Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Archive for February 10th, 2007

“Why did the press fail in its pre-war reporting?”

Posted by metaphorical on 10 February 2007

Gilbert Cranberg asks all the right questions—11 of them, as it happens—concerning “why the press failed in its pre-war reporting” of the Iraq war.

Cranberg spent 33 years at The Des Moines Register, during its heyday as one of the best newspapers in the country. For a while he was in charge of its editorial pages; I think he had that gig during the three years I was at the University of Iowa. He also taught journalism at the university and is still there as an emeritus professor.

I’ve reproduced them all below, but his choice of a top question is particularly interesting:

Q. Why did the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau’s “against-the grain reporting” during the build-up to war receive such “disappointing play,” in the words of its former bureau chief?

Knight Ridder got top marks, in hindsight, for questioning the justifications for war before the fact. It calls to mind their excellent coverage of Katrina as well. It’s no surprise, then, but vastly disappointing, that in corporate media’s inexorable merging into fewer and fewer larger and larger corporations, K-N has been broken up like the Oakland A’s of the 1970s. Bits and pieces were swallowed up by other companies, other parts are floating around, unanchored, and their survival is in doubt. It’s impossible to believe that the individual pieces will retain the quality and integrity of the whole.

To see how extraordinary K-N’s coverage was, contrast it with some of Cranberg’s other questions, which ask about the guilliblity of the NY Times, the Washington Post, and, as it turns out, the Associated Press, about which Cranberg asks this:

Q. Why did the Associated Press wait six months, when the body count began to rise, to distribute a major piece by AP’s Charles Hanley challenging Powell’s evidence and why did Hanley say how frustrating it had been until then to break through the self-censorship imposed by his editors on negative news about Iraq?

I hadn’t known the AP had done that; indeed, Cranberg’s questions raise issues I wasn’t even aware of.

Here are all of them:

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“Friendly to corporations and profits”

Posted by metaphorical on 10 February 2007

Fox News is starting a business-oriented news channel because the existing one, CNBC, is, in the words of Rupert Murdoch, “often too negative and focused on financial scandals.”

Murdoch said Thursday at Media Summit New York that the channel will be “a little more business friendly.”

Because god knows the mainstream U.S. media is unfriendly to business.

Sure, sometimes news outlets do give the public an untrue impression of the world by accentuating the negative. If you report on muggings every night, as most news outlets in New York did during the 1980s and 1990s, you can make people afraid to walk around at night, even if, statistically speaking, it’s pretty darned safe. That’s hardly the problem here, though—business news outlets have covered scandals throughout the last decade and well into this one because businesses—Enron, Andersen, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Qwest, ImClone, Merrill Lynch, et al.—have behaved scandalously. According to the NY Times account, Fox doesn’t plan to ignore scandals entirely:

Asked whether that meant that Fox would go easy on its reporting of the type of corporate scandals like Enron and WorldCom that cost individual investors millions of dollars when those companies collapsed, [Fox chairman and CEO Roger] Ailes replied: “We will be as ruthless in our coverage of business scandals as we have always been.” He said that while thousands of companies have publicly traded securities, “only 9 or 10 are in trouble” at a given time.

That does suggest though, that Fox, hardly known today for its investigative journalism, won’t unearth scandals unless it trips over them, and can’t be counted on to air news of scandals until its rivals do. Instead, it will accentuate the positive.

In a separate interview, Mr. Ailes elaborated. “Many times I’ve seen things on CNBC where they are not as friendly to corporations and profits as they should be.”

Yet as it happens CNBC is at this very moment embroiled in a scandal of its own, for being overly friendly to corporations and profits.

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