Media Misinform Public II
Media Blog reader Joe wrote:
If this poll is a damning indictment of the mainstream media, does that really matter as long as the general public laps up what the mainstream media tells them with complete credulity? Isn’t this poll a damning indictment of the American people, and doesn’t it show that the power of the liberal press is as strong as it ever was? Doesn’t it indicate that this country is in serious trouble when the press can behave in such an blatantly one-sided, partisan fashion, and the vast majority of the American people are completely oblivious to this fact? Doesn’t this poll indicate that the “new” media’s actual influence is still miniscule when compared to that of the old media? Doesn’t this poll suggest that Republicans who are expecting electoral repercussions in 2006 for the Democrats’ shameful behavior may be most unpleasantly surprised?
I agree with several of Joe
Media Misinform Public
Over at Tapped, Garance Franke-Ruta reports on a new ABC poll:
Just a quarter of Americans think the White House is fully cooperating in the federal investigation of the leak of a CIA operative’s identity, a number that’s declined sharply since the investigation began. And three-quarters say that if presidential adviser Karl Rove was responsible for leaking classified information, it should cost him his job.
Skepticism about the administration’s cooperation has jumped. As the initial investigation began in September 2003, nearly half the public, 47 percent, believed the White House was fully cooperating. That fell to 39 percent a few weeks later, and it’s lower still, 25 percent, in this new ABC News poll.
The left will spin this against the administration, but to me it’s just another damning indictment of the press. In fact, the administration has cooperated fully with this investigation (barring some yet-to-be-revealed perjury charge), whereas the press
has stonewalled the prosecutor. The only person who has refused to cooperate is Judith Miller, a reporter. Meanwhile, Rove testified three times.
What does it say about the mainstream media that for two weeks they have given blanket coverage to this issue, yet 75 percent of the American public has been misinformed? I would say they’ve achieved their objective (via Kevin Drum).
UPDATE: The poll is online here.
When Public Editors Don’t Explain Enough
I’ve been waiting for the right moment to link to one of Mediacrity’s hilarious posts in his “Empty Suit” series on New York Times public editor Byron Calame. I think that moment has come.
Media Blog readers might remember two weeks ago when we spotted this outlandish correction in the Times, written after a Times editor got caught making stuff up and putting it in a contributor’s op-ed. The screw-up angered readers and bloggers of all political stripes, who wondered why the Times would be inserting entire statements into guest op-eds. Worse yet, whereas the original op-ed was critical but respectful of the Bush administration, the phony content had a cynical and clich
Know Your Sources
Just so that I’m clear, I don’t oppose the use of anonymous sources when that is the only way to get vital information to the public. Here’s a primer on good and bad uses of anonymous sources.
Good Use of Anonymous Source (“Iraqis Stunned by the Violence of a Bombing,” New York Times):
Several days earlier, the truck, which belonged to Iraq’s Oil Ministry, had been hijacked by armed insurgents and the driver kidnapped en route from Baghdad to Falluja, according to an official at the Interior Ministry, who requested anonymity for fear of administrative punishment or reprisals from the insurgents.
“The only explanation the Interior Ministry has now is that the whole operation was arranged, and an insurgent was waiting in Musayyib to blow himself up at the location,” the official said in a telephone interview.
Bad Use of Anonymous Source (“Top Aides Reportedly Set Sights on Wilson
,” Los Angeles Times
A source directly familiar with information provided to prosecutors said Rove’s interest was so strong that it prompted questions in the White House. When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove reportedly responded: “He’s a Democrat.” Rove then cited Wilson’s campaign donations, which leaned toward Democrats, the person familiar with the case said.
In the first case, the source’s actual life would be in danger if he or she went on the record. Also, the information is important to the public’s understanding of the story.
In the second case, the source just wants to take a cheap shot at a political opponent and avoid accountability. Also, the information couldn’t be less important to the public’s understanding of this story.
I would say about 99 percent of the information attributed to anonymous sources in the American press falls into the second category, and certainly the Valerie Plame leak does. A national shield law for reporters would just encourage this kind of thing. It’s a bad idea.
Also Underreported: Miller’s Role
I was late again this week with my round-up of Underreported News, posted below. Sorry about that. I wrote the post about a few stories that I think got too little coverage because of all the ink devoted to the Valerie Plame non-scandal (thank you John Tierney). In order to keep the focus on those other stories, I declined to include one of the biggest underreported items of the week
The NY Times Should Recuse Itself From Covering Plame
Media Blog reader Bill Cox has a question:
One thing I’ve been wondering about:
Why isn’t the Times held on contempt, just as Miller is? She’s almost certainly a statutory employee, but even if she’s an independent contractor her actions are clearly taken on behalf of her employer (and she wouldn’t be so well-connected if it weren’t for the increasingly-irrelevant Times).
So wouldn’t a fine for contempt of, say, $1 million per day, encourage the Times to release the info that they’re obviously trying to conceal?
I guess Fitzgerald would have explored that option, but I’m not sure why there aren’t other ways to compel cooperation in this case. However, I’m also baffled about some other things: How can anyone consider the Times
’ coverage of this issue credible anymore? The Times
is hiding information that the public increasingly needs to know. Who was Miller’s source? With whom did she speak, and what did they talk about? Why is the Times
covering up her role in this case, while hammering away at Rove?
The Times should answer these questions
Follow-up On St. Paul Columnist
I just got off the phone with Mark Yost, the St. Paul Pioneer Press editorial page associate editor who wrote a column that set off a firestorm of criticism within the media industry. Yost had called me back as a professional courtesy to let me know that he couldn
Novak Called Rove
So much for the idea that Rove was cold-calling reporters from the White House and peddling stories about Joseph Wilson
Reuters: Osama bin Laden, “Militant”
Several Media Blog readers brought this to my attention, noting that this story is great news, but that in the accompanying photo Reuters identifies bin Laden as a “militant” instead of a “terrorist”.
I guess that a weasel is a lot of things. It’s an animal. A mammal. A mustela altaica. But if I saw one, I would probably say, “Oh, look at that. It’s a WEASEL!”
CORRECTION: What a hectic day. I misspelled “weasel” in the original post. Oy. Thanks, readers.
Al-Qaeda Just Another “Insurgent Group”
Media Blog reader W.A. Davis points out the following story on CNN.com:
Please quickly click over to CNN.com and read the story about “Suspected leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq captured.” Then read on a bit to see that al-Qaeda is an “insurgent group”, not “terrorists,” a “terror group,”
“terrorist group” or “terrorist organization.”
Al-Qaeda in Iraq is an Islamic terrorist organization — part of a global jihad
against the West and Israel. If we left Iraq today, they have already told us what they would do: follow us
. Insurgents, rebels, resistance — these words disguise what we’re fighting in Iraq and around the world.
UPDATE: Al-Qaeda in Iraq now denies it orchestrated the attack that killed 18 kids, three U.S. soldiers and wounded 70 yesterday. And you can trust them, because they’re al-Qaeda. They’re just an “insurgent group”. They would never kill any kids.
Bloomberg: Not Everything Wilson Said Was a Lie
Intrepid Bloomberg reporters Holly Rosenkrantz* and William Roberts have joined Joseph Wilson’s freelance PR club (“Wilson’s Iraq Assertions Hold Up Under Fire From Rove Backers“). While trying to find instances of truth among the lies, Rosenkrantz and Roberts dig this up:
Bush supporters such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich contend that Wilson lied in claiming that Vice President Dick Cheney dispatched him on the mission to Niger. That echoes a Republican National Committee talking-points memo sent to party officials.
Wilson never said that Cheney sent him, only that the vice president’s office had questions about an intelligence report that referred to the sale of uranium yellowcake to Iraq from Niger. Wilson, in his New York Times article, said CIA officials were informed of Cheney’s questions.
“The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president’s office,” Wilson wrote.
But as Daily Howler’s Bob Somerby pointed out
yesterday, Wilson was on CNN’s “American Morning” the day after his column ran, spinning his straw into golden fabrications:
HEMMER: It’s a wonderful day for us here at American Morning! You went to Niger several years ago. You concluded essentially that Iraq could not buy this uranium from that country. Why not?
WILSON: Well, I went in, actually in February of 2002 was my most recent trip there