|January 4, 2005||EDITORIAL ARCHIVES|
The Fallacious Notion that News Coverage is Objective
Note: This January 4, 2005 BuzzFlash Editorial marks the fourth in 20 consecutive editorials BuzzFlash will be publishing through January 20th.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
Does BuzzFlash objectively cover the news? Are you kidding? Of course not.
There is no objective coverage of the news.
That's why we had to laugh when Tom Brokaw, in a faux humility "sign-off" to his career, apologized for occasionally getting "the story" wrong and thanked viewers for their indulgence.
Brokaw was one of those old-time network journalists who used to chase tornado stories around the Midwest and breathlessly report at national political conventions that the Iowa delegation had changed their luncheon order from taco salads to bologna sandwiches, in tribute to their pork industry. You know, important stuff like that.
But in time, he rose to become what they call in Europe, "a news reader," which the American "news industry" calls an anchor.
An "anchor" of what you might ask? An anchor of profits, corporate news policy, White House spin? How about all of the above?
What does an anchor do? Well, introduce headline stories that you will miss if you blink. Oh, they do an occasional fawning interview of an elected Republican official, where they ask hard hitting questions like, "President Bush, I'm sorry but I need to ask this question because it is on the mind of every American: Could you sleep soundly if a terrorist were to infiltrate the White House and place a pea under your bed." Oh we forgot, and they do "exclusive" interviews with foreign leaders, in which the anchors get to stay in four star hotels, smoke Cuban cigars, and drink great French wine.
Yes, Brokaw, who just prior to his retirement, rebuked critics and Internet bloggers as people who didn't understand the "craft" of journalism, has been a prime example of trying to present a few minutes of nightly headline stories as "objective" news that is of vital importance to Americans.
Okay, let's take Fallujah for example. The American military and its Iraqi puppet government restricted virtually all reporters from covering the latest massive assault, in which it is likely that perhaps hundreds or thousands of civilians were killed. Yet, the nightly newscasts, cable television, and newspapers almost universally printed the Pentagon accounts of the Guernica-style decimation, without any counter-reporting or skepticism about "news accounts" exclusively obtained from the Pentagon. Is this reporting "news," or simply passing along propaganda?
All you have to do is replace a nightly news report, or even a New York Times article, for that matter, with what might have been a Soviet account of an attack on an Afghanistan city in the '70s: "Soviet soldiers fighting off the enemies of the Afghani people killed an estimated 400 insurgents in the past four days, with no civilian casualties reported."
By any stretch of the imagination, is this news? No, it is a distorted account of an event that occurred several thousand miles away, with a spin that reflects the official Bush administration position. There is no objectivity to such "news" whatsoever.
Who are the insurgents anyway? Isn't that worth examining in a series? Is the Bush administration fighting a fixed number of people, or a growing number of attackers that it is creating through its storm trooper tactics, torture and privatization of the Iraqi economy (leaving hundreds of thousands of Iraqis unemployed), among other morally indefensible blunders. Now, that might be news worth reporting, wouldn't it, instead of Pentagon news release journalism?
Didn't Bush declare the war over more than a year ago? Wouldn't it be news to tell us what happened? Wasn't all the fighting supposed to stop when Saddam was captured? Didn't we hear that too? Any "news" follow-up on that one? Nope.
Most importantly, the decision about what to broadcast on the evening news, or what to put on the front page of the Washington Post or New York Times, is an exercise in subjective editing judgment. There is no objective standard on when to say something is front page or "lead story" news. It is a personal decision made by news editors for their own subjective reasons.
News coverage is not science. It is influenced heavily by news editing decisions that reflect personal, corporate and political bias.
The New York Times and Washington Post, for instance, played major roles in abetting the impeachment efforts against Clinton by giving unrelenting front page coverage to charges against Clinton that were never proven true (with the exception of a blow job, which is hardly news). Have they given the same non-stop coverage to the daily lying of the Bush administration on their front pages that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the indebtedness of this nation for decades to come?
In fact, both papers were forced to acknowledge that they reported Bush administration lies about Iraq before the war as truth, without questioning them, thus helping feed the frenzy of fear that led to the invasion.
And what did they do after apologizing?
Nothing, absolutely nothing.
They continued reporting on the Iraq War as if nothing in their reporting had changed at all (except not calling it a "war" anymore) -- and the apology was merely obligatory, because their offering of Bush administration deceit as news had already been confirmed by leaked documents and forced White House admissions (late on Friday afternoons, of course.) No one was fired at either paper; no one replaced among the reporters covering Iraq. No policies appeared to have changed.
Their self-policing of the "news" has worked about as well as Bush's belief that industries should be responsible for reducing pollution on a "voluntary" basis.
It doesn't exist.
If you want to know what the bias of the "news" is that you are reading, just find out who is making the news editing decisions and who owns their butts.
Then you will understand how people in the old Soviet Union had to learn to read between the lines of their so-called "news."
It's a skill you would be well-advised to master.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
Note: The New York Times Editorial Board, which is traditionally liberal (although it supported the war on Iraq) is to be distinguished from the news section, which supports and enables the Republican White House status quo, despite sporadic "leak" stories. This is due to the decisions made by the news editors as far as headlines, story placement, assignments, and content.
In all fairness, the NYT apparently allows its columnists freedom in choosing their material, including Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert, and Frank Rich. But remember, it's the front page headlines and stories that have an impact in Washington, D.C.