdr at December 21, 2008 01:53 PM

"As for the media, it elected Obama. He is their guy. If you went to them and laid out a conspiracy, gave them the phone numbers to call, gave them photos of the people they needed to interview, and just asked them to go confirm it - would they?" Exactly. And we thought Clinton was teflon.....

Posted by: nan at December 21, 2008 07:23 PM

Cassandra, you are right on with this post...if someone is the media's darling; they can do no wrong! The media's lack of intellectual integrity is why blogs and what is being called the "new media" is so popular, and so important.

Posted by: Lela at December 21, 2008 08:38 PM

Cass, Cass, Cass!

You silly girl. As we speak, Sarah Palin's daughter is awaiting the birth of her child, and each day she goes beyond her "due" date lends credence to Andrew Sullivan's important claim that she is also mother to Trig. (Expect them to be born 9 months and 20 minutes apart...)

We must keep investigative reporters standing by to cover REAL stories, such as that one, not THE ONE, who has helpfully explained that these questions about ethics and bribes and influence peddling are distractions.

Posted by: MathMom at December 21, 2008 10:24 PM

I wonder what the statistical reactions are to Mark Felt's orders to illegally burglarize the homes of Weather Underground members, probably cause the prosecution case against Ayers overturned.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 22, 2008 01:52 AM

"Odd how the media's eagerness to expose government malfeasance takes a holiday during Democratic administrations."

Odd? More like business as usual for the "mainstream" media. I wrote a li'l something on the subject back in September...

Posted by: camojack at December 22, 2008 03:38 AM

Mathmom,
Andrew Sullivan needs to have a ginseng colonic.
Why would the media vet Obama? His records have been sealed by Republicans. I don't get it. If we are to be truly color blind, then we do not dismiss corruption and other problems as 'distractions.' I know you know this...

Anyway, we are getting ready to leave to go to the Midwest for Christmas. It is going to be a looooonnnnngggg drive.

heh.

MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all, and have a wonder-filled, miraculous season. I still believe in miracles...

Posted by: Cricket at December 22, 2008 09:05 AM

What Felt did was violate his oath taken as a key component to employment. I was threatened with Leavenworth if I violated mine in 1966 and signed a non-disclosure when I mustered out. Further, they assigned certain countries I could not travel to and people I count not talk to about certain matters.

People like Felt have no intregity, a value system based on whiny, feel-good, always a victim of the "MAN" and perpetually underappreciated situational ethics. He chose the expedient way out of a situation that should have been handled through his chain-of-command. If he didn't like the process or the results, he should have resigned. But that would have taken, morals, virtues, and honor.

Nothing is sacred to these peoples except the limited scope of their own needs. Hopefully, the internet will be the deodorizing light shined on such things as "His Obamaness" who just told us to "Move along, nothing to see here" regarding his apostle - Emanuel.

It will take a generation to cleanse our society of the brainwashed denizens of todays "J" schools taught by graying, balding, pony-tailed hippie professors teaching "Question authority" only if it disagrees with their utopian view of liberal life.

The real news I would enjoy seeing covered is the liberal geezer warehouse these folks will ultimately find themselves habitating as age encroaches on their mobility. Somehow, whining about the "Man" takes on new significance when lying in bed waiting for your hemp depends to be changed on the night shift by a Dr. Kevorkian type smoking a weed while sending them on their way to the Soylent Green factory. Although they could be slipped a placebo and they probably would notice the difference.

Posted by: vet66 at December 22, 2008 11:18 AM

Yes, Cricket, I understand that. I think the MSM is actually afraid O'Bama is going to seriously mess up so they have, and will, continue to ignore wrongdoing and stupidity and ineptness, and throw rose petals before him as he walks. It will be a cold day in July when the MSM removes the blinders and outs our new Skivvy-wearing Emperor.

If he wasn't an affirmative action hire, they would also have given him a ginseng colonic (does that have a lot of fizz in it, btw?) and would have been done with him about 20 months ago. But He is Historic, and the MSM wanted to be sure that History was made, so now we have our Historic president in the wings.

Hoover was Historic, too. Let's hope O'Bama's Historicness ends with his skin pigment, and that he doesn't send the country into the crapper.

Posted by: MathMom at December 22, 2008 03:01 PM

What Felt did was, arguably, a coup mounted against a seated President by a disgruntled employee of the Federal Government.

And, arguably, Bradlee, Woodward, and Bernstein were complicit in it, after the fact, if we allow the young Woodward and Bernstein credit for callow fecklessness.

This isn't a defense of Nixon. It's a condemnation of Felt, and the others who betray their oaths for personal or political gain - or the pure vengeful malice of personal spite.

More disturbing than the shenanigans of G. Gordon and crew is the fact that for Felt to have the information he had... the FBI had to have been spying on the President.

Ispos custodes, etc.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at December 22, 2008 03:04 PM

Forgot to wish you safe travels and a very happy Christmas, Cricket!

I believe in miracles too. I keep in mind the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. He set out to torment Christians, wound up being one and even changed his name to Paul.

I pray for O'Bama, that he convert from whatever he is to an American, proud of where we came from, who we are, and what we stand for as a country. It could happen.

Posted by: MathMom at December 22, 2008 03:09 PM

Certainly the Joint Chiefs were spying on the President, John.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 22, 2008 07:33 PM

They were, Ymar? I know I'm a naif, but I was unaware the Chiefs were spying on Nixon.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at December 22, 2008 09:05 PM

Safe trip and Merry Christmas, Cricket!

Posted by: BillT at December 23, 2008 03:18 AM

John,

I'm going off this reference

For whatever reasons, it just seems like everybody was spying on everybody in that time period.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 23, 2008 03:21 AM

I know I'm a naif,

Wouldn't that depend upon just how much tradecraft you know how to use and recognize, John? They would call it "spycraft", but that's kind of an oxymoron thing.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 23, 2008 03:28 AM

This also reminds me of the difference between spies, lawyers, and soldiers but that is probably better suited for another time.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 23, 2008 03:30 AM

The media is biased because people are biased, and no one is exempt from that. If you don't like a liberal bias, support the New or Old Media of your choice and evangelize your point of view. But please don't whine about it as if it's something dreadful or, even worse, something that each of us doesn't engage in every minute of every day (i.e., view through world through our own biases).

Posted by: Jeffrey at December 23, 2008 10:58 AM

It's not "whining", Jeffrey, to address a question posed in an op-ed. And to pretend that professional journalists have no higher standard of care regarding the performance of their duties than ordinary citizens...

Well, that just speaks volumes, doesn't it? No other profession sets the bar that low.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 23, 2008 11:04 AM

Is writing without bias a requirement of good journalism? If so, that's an impossibly high bar to reach. Everything else regarding the amount of bias present in any piece of Media at any given time is relative to one's own perceptual bias, isn't it?

So this sounds to my biased ear as whining about the fact that Obama won and your guy lost, and worse, that it happened not because a majority of Americans wanted it to happen, but because of Media bias of all things. Grim is beginning to sound like a conspiracy nut. I hope that's just my bias talking and not reality, 'cause I like the guy.

Posted by: jeffrey at December 23, 2008 11:16 AM

What does your comment have to do with the subject of this post, Jeffrey? I'm still waiting for you to address *what_I_wrote*, specifically.

The number of major media figures who have openly admitted the media are in the tank for Obama (and that their coverage of him has departed from any objective standard of professional journalism) is large and continues to grow. You may choose to ignore that before he's "your guy" and you don't really care about right and wrong when your side wins.

But if you're honest, you'll stop and realize that it isn't a good thing for the country when entire stories don't get covered or receive scant coverage - not when the media are the place where we all - even bloggers - get our news.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 23, 2008 11:35 AM

Good old Jeffrey.

Why have standards at all? There is no point :p There is no objective truth. After all, millions of people didn't REALLY starve in Russia during Stalin's time so the bias of a Pulitzer prize winning reporter who assured America everything was hunky dory didn't matter, did it?

Posted by: Cassandra at December 23, 2008 11:37 AM

Is writing without bias a requirement of good journalism?

For those journalists who claim to be unbiased (pretty much the entire MSM) it certainly is. Otherwise it's called lieing (Something journalists also claim is bad).

So which is it, jeffrey. Are they doing the impossible or are they lieing?

Which is why a growing segment like bloggers. They may be biased, but at least they admit it.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 23, 2008 11:37 AM

You pointed out examples of a Leftward media bias by certain outlets while ignoring Conservative media altogether.

You also seem to be inferring that Obama won as a result, which is an offensive position because it implies that the majority of Americans who voted for him are controlled by some vast media conspiracy.

Objectivity in media is non-existent. There are only levels of bias, so your decision to write exclusively about a liberal bias smacks of sour grapes to me.

The solution is the same as it has always been. Listen to a wide range of media representing more than one viewpoint and come to your own conclusion. As far as stories that don't get much play, post them. You never know who's reading your blog, and it could wind up in the Washington Post after all.

Posted by: Jeffrey at December 23, 2008 11:52 AM

ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN....

And then there's Fox on TV. Hmmm. That's what? 4 to 1? Let's look at the big newspapers:

The New York Times, LA Times, WaPo, usa Today, Chicago Sun-Times... these are the big ones you'll see if you're traveling around the country...

... and then there's the WSJ :p

You are so funny, Jeffrey. There is no "wide range" for conservatives.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 23, 2008 12:01 PM

Oops! Left out NPR! On TV and radio!

Posted by: Cassandra at December 23, 2008 12:01 PM

As far as stories that don't get much play, post them.

Which I believe she did (with this very post) and despite her doing what you just said she should do, you call it 'sour grapes'.

Damned if you do, and damned if you don't, I guess. Thanks for letting us know that you can't be pleased.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 23, 2008 12:02 PM

And I'm not concerned with offense or with your subjective feelings.

I'm concerned with facts.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 23, 2008 12:02 PM

If I post something Jeffrey doesn't like, it's "whining".

If I say something he doesn't like and he gets offended, it's ....

...ummm... not whining :p

The whole "whining" thing is the typical ad hominem used to avoid addressing the issue - uneven coverage of actual news stories and reporters news outlets who don't follow their own stated policies on reporting the news. But to notice that would be whining :p

Posted by: Cassandra at December 23, 2008 12:05 PM

Don't take it personally, Cass. We're a nation of whiners, except for me, of course. :p

Posted by: Jeffrey at December 23, 2008 12:10 PM

You also seem to be inferring that Obama won as a result, which is an offensive position because it implies that the majority of Americans who voted for him are controlled by some vast media conspiracy.

Didn't jeff boy here just say that everybody can be biased? If everybody can be biased, then why can't they become even more biased from listening to nothing but biased and dishonest coverage that justifies their prejudicial biases?

If I post something Jeffrey doesn't like, it's "whining".

It's all about J here. You are just a shadow and figment of the imagination, I believe.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 23, 2008 12:31 PM

But please don't whine about it as if it's something dreadful or, even worse, something that each of us doesn't engage in every minute of every day (i.e., view through world through our own biases).

Why is journalistic bias something J takes for granted and doesn't see as "something dreadful" but this "vast media conspiracy" thing is so horrendous to him?

Are they both entirely different categories for biases? Is one kind of bias better than another kind? Is the degree of bias here informing J's belly staring?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 23, 2008 12:34 PM

Jeffrey -

I don't read Time, Newsweek or the other "news" magazines any more, because I hate being lied to. I used to subscribe, but as my BS meter went from occasionally twitching to absolutely redlining as I read their reporting, I could no longer part with my money to them. I think if you subscribe, you only encourage them to stay in business, no?

Well, yesterday I had to sit at the lab while MathLad had a 4-hour series of blood tests, so I had access to the Time magazines from around the time of the election.

I have to say, their fawning over Barack Obama and Michelle Obama was at the level of Tiger Beat Magazine swooning over Bobby Sherman when I was a teenager. It's embarrassing to read! It's more than bias, it's stupid.

As for the media being biased because the people are biased...well, the people may be biased, but they do not have the eyes and ears of millions of people, where the MSM does. There is a difference in responsibility between the average Joes, whose biases affect their immediate families and maybe a few friends or co-workers, and those whom we have trusted to give us the who, what, when, where and how, but who do not deserve that trust because they have lied. They have lied in what they have said, in how they have said what they've said, and in what they have left unsaid.

Posted by: MathMom at December 23, 2008 01:17 PM

Math, course Bill Keller also lied about the New York Times being "straight down the middle".

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 23, 2008 01:39 PM

MM,

The MSM isn't "lieing", they just have natural biases that are impossible to overcome, no different than anyone else.

That they tell you that they are unbiased doesn't change that. They're just lieing about it.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 23, 2008 02:19 PM

Ymar - (ducking flying brickbats) Thanks for the link.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at December 23, 2008 02:38 PM

Time Magazine is the one that wrote an entire feature article about the campaign before the primaries and never once mentioned the Republican front-runner - Mitt Romney. So if you were reading to inform yourself (and let's not forget that some people do live in remote areas where they don't get a decent newspaper and don't have access to mass media) Romney - again, not an obscure candidate but THE FREAKING #1 MAN - wasn't even in the race.

Yeah. Bias doesn't change anything.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 23, 2008 03:46 PM

Objectivity in media is non-existent. There are only levels of bias... --Jeffrey

We expect journalists to maintain independence and objectivity --"Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists"

Here are the "7 Violations of Media Objectivity":

1. Misleading definitions and terminology.

2. Imbalanced reporting.

3. Opinions disguised as news.

4. Lack of context.

5. Selective omission.

6. Using true facts to draw false conclusions.

7. Distortion of facts.

http://www.honestreporting.co.uk/media_objectivity.asp

Posted by: BillT at December 23, 2008 08:06 PM

OK, Bill. Let's assume that those 7 violations can be remedied. Do any media outlets abide by all 7 all the time? I'm guessing no. Which brings us back to my original point. True objective reporting is a myth. There are varying degrees of bias, which is at least partly determined by what type of coverage is best for ratings, which is what pays the bills ever since the news departments of television networks became profit centers many years ago.

Posted by: Jeffrey at December 23, 2008 10:25 PM

While Jeffrey and I might disagree on many things, he is right to assert that Cass should continue to write about those stories that aren't picked up in the mainstream media because, as he says "you never know who is reading [this] blog, and it could wind up in the Washington Post after all."

Granted,there are those of us who might question why such stalwart repositories of objective "truth," such as WAPO might deign to cast an ear, much less acknowledge, those voices that would dare cast aspersions upon journalistic objectivity, but such is the marvel of the marketplace of ideas. Information is no longer automatically cabined among those that print and broadcast, but becomes immediately available to all, and, thereby, invites all to participate. There is no greater truth these days but that the marketplace of ideas has become unbound from the dictates of the self-appointed truth-makers, and that the marketplaces now vigorously investigates those who would pronounce "the truth." This is indeed hard news for some of our cherished news institutions, who believe that they must compete with those who do no independant investigation but are nevertheless quick to criticize. While this immediate fact-check on truth is invaluable, it sadly) will hasten the demise of hard news outlets that, I for one, would prefer not to live without. I don't want Sean Hannity or Lou Dobbs or Frank Rich to tell me me what the news is, I want my news -straight up, and unvarnished - and then to allow the many capable voices in this Republic to take a shot at finessing what the facts presented mean.

Which is a really long way of saying keep writing, Cass. Jeffrey might work for the Post.

Posted by: spd rdr at December 23, 2008 10:47 PM

Alas, I don't work for WaPo, but when I say you never know who's reading what you write, I say it based on personal experience. Social Media is changing the way news is delivered. The recent terror attack in Mumbai and it's real-time coverage via Twitter is a case in point.

Posted by: Jeffrey at December 23, 2008 10:55 PM

Jeffery,

I have a question for you. What do YOU call it when someone sets out the standards which they aspire to, then completely fail to live up to?

Back in my day, those were called 'hypocrites'.

Now, what do you call a hypocrite who INSISTS that they are in fact living up to the standards that they have set, when it is blatantly clear that they are not?

'Liar' comes to mind.

Now, when the purpose of a free and open press is to inform and educate the public, do you really want a liar and hypocrite doing so?

You say "No one lives up to all seven standards". I hate to tell you this, but failing to meet one of those will get you a warning from the editorial staff of the newspaper I work with (not for, don't ask, the explaination isn't worth the time it will take). Violate them multiple times, and the old school editor will FIRE a reporter. It's happened before. I am sure it will happen again.

See, if a doctor fails to live up to the standards set by the AMA, they lose their license. If a laywer fails to live up to the standards of the Bar, they lose their license. But apparently, failing to live up to the standards as a journalist is hunky dory?

Posted by: MikeD at December 24, 2008 09:11 AM

MikeD,

You won't get an answer. I've already asked that same question multiple times.

The MSM claims to be unbiased. This means they are either doing the impossible or lieing.

Since doing the impossible is, well, impossible therefor they must be lieing.

jeffrey is appearently OK with being lied to.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 24, 2008 10:21 AM

Mike, no media outlet is meeting all of those standards all of the time. If you can think of one that does, I'd love to hear it. News outlets cater to their audience because that's how they stay in business. "What bleeds, leads" comes to mind in terms of news selection. "Objective" coverage has never been a reality because it's an impossible bar to reach, yet you cannot blame the Media for not being objective. The reality is that people want to hear what they want to hear, and they'll tune to the station or read the paper that delivers precisely that.

Posted by: Jeffrey at December 24, 2008 12:07 PM

Hey MikeD,

I told ya so. :-)

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 24, 2008 12:22 PM

Jeffrey:

That's an all or nothing, "throw the baby out with the bathwater standard" and it's just plain ridiculous. You're purposely putting up an extreme case rather than a serious argument.

I listen to CNN, NPR and ABC as well as Fox News. They can hardly be accused of "telling me precisely what I want to hear". I also read the NY Times and the WaPo. So that's really a bunch of bunk.

And human beings will always be fallible. By your argument, we can never have any laws or standards because (since in your words, we'll never perfectly adhere to them) they're worthless.

That's exactly WHY we have laws and standards, though and you know that. The point isn't to make people feel good by being successful 100% of the time. The POINT is that we aim for a better standard of behavior and, in the aggregate, behave more nobly than we would be that by your rule, giving in to our basest instincts.

All of civilization is based upon this concept. Nothing new here, unless we want to devolve back to the apes (which is exactly where your philosophy takes us - our unfiltered instincts are always "good enough, morality be damned"). Not impressive.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 24, 2008 12:24 PM

OK, Cass. You're right. CNN, NPR, ABC, Fox, NYT, WAPO, WSJ, none are businesses trying to build readership. None do focus groups about who there audience is and what stories get the highest readership. None care about making a profit. None are selective about their stories. They're all altruistic seekers of an objective truth.

Yep, that's just how it is. ;-)

Your entire post is a case in point. You're upset because Obama, in your opinion, got a free ride from the Media while your candidate didn't. OK, fair enough. But that doesn't mean that the media you read wasn't trying to be fair. It only means that you perceive their efforts as unbalanced. You make the mistake of thinking that because you perceive something to be true, that it IS true.

It's all relative, Cass. You can aspire to be fair. That's the best that you can hope for.

Posted by: Jeffrey at December 24, 2008 01:12 PM

But that doesn't mean that the media you read wasn't trying to be fair.

I thought you just said that the media isn't interested in being fair, but in building readership and maximizing profits, fairness be damned?


The problem isn't that they are biased. It's that they are biased (knowingly by your argument)but then claim to be "altruistic seekers of an objective truth".

It isn't the bias, it's their lieing about it that is the problem.

If journalists just came out and said "Our customer base wants a left-slanted version of the news and we intend to give it to them" we wouldn't have a problem.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at December 24, 2008 01:27 PM

Apparently some selective memory is being exercised here. From invasion plans to onset, the NY Times with Bill Keller and Judith Miller (now aptly employed by the Manhattan Institute) created a very positive drumbeat for war; Tom Freidman advocated "democratization" and Saddam's evilness; and the WaPo (Broder et al) thought this was a great idea. The only lone objection seemed to come from the Kinght-Ridder guys and Walter Pincus. Wasn't until Thomas Ricks began to help illuminate things and the post-war plan was botched did the two papers become highly critical. The usual suspects like Dowd were consistently anti-Bush.

As far as free rides by the press, editorials aside, most newspapers are establishment driven, and thus sway with the state of affairs. Thus, they are fickle. And lest you forget, every major paper and MSM news station (except MSNBC with a decided reverse angle position) covered the absurdity of Jeremiah Wright for months, the birth certificate canard, the Islamic connection fab, the "who is Barack Obama" tone for two years. Seems you expect the rest of the press to be as rabid as Fox, who conveniently reported favorabley about all the Bush/Cheney scandals. No, most the press will do whatever it takes to get viewers or readers. Much like Andrew Sullivan.

Posted by: Miguel at December 24, 2008 03:36 PM

When the New York Times starts giving MoveOn a 50% front page ad fee cut for their "Betrayus" campaign, people like Jeffrey need a lot more firepower to deceive folks into believing the newspapers are "building up viewers" for profit-greed.

It is greed, but not greed for profit.

You're upset because Obama, in your opinion, got a free ride from the Media while your candidate didn't. OK, fair enough. But that doesn't mean that the media you read wasn't trying to be fair.

Jeff here is biased himself towards the media. He is willing to give the Main Sewer Media the benefit of the doubt, that they were simply "trying to be fair". Never would Jeff give the same benefit of the doubt, not even close, for Bush or Palin; this includes the media organs that could conceivably put Bush or Palin into a positive light. Don't you all remember his previous positions? Can you see him saying that Sarah Palin was just "trying to be fair" to Intelligent Design and Jacksonians?

It isn't the bias, it's their lieing about it that is the problem.

Lying isn't so bad. Everybody lies to themselves, so why not have an external agent to do it for you and shoulder the burden? We live in a society of greatness, prosperity, and care for the common man, do we not? Should not government take upon the burden of deception so that we do not have to?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 24, 2008 03:58 PM

As far as free rides by the press, editorials aside, most newspapers are establishment driven, and thus sway with the state of affairs. Thus, they are fickle. And lest you forget, every major paper and MSM news station (except MSNBC with a decided reverse angle position) covered the absurdity of Jeremiah Wright for months, the birth certificate canard, the Islamic connection fab, the "who is Barack Obama" tone for two years.

Miguel doesn't understand how propaganda is covered or produced, thus his views on the MSM are irrelevant.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 24, 2008 04:01 PM

"What bleeds, leads" comes to mind in terms of news selection.

Edwards and Jill Carroll both know that "what bleeds, leads" doesn't apply to them. Edwards because he was in a great position to hurt the Democrats and benefit the Republicans and Carroll because she is a journalist. Reporters gladly went for self-censorship in her case when she was returned.

I suppose in light of people's biases here, they can be forgiven for forgetting those two facts.

We won't even go into Dan Rather's "attempt to be fair".

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 24, 2008 04:06 PM

Bilal Hussein is another rather typical example of why when journalists get people killed, it isn't such a big deal. Positive coverage and awards are deserved by Hussein. When the US military kills people without intending to, suddenly it is Abu Ghraib time. No rewards from the MSM for them. Blackwater time, then.

When America bleeds, it leads. When journalists and their allies bleed, it gets covered up.

That's a very convenient security organ there.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 24, 2008 04:10 PM

That would be America and her allies, of course. Plenty of Vietnamese needed to be shown on tv when they were American allies and their coverage could get more of them killed. Almost nothing was shown about refugees or the murderers once the media's allies in Vietnam occupied all of the South.

The MSM propaganda apparatus used to be completely reversed, given FDR's deft manipulation of Hollywood and his orders for them to produce pro-American propaganda. But then, he was a Democrat and in love with Joseph Stalin and the "grand experiment" of the Soviet Union. I suppose Hollywood can be excused for following the orders of such a leader of America in a time of war.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 24, 2008 04:13 PM

"Objective" coverage has never been a reality because it's an impossible bar to reach...

Then why do so many smaller newspapers reach it? Our little hometown paper has a bigger readership than one of the two dailies in the City Next Door because the reporters and the editor report the facts of the story *and* interview all parties concerned. Editorials stay on the editorial page. Being interviewed by one of the reporters isn't tiptoeing through a minefield of leading -- and misleading -- questions.

Reporters do follow-ups. If there's a mistake or an error in a story, the correction and an explanation makes it to the front page, rather than being buried in the sports section or not published at all.

That's called "objectivity."

...yet you cannot blame the Media for not being objective.

Why? They have an ethics code that *requires* them to be objective.

Posted by: BillT at December 25, 2008 04:55 AM

And lest you forget, every major paper and MSM news station (except MSNBC with a decided reverse angle position) covered the absurdity of Jeremiah Wright for months, the birth certificate canard, the Islamic connection fab, the "who is Barack Obama" tone for two years.

All that foofaraw didn't arise until March, 08, and the MSM had previously settled the question of *who* he was to their eminent satisfaction.

Posted by: BillT at December 25, 2008 07:41 AM

I tend to think, Bill, that liberty and equality is also an "impossible bar" to reach. But I wouldn't claim that America doesn't have liberty and equality, and that having far more of it than others isn't a "good thing".

I think it is curious that someone living in America can look at "Objectivity" and, while saying it is an impossible goal to reach, uses that as justification for not even making the attempt. Sitting on your couch and watching the world burn because war can never be ended is not... exactly a valid justification for not trying to win wars.

They have an ethics code that

Since when did ethics code have anything to do with anything truly important? Ethics is an impossible standard, so let's just not worry about that to begin with.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 25, 2008 02:11 PM

Rum, sodomy, and the lash!

Posted by: Mark at December 30, 2008 02:54 PM

Mark's a sailor?

Posted by: BillT at December 30, 2008 04:44 PM

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