Those of you who read my blog regularly know that my opinion of the main stream media (MSM) is very negative. To be clear, when I use the acronym MSM, I mean: the wire services (Reuters and AP), broadcast television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), cable networks (CNN, MSNBC, Fox), major national news magazines (Time and Newsweek, among others) and a significant number of major US newspapers (NYT, LAT, WaPO and many, many others).
In the 21st century the MSM has stopped performing its intended function. As I see it, the MSM should report domestic and international events in a manner that enables the reader to understand those events, the context in which the events occur, and the important ramifications of the events. The MSM should relegate advocacy to its editorial pages, to work hard, very hard, to get the facts straight, to double and event triple check the credibility and credentials of sources. The MSM should never avoid reporting a story because it conflicts with its editorial narrative or the politics of the “journalist” who does the reporting.
In an in-depth study of the MSM reporting on the Iraq war and related events, Jeff Goldstein of Protein Wisdom provides data that indicate undeniable media bias, “journalism (in Iraq) by remote control”, the use of stringers who are not only biased in favor of the “insurgents” but actively assist them, case after case of doctored photos (represented as real by the AP, Reuters, the networks, et al), agenda-based “journalism that reports as fact the unsubstantiated claims of “villagers” who report non-existent massacres perpetrated by US troops, and the same agenda-based “journalism” that chooses not to report clearly-documented cases of brutal massacres by Al Qaida in villages across Iraq.
It’s important to understand that I have no objection to reporting bad news coming out of Iraq. Lord knows, there’s been plenty. I have no objection to reporting poor administration decisions throughout the war—again, there have been many. But when Goldstein quotes James Wilson of City Journal :
When the Center for Media and Public Affairs made a nonpartisan evaluation of network news broadcasts, it found that during the active war against Saddam Hussein, 51 percent of the reports about the conflict were negative. Six months after the land battle ended, 77 percent were negative; in the 2004 general election, 89 percent were negative; by the spring of 2006, 94 percent were negative. This decline in media support was much faster than during Korea or Vietnam.
No one can deny that War is bad news, but unless you have become so ideological that you’ve lost the forest for the trees, you have to admit that the US is doing some good things in Iraq—certainly more than 6 percent.
Like Goldstein, I see no vast media conspiracy in all of this. I echo his sentiments when he states:
At this juncture, just to anticipate what more unhinged readers may want to read into this essay, I emphasize that I am not alleging some sort of conspiracy is involved in these phenomena. A conspiracy involves an agreement among those involved. The flaws in the establishment media’s Iraq coverage do not arise from some secret agreement but from their preexisting prejudices, misconceptions or ignorance of military history and theory, journalistic biases toward bad news, economic constraints, and so on.
And I might add, a degree of sloppiness that flies in the face of the media’s sanctimonious claims of professionalism and objectivity.