Re: On tomorrow's coronation...
- From: "RichL" <rpleavitt@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 21:12:26 -0500
Claude V. Lucas <claudel@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
In article <F6Gdnb-8wulDJerUnZ2dnUVZ_ozinZ2d@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>,
DGDevin <dgdevin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Hrmm....I'm having a bit of trouble with you *knowing* that they are
repeated endlessly yet rarely heard about. If this is the case, how
do you know?
Because it's an issue I keep an eye on, reading publications like
Columbia Journalism Review helps quite a bit. It's interesting to
me that I can easily name incidents where prominent media outlets
got caught with their pants down, you apparently can't, yet you
figure there's no way I'm better informed on this issue than you.
*Nobody's* more informed than DickL on *any* subject.
My experience is that in the vast majority of cases, this arises
from the reporters' lack of knowledge of the science, not bias.
Given this experience, I'd be willing to project that a significant
fraction of what appears as bias is simply ignorance.
Goldberg describes it happening not simply because of ignorance
(although I'm sure there is plenty of that) but also because his
fellow journalists were inclined to report some scientific points of
view and not others. One example is AIDS, where the methodology of
tracking the number of cases was changed and produced a dramatic
increase in the apparent risk to the public even though the actual
number of people getting AIDS who weren't IV drug users, Haitian
refugees or multi-partner homosexuals had not increased. But
depicting AIDS as more of a threat to the public appealed to many
journalists while reporting that monogamous heterosexuals who don't
use IV recreational drugs were not at significant risk just wasn't
on the agenda. So CBS went with the story that AIDS was spreading in
the low-risk population far faster than previously believed, with no
In the case of the Post, for example, I'd fall back on my earlier
statement about emphasis of stories. The facts reported in the
stories are largely correct. And the Post does a good job of
retracting when they screw up. The more senior reporters rarely do,
They don't have to get facts wrong to spin a story. Goldberg
describes asking one news producer why when she wants the woman's
reaction to a court ruling or whatever she invariably sends a crew
to talk to NOW, why never a woman's group from the conservative side
of the line? The producer was speechless for a moment, and then
admitted it just never occurred to her, she just assumed NOW speaks
for American women. Again, her background caused her to in effect
slant her reporting even though she wasn't deliberately doing so,
she was just going with what she knows.
That's an educational issue that can be blamed on poor standards of
journalism instruction. People need to be taught to seek a wider
range of views when trusted with the responsibility of informing
the rest of us.
In the case of TV, you've got the added problem of networks wanting
attractive reporters who aren't necessarily the most knowledgeable.
Who can't string together a sentence that doesn't appear on a
How many times has the NY Times been embarrassed by a reporter who
made up stories, or by their own ombudsman pointing to their news
coverage being politically motivated (the Duke rape case being a
good example), or their own columnists complaining that the suits
upstairs killed pieces that conflicted with the paper's editorial
stance? If this sort of thing is so rare why is it so easy to
think of examples like this?
Well the guy who made up stories (there was an earlier example of
this in the Post) was driven by laziness, not by bias. The Times
got plenty of heat on this from the perspective of a lack of
Jayson Blair, Times management was repeatedly warned about his
suspiciously high output and the high number of mistakes in his work
yet he was repeatedly promoted despite complaints from his editors.
Their own report on how it happened pointed to certain reporters who
were advanced if the executive-editor considered they had certain
qualifications, and Blair's editor said Blair being black was part
of the formula. Blair would of course later accuse the Times of
racism, apparently he doesn't think he was fired for plagiarism and
forgery, but because of his race.
Hopefully the lesson was learned here.
As far as the Duke case is concerned, initially it wasn't just the
Times but a majority of newspapers that got sucked in. Simply put,
the world has changed. The burden of proof of rape no longer rests
mainly on rape victims, and to me that's a good thing. If you've
got daughters, which I do, I don't think you'd want to go back to
the "good old days" wherein it was *assumed* that victims were
"asking for it". So there's a presumption that a crime actually
occurred. Now I didn't follow the Times' reporting in detail on
this, but in the Post as facts began to dribble out, they adjusted
I don't see anything wrong with this coverage generally.
The Times' own public editor/ombudsman criticized the paper for
sticking with the original story--rich white frat boys gang-rape
poor black dancer--long after the evidence was that the rape
accusation was false. Times columnists were blowing the whistle long
before the editorial board finally climbed down from a position that
had collapsed. This isn't about the burden of proof being on the
victim, it's about the prosecution (and the Times) ignoring solid
evidence of the innocence of the accused. If it was a mistake it
was one made because the paper's editorial board chose to make it.
Here's one of the best pieces I saw on the whole sorry mess:
As far as columnists complaining about editors killing columns, I'm
not familiar with any specific cases, but I can see why such actions
*might* be justified if particular columnists went over the top.
Would you object to pulling a "9/11 was an inside job" column in a
respectable, mainstream newspaper?
The case I had in mind was a couple of Times columnists who wrote
columns about the Times' editorial position condemning a men's-only
golf club (Augusta)--their columns were "spiked" in newsroom jargon,
i.e. killed. It wasn't a question of going over the top, all it
took was disagreeing with the executive editor. Again, I find it
odd that you would make assumptions about this when you're
unfamiliar with the case.
C'mon now; I never said that what 60 Minutes did in that case was
justified. Don't put words in my mouth.
What other meaning should I take from an explanation that they don't
exactly claim to be objective? Is journalistic objectivity the
desired goal, or not? Does not claiming objectivity (where do I go
to see 60 Minutes doing that BTW?) mean that people who wear a
journalism hat get to spin it as they please with impunity?
Only if the spin is leftward, apparently.
Fuck off, Claude. Grownups are talking.
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