There is certainly something amiss in the “American” mainstream media. Even at least one media insider, Carole Simpson, just might realize it.
America, we’ve got a problem. Actually, two problems. One is the news media’s loss of credibility because some news organizations have reported stories that are wrong or fabricated. Their BAD.
That contributes to the other problem: the public’s disdain for the news and the people who provide it. Too many Americans believe we are all too liberal and we slant the news. They think we deserve no respect.
Do not go quietly into that good night of recognition, Carole. Go whining.
Look at how reporters and camera people are portrayed on television and in the movies. It makes me crazy. Typically, we’re seen as a gang of pushing, shouting, obnoxious people, waving microphones and note pads, trying desperately to get a quote or a picture. The police, politicians, business leaders, and celebrities – in these fictional dramas – routinely refer to the press as “vultures.” Characters are always trying to hide things from the media. But you know what that means? They are really trying to hide it from you, from the public.
Yeah, sure, you’re portrayed badly and we lose. How about you’re deservedly portrayed badly based on your general behaviour? How about we lose, not from your portrayal but from your behaviour?
How about we get to the meat of your “epiphany” of sorts?
But it doesn’t help our credibility at all when, in the space of a few months, two major news organizations have had to admit to the whole world that they screwed up. They reported stories that were wrong. They had to retract them and apologize.
Most recently, Newsweek magazine had to retract a clause in a short story. The magazine said government investigators looking into interrogation abuses at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have confirmed that interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Koran down a toilet.
An unnamed government source told Newsweek reporters this happened at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, where the detainees are mostly Muslims and those in charge are Americans. You should know that the Koran is to Muslims what the Bible is to Christians, or the Torah is to Jews. It is considered holy, and the word of God.
The story about alleged American desecration of its holy book was too much for many in the Muslim world. Part of one sentence in a short story in a weekly newsmagazine was used to stir up riots in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia. Sixteen people died.
As silly kids we used to chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Maybe we need to rethink that little ditty.
Newsweek’s words were deadly and further tarnished America’s image in the Middle East.
Then there’s CBS News. Weeks before the 2004 election, Dan Rather reported on “60 Minutes II” that his news team had obtained documents proving President Bush got preferential treatment during the Vietnam War and did not fulfill his National Guard obligation.
The story was attacked immediately. Rather repeatedly defended it as accurate, while his CBS bosses launched an internal investigation. The report was based on memos that some critics called forgeries, and kinder critics described as “impossible to authenticate.” CBS News was wrong. The result? It didn’t kill any people; it just killed the careers of Dan Rather and three highly respected veteran CBS producers.
Trust me, there is no legitimate question they were forgeries.
In her closing, it is evident that Carole Simpson really doesn’t get it.
We believe it is our duty to the American people. Yet the distrust is out there and growing every year.
A University of Connecticut poll found this month that 60 percent of Americans say the “media in general” do a fair or poor job reporting information accurately. Only 39 percent think the media do an excellent or good job. Twenty years ago, these ratings were much better. But 20 years ago there weren’t so many 24-hour news channels, news by Internet and cell phone, and independent bloggers, who can say anything they want without retribution.
Every profession has some bad apples and they are usually found out and thrown out. They don’t spoil the whole barrel. Every news organization I know is trying harder than ever to regain credibility and public confidence.
This country was founded by men who believed a free press was so important to democracy, they gave it protection under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Just because once in a rare while some organization gets something wrong, the American public cannot just dismiss the news media altogether. While many avoid us when they don’t want to tell the truth, our job is to hang in there and dig it out sooner or later. But we need to get the truth out. Not for us. For you.
The problems currently facing the American mainstream media do not hang on a few errors. Rather, they hang on a mindset. That mindset is why the two errors that Ms. Simpson wrote about actually occurred. Those two stories could be rushed to print without adequate research just had to be true because they just made sense to the worldviews of the journalists involved, journalistic standards be damned. That is also shown in the media’s willingness to circle their wagons around Newsweek, augmenting their side of the controversy with story upon story of Quran abuse based solely upon allegations of detainees. Need I remind anyone that it wasn’t a detainee or a journalist that began the Abu Ghraib investigations but was, instead, the reporting of a wrong by a soldier? The words of a politically-motivated detainee have no reason to be automatically believed, but that apparently is the standard of proof so many of Ms. Simpson’s colleagues are willing to use in their publishing.
The problem is not a desire to get the story out there, but rather what story the media wishes to get out there.
Greyhawk at the Mudville Gazette points us to a Los Angeles Times piece whining about the difficulty of getting pictures of wounded and killed American soldiers into print. As expected, he addresses this story wonderfully, but I’d like to tie the disgusting piece into this post. Even within its whining hit piece, the Times shows strong anecdotal evidence of common Americans who question the media’s desire to flaunt Americans suffering during wartime.
Publishing such photos grabs readers’ attention, but not always in ways that news executives like. When the Star-Ledger and several other papers ran the Babbitt photo in November, their editors were lashed by some readers â€” who called them cruel, insensitive, even unpatriotic.
Deirdre Sargent, whose husband was deployed to Iraq, e-mailed editors of the News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., that the photo left her “shaking and in tears for hours.” She added: “It was tacky, unprofessional and completely unnecessary.”
Babbitt’s mother, Kathy Hernandez, expressed ambivalent sentiments. “That is not an image you want to see like that,” said Hernandez, still shedding tears of fury and sadness six months after her son’s death. “Your kid is lying like that and there is no way you can get there to help them.”
I’m not advocating government intervention into our media.
Not at freakin’ all.
However, I am asking those at the Times and other members of the media to question themselves. Are you an American first, covering what is truly best for America? Are you sure, as America doesn’t seem to think so, judging by your declining readership. Are you being honest to your trade? Apparently not, judging by recent major gaffes. Are you covering a war-time situation in an honest manner, or are you letting your worldviews guide your publishing judgement against our military efforts? My guess is the latter, as you seem almost bloodthirsty to show American suffering but seem to lack a similar driving desire to portray progress. Please feel free to counter that guess with a study of the frequency of published photos of suffering American soldiers over any six-month period of World War II.
Oh yeah, Ms. Simpson, you have no idea of the depths of the problems of the American media.