How would you classify this story?

DQ often says — and I know he’s correct — that I tend to be too harsh on the media, forgetting that the media’s goal is to sell the most interesting spin pm a story, even if that story doesn’t comport with my view of how the same story should be reported. He and I have had some vigorous (but always friendly and civil) debates about coverage coming out of Iraq and Israel. With regard to reports from these two regions, I often find them biased because, with regard to Iraq, the press omits good news, and with regard to the Israel, the Press (a) gives moral equivalence to Israelis and Palestinians, something I don’t think Palestinians, by their conduct, deserve; and (b) focuses obsessively (and on the front page) on Palestinian children the Israelis kill, while pretty much giving short shrift (and back page status) to any children, Palestinian or Israeli, that the Palestinians kill.

By the way, as to Iraq, I’m certainly in good company in thinking that the media reports only bad news, not good. DQ might say good news isn’t news, but I think that’s true only in “bleed and lead” local reporting. When it comes to Iraq, which is the major political issue of our time, after pounding the bad news, the fact that good things are happening should be news too.

With that in mind — the fact that I tend to be suspicious of MSM coverage — I have a question for you. The SF Chronicle just did a story about Obama, which is presented as political analysis, but which I read as a puff piece by a wishful thinking reporter. How would you classify this story?

UPDATE: Incidentally, here is what I think of as an interesting fact based news story that ought to be given prominence as an offset to the endless “grim milestone” reports that the papers like to run on a regular basis.

UPDATE IIHere’s some more news that the media doesn’t consider news.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments

  1. Danny Lemieux says

    I believe that the technical term for this is “Advertorial” – an editorial placed in a publication as an ad. However, the “advertiser” (the SF Chronicle? Obama campaign?) should have been properly identified.

    I am sure that the newspaper won’t be dunned for making a campaign contribution, however.

  2. Allen L. says

    Actually it was pretty funny. Here’s how I read it. Assert that Sen. Obama is brilliant and an “inspirational orator.” Proof of assertion, his supporters in Iowa cheered him at a campaign rally.

    Assert that Sen. Obama can break down racial barriers, whatever that means. Proof of assertion, his California campaign manager says so.

    Then we have that sneaky little jibe about if only white males can get over their racism they might vote for him. Did it ever cross anyone’s mind that I as a white male might not vote for him because I don’t like his ideas?

  3. Ophiuchus says

    I’d like to focus on a secondary aspect of your post, the implication that the MSM have a leftist bias. If you traverse the pages of, say, Daily Kos, you’ll find that those people think that the MSM has a right-wing bias. “What!?!?” you splutter in indignation. “That’s absurd!”

    I don’t think so. The problem here is that the perception of bias is entirely dependent upon one’s own subjective assessment of reality. This doesn’t mean that the press isn’t biased, it means that there is no objective way to determine whether it’s biased. You can shout all day long that the press is biased towards the left, and the DKos people can shout all day long that the press is biased towards the right, and neither of you can prove your case.

    So what’s a poor open-minded citizen to do? I have several recommendations:

    1. Forget the American MSM. Especially forget anything on television. It’s all pap.

    2. Read the Economist. While they too have their own biases (and I have caught them on several errors on subjects I know intimately), they still strike me as the best overall reporter of news. They’re a bit expensive, but they’re definitely worth it.

    3. Don’t cocoon yourself in like-minded news stories — that’s the quickest route to stultification. Seek out points of view that you disagree with. Have you ever read the English language al Jazeera website? I don’t recommend it as a model of journalistic probity, but it’s really important to see how other people see the world. The First Amendment is there to insure that citizens get a broad spectrum of opinion — USE IT! I strongly urge you to have a look at Baghdad Burning, a blog by an intelligent, thoughtful Iraqi young woman who has recently left Iraq.

    And lastly, I’d like to put in a word for a story that particularly touched me. The link won’t pass through WordPress’ filter, but if you Google “A shooting after nightfall”, the top entry will take you there. This happened in the same week as the Inauguration and the contrast between the President and Mrs. Bush dancing and the blood-covered little girl had a profound impact upon me. Those pictures were on the front pages of most European newspapers. I asked around among friends and discovered only one American newspaper that carried the story.

  4. says

    Ophi, I’ve got a paper to get out, but I will say that, considering that the journalism field is over 90% registered Democrat, I’m not sure how it can avoid bias. Also, as I’ve said often here (before you started visiting), bias is inevitable. What I resent is the fact that the media members pretend that they aren’t biased. I like disclosure, not obfuscation.

  5. Ophiuchus says

    the journalism field is over 90% registered Democrat

    I’ve always wondered about that statistic. I’ve seen it bandied around a lot, but it arouses by suspicions because it’s so high. If it were 60% or 70%, I could get it down my craw more easily, but the idea that ANY group of Americans would come out 90% Democrat seems really odd to me.

    Can you point me in the direction from which that statistic came?

  6. says

    Good question, Ophi. Here’s a web page, from an admittedly biased source, that summarizes studies identifying voting preferences of members of the major media outlets. Different studies vary somewhat in their conclusions, but there is no doubt but that the major media outlets are overwhelming liberal in their outlook. But you are right that my 90% number was wrong as a global conclusion. While 89% of Washington based reporters voted for Bill Clinton, the percentages and ratios vary from about 58% to 12 to 1, depending on what the question asked is.

  7. says

    DQ often says — and I know he’s correct — that I tend to be too harsh on the media, forgetting that the media’s goal is to sell the most interesting spin pm a story, even if that story doesn’t comport with my view of how the same story should be reported.

    I disagree with you and DQ. You are not too harsh on the media.

    If the media’s goal is to sell the most interesting spin story, then why are the media so grossly incompetent at the job? Why do they purposefully evade stories that would sell? MoveOn add, remember that? 50% off.

    They will sacrifice revenue for ideological and propaganda purposes, Book. That market force argument simply has no force to it.

    DQ would still beneift much from a study of propaganda, if you ask me. It is seriously very useful in terms of analyzing media tactics and personas.

  8. says

    When it comes to Iraq, which is the major political issue of our time, after pounding the bad news, the fact that good things are happening should be news too.

    The Band of Brothers DVD series is economic testimony to media bias and dishonesty, Book. Have you ever used that to argue your case against DQ, Book?

  9. says

    If you traverse the pages of, say, Daily Kos, you’ll find that those people think that the MSM has a right-wing bias. “What!?!?” you splutter in indignation. “That’s absurd!”

    Given the extreme ideology present on Daily Kos, it makes perfect sense that they would see the media as ring-wing. Anything that does not toe the Kos line is alien and must be defeaten, in their eyes.

  10. says

    A quick lesson on propaganda. There are 4 general types of reaction to a specific propaganda piece/operation/etc.

    Type 1. You have a positive reaction to the propaganda and believe in it.

    Type 2. You have a positive reaction to the propaganda, which you disbelieve.

    Type 3. You have a negative reaction to the propaganda but you believe it is true.

    Type 4. You have a negative reaction to the propaganda and you don’t believe in it.

    Book exhibits often Type 4. She sees the news stories and has a negative reaction ot it in addition to the fact that she doesn’t believe all of it is true.

    Most other people are Type 1s. They see something they like and they believe in it. Type 2 and Type 3 are extremely rare.

    Type 3 is like BOok’s reaction to Ann Coulter. Don’t like how she says it, but agrees with what she said.

    Type 2 consists of reactions that dominate my responses. Often times I experience a positive reaction to propaganda, but I know it is propaganda so I don’t really believe it.

    but the idea that ANY group of Americans would come out 90% Democrat seems really odd to me.

    The truth bites. Type 4 reaction.

    The reason why I wrote this comment is because once you understand propaganda, it then no longer becomes about “good” or “bad” stories, Book. It is assumed that bad stories can demoralize and raise the morale of fighting forces just as GOOD stories can demoralize and raise the morale of fighting forces. It all depends upon how a person reacts to the propaganda. And that depends upon how the propaganda is used and for what goal.

    Given that the media’s intentions are very clear in this, does it truly matter, Book, whether the media uses good or negative stories? It doesn’t. Not with propaganda.

  11. Ophiuchus says

    Thanks for the link, Bookworm. I went through the material there. First thing I did was throw out all the grossly unscientific studies that were obviously ruined by selection effects. For example, the fellow who polled reporters at the Democratic National Convention and discovered that a lot of them were Democrats. But did he poll reporters at the Republican National Convention? No…

    Only two studies stood out from all the others: The LA Times one in 1985, because it was huge; the Editor & Publisher one, because it was clearly unbiased and probably enjoyed greater trust from the respondents. The University of Connecticut study was pretty good but was marred by a great many subjects who refused to answer the crucial question.

    So, let’s look at the results of the two good studies. They’re consistent with each other, showing a Democratic bias, relative to the public, of 17, 15, and 8 per cent, respectively. For now, I’d hang my hat on 15% as a decent compromise between those numbers. I’ll accept the thesis that news reporters harbor a 15% percent bias in favor of Democratic Presidential candidates. First, this is nowhere near the 90% you mentioned. More important, it doesn’t correct for any of the other factors that affect voting preferences. The most obvious of these is the urban/rural divide so assiduously exploited by Mr. Rove. I don’t know the numbers on this, but I do know that they’re big. People who live in cities have a strong bias in favor of Democrats. And how many reporters live in cities and how many live in the sticks?

    There are other factors to consider, such as educational level and income level. There are lots of factors to consider here to obtain a useful conclusion. My guess is, when you take into account all the other factors, news reporters are voting pretty much like other people in similar circumstances. It has nothing to do with any conspiracy (which you never intimated, BTW), but is just the statistical selection effects.

    Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that news reporters do a lousy job of representing the point of view of rural voters. Perhaps there should be a new cable news network called “Rural News” in which rural people do all the reporting — but then they’d have to move to the city, where most of the news takes place, and they’d be contaminated with all the big-city liberalism, too. What’s a poor rural conservative to do? ;-)

    Again, I return to my recommendations: ignore the American news media wholesale. Get many points of view. And seek out news from really alien sources. It’s enlightening to see what they’re worried about in India, in China, in Egypt. There are English-language newspapers with websites all over the world. Check ‘em out.

  12. Mike Devx says

    “Welcome to MSM Evening News. I’m Grim, I mean, Jim Killjoy. Today is May 8th, 1945. In the news today, American and coalition soldiers accepted the surrender of German forces and the German government. Unfortunately, there were eight more deaths yesterday, including a soldier who was engaged to be married. Now we go to Dying, I mean, Diane Johnson, who is with the weeping fiance…”

    “Jim, with the signing of this agreement, hopefully all the horror, horror, horror if this terrible war is finally over. Some may celebrate the victory, but indeed, is there really anything to celebrate, when so many are dead, and so many loved ones are weeping?”

    “Diane, a very good point indeed. Thank you for that report. Some are calling this day V-Day, an end to WW II, and I just heard that there is a story and a photo of a soldier kissing a nurse that some are calling a classic. With – unbelievably! – citizens cheering in the background. I do suppose, indeed, that there are a few who find, on this dark occasion where we pause to reflect upon all those dead, some strange impulse towards celebration. A macabre danse of death, in my opinion.”

    “In other news…”

  13. InkMiser says

    What I loved was the shameless comparison to Tiger Woods. Obama is not in Tiger’s league when it comes to dominance in a field. Obama is more like, maybe, Sergio Garcia. Young, talented and contagiously enthusiastic, but immature and prone to lapses in judgment. He has never made a serious impact on the big stage. Tiger is the best – ever (Sorry, Jack). For now, Obama is a wannabe. Oh, and Tiger actually does support the troops. He has visited them in the field.

  14. Ophiuchus says

    Mike, I didn’t enjoy your fantasy scenario because it’s cruel and unfair. How about this inversion of it:

    Welcome to Fox News. Today will go down in history as another triumph of American military might. The invading American forces triumphantly swept into Baghdad to the joyous celebrations of Iraqi citizens. Amid cheering crowds, American soldiers drove through a rain of flowers. Girls leapt up onto American vehicles to kiss the embarrassed American boys. Everywhere people waved little American flags, chanting “Bush! Bush! Bush!” One pregnant Iraqi mother told us she intended to name her son “George”. It is a glorious ending to a glorious war; with peace firmly established, Iraq will soon join the community of democracies. We’re told that some Iraqis are already ordering hats, horns, and balloons for the political conventions sure to take place within weeks. And one Iraqi lad told me, “I can’t wait for a McDonald’s in my neighborhood. I’m tired of this stupid Arabic food; gimme a burger, a shake, and fries any day!” Tonight, the American flag waves beneficently over Baghdad. Hooray for America! Oh, say can you see…”

    Not very funny, is it? It’s rude and cruel. And it’s a mirror image of your piece.

  15. says

    You’ve lost me, Ophi. Mike made a good point about media coverage in Iraq, which is that the media is relentlessly negative no matter what happens, and he used satire to make the point. I’m not quite sure what you’re satirizing, or why you think what you wrote is rude and cruel. A little silly, perhaps. Or maybe you’re saying Mike is rude and cruel, but since Mike perfectly caught the tone of the MSM — and you’re right that we shouldn’t waste our time reading, watching or listening to the MSM — then it’s the MSM, not Mike, that is rude and cruel.

  16. Ophiuchus says

    Bookworm, my whole point is that what seems funny to you strikes me as ugly. You think that the media is relentlessly negative. So I presented an inverse approach in a fantasy news report that is relentlessly positive. You think one is funny and the other is just stupid. But could you acknowledge that some left-winger might have exactly the reverse impression — that Mike’s is stupid and mine is hilarious? What does all this suggest to you (beyond the conclusion that left-wingers are idiots and right-wingers are savants)?

    Every time I have examined a particular accusation of media bias, whether it be from right or left, I have come away with the impression that the accusation is trumped up and based only on the fact that the media don’t present the news from the accuser’s point of view.

    Never forget: the media don’t exist to sell any particular political position. They exist to sell themselves — which they do very well. Ergo, the best strategy for any individual citizen to pursue is to avail themselves of lots of news sources.

  17. Ophiuchus says

    Oh, and I wanted to add a question about this comment of yours:

    the Press (a) gives moral equivalence to Israelis and Palestinians

    What in blazes does that mean? Do you expect the press to word its reports along these lines:

    “Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, the saintly Israeli Prime Minister met with the dastardly Palestinian President…”

    Or how about this:

    “In other news, an Israeli missile on a peaceful mission over Gaza was attacked by a howling mob of youthful Palestinian terrorists. No Israelis were hurt but the missile was a complete loss.”

    Is this the kind of thing you would prefer? What exactly do you mean by this “moral equivalence” stuff? Shouldn’t reporters just report the news without making moral judgements? You know, like: “We report. You decide.”

  18. Mike Devx says

    Ophi,

    I don’t mind it striking you as ugly, I can even agree. It was intended as broad satire – overly broad! – to make a point.

    Actually I believe WW II coverage was biased to not cover the deaths of soldiers and the sorrow of their bereaved. (Kind of like hiding the fact that FDR was in a wheelchair.)

    I reject your claim of cruelty. Cruelty towards whom? The “weeping fiance” that I deliberately put there to highlight the way the media will blatantly use emotion in support of propaganda? By proxy am I then being cruel to everyone who’s lost a loved one in any war? Or anyone who’s lost anyone for any reason?

    That would be the death of all humor.

    By the way, I consider satire to be one of our biggest assets in the “war on terror” or against any fanatic. We’re underusing satire. Google “Achmed” “The Dead Terrorist” for a fantastic YouTube example of it.

  19. says

    Ophi, I’ve got to get the kids on the school bus, but let me just say that you’re probably not right to say that the media exist to sell themselves, which they do very well. They don’t do it well at all lately, or at least the print media doesn’t. It’s collapsing because, given real competition, people have abandoned it in droves. I don’t track news shows, but I don’t think the three nightly news shows are doing well either. Again, given a choice, people don’t like the kind of coverage the media offers.

    And the fact that people have a bottom line doesn’t mean they make intelligent decisions. Hollywood has come out with film after film in which they criticize America’s conduct vis a vis the way. The films tank, and Hollywood keeps making them. Either they don’t care about the market at all, or they no longer care about the American market and have hopes for the European market. I haven’t heard about the European market being a great boon yet, so it sounds as if they’ve got nothing except a “principled” decision to show for themselves.

  20. says

    Oh, and Tiger actually does support the troops. He has visited them in the field.

    Tiger comes from a military family. His father served in the Special Forces (Army). Retired rank was LTC (Lieutenant Colonel).

    Perhaps it all comes down to the family. Tiger Woods came from a loving family with two parents that placed a value in spending quality time with their son and ensuring that he grew up straight and true. Tiger’s father Earl Woods is a retired Lieutenant Coronel in the U.S. Army Special Forces and served two tours of combat in Vietnam where he befriended a South Vietnamese soldier named “Tiger” Nguyen Phong who proved the inspiration for his son’s nickname and where he met his wife Kultida who worked as a secretary in a U.S. army office. Tiger’s father always stressed excellence and achievement in the family, although not at any price and only according to the rules.

    In other news, how about them Marine bastos raping Iraqi girls?

    Welcome to Fox News.

    People like Op, who don’t study propaganda look at Fox News with a negative reaction and believe that it is false. That is not very sophisticated.

    Sophisticated students of propaganda can easily look at Fox News Morning hosts, such as the many attractive ladies speaking there, and recognize their positive reaction to them while remaining skeptical of the accuracy of the reports.

    Op hasn’t graduated to that level, yet. To respect an enemy’s skill and character, while still trying to kill him, is the height of honorable conduct. Honorable conduct in propaganda? Indeed.

    Not very funny, is it?

    It is not even well done satire.

    Bookworm, my whole point is that what seems funny to you strikes me as ugly.

    The fact that people disagree with you, Op, strikes you as ugly. The fact that they also find things funny which you do not, is just icing on the cake.

    that Mike’s is stupid and mine is hilarious

    Since you, a member in good standing in the Left, just stated that position, what exactly is the point of restating the obvious, Op?

    What kind of cognitive dissonance is this? Mike, some help here?

    It seems to me that when Op said this,

    “Every time I have examined a particular accusation of media bias, whether it be from right or left, I have come away with the impression that the accusation is trumped up and based only on the fact that the media don’t present the news from the accuser’s point of view.”

    He was trying to disassociate himself from Leftist or conservative groups in the reaction to the media. So why does Op adopt the same reaction to your satire, Mike, as would a Leftist?

    The media themselves, Bill Keller of the New York Times for example, uses the claim that both the left and the right accuse the Times of being biased against them as proof that the New York Times is “straight down the middle”. This is simply delusion, to be frank.

    There is nothing supporting Op’s claims other than that Op claims that both the left and right are wrong. That isn’t all that strong a claim.

  21. Mike Devx says

    Y quotes Ophi:
    ““Every time I have examined a particular accusation of media bias, whether it be from right or left, I have come away with the impression that the accusation is trumped up and based only on the fact that the media don’t present the news from the accuser’s point of view.”

    and makes further points about this quote that I find telling.

    Ophi, I have to ask, do you really find ALL accusations of media bias from the left to be trumped up? Somehow I doubt that.

    I’m probably in the minority here in that I find CNN coverage to be fairly decent, though I do detect a liberal bias.

    MSNBC has become unwatchable. When I was Joe Scarborough change over a period of a couple of months, I was shocked. I thought he had integrity, and he ended up being nothing but a shill for a new point of view. It was shocking. And it had nothing to do with my own internal bias.

    What I was WATCHING suddenly changed, in so dramatic a fashion that you couldn’t pretend it wasn’t happening right in front of your eyes.

    It had NOTHING to do with my own bias.

Leave a Reply