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Calling Out The Press

Michael Massing, NY Review: Unfit to Print?

The media really isn't getting it right. Their reporting is weak, their naive faith in this administration is catastrophic, and their timidity in the face of conservative bitching is appalling.

Massing has added to his invaluable earlier dismantling of the major media's reporting on the Iraq war. He argues that:

  • Woodward had the chance to reveal the weakness of the administration's case for war, and refused to take it.
  • The NYT Judith Miller apology is not open and honest, not a good sign of things to come.
  • "Aside from the Abu Ghraib scandal, which has taken over the Time's coverage, the paper has seemed intent on keeping bad news off the front page, especially when it reflects poorly on the Bush administration."
  • Institutional incompetencies - not speaking Arabic, inability to provide security - limit the quality of news coverage from Iraq.
  • Embedding distorts perception, and should be disclosed to the reading public.
  • Pentagon and White House analyses aren't independently vetted.
  • "In the current climate, of course, any use of Arab or European material —no matter how thoroughly edited and checked—could elicit charges of liberalism and anti-Americanism. The question for American journalists is whether they really want to know what the Iraqis themselves, in all their complexity, are thinking and feeling."
The left shouldn't have to carry water for the media. Their coverage of the war has been terrible, and articles like Massing's prove it, to say nothing of their ravaging of Gore and their endless obsequiousness towards Bush. The defense of the media - and the reestablishment of journalistic values - needs to come from the media itself. CNN should start an ad campaign - Better Correct than Right. The New York Times should start an ad campaign - News is Neither Right nor Left. They need to reestablish a center, rededicate themselves to professionalism and objectivity.

The LAT's John Carroll's speech is actually a decent opening salvo, and given the weakness of Ailes' response, the media can win this fight. I am still attached to the ideas of objectivity and professionalism, and think it would be tragic to lose them. The right's intentional assault on them - admirably revealed by Brock's new book - reduces us to epistemic relativism, opening the gateways for deception, distortion and propaganda, in the name of being "fair and balanced."


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