Thursday, January 27 2005
OLD MEDIA FAILING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE BADLY:
The election in Iraq this coming Monday is easily the biggest story of the year thus far and could arguably be one of the most consequential events since the attacks of September 11 or the fall of the Berlin Wall. Given its importance, you would expect the mainstream media to devote a significant amount of resources to covering and analyzing the run up to the election. But aside from a few notable exceptions, that just isn't happening - especially in the major daily newspapers across the country.

Instead, what little coverage we get of the Iraqi election is either bundled into or completely overshadowed by astonishingly negative stories that get front page treatment with blaring headlines. Take yesterday, for example. Here are the front page images and stories from four of the nation's largest newspapers:


Story: "Budget Deficit to Set Record"


Story: "War Pushes Deficit To Record"


Story: "Iraq: The Cost at Home"


Stories: "Year's Deficit Projected at $427 Billion"
"Insurgents' Campaign of Intimidation"

One front page story about the Iraqi election - and a rather negative one at that - among papers with a combined circulation of nearly 2.5 million daily readers. Interestingly, these papers are also all owned by the Tribune Company, though the negative coverage in them was hardly unique. The vast majority of newspapers around the country also treated the deficit as the most important story of the day, providing little or no front page coverage of the elections in Iraq.

This morning, ironically, on a day when The Baltimore Sun used the death toll from what looks to be an accidental helicopter crash to sprawl across the top of its page the banner headline "Deadliest Day for U.S. in Iraq War," Thomas Sowell wrote in the Sun's opinion section about the pernicious effect of the press' relentlessly negative bias in covering the War in Iraq:

If a battle ends with Americans killing a hundred guerrillas and terrorists, while sustaining 10 fatalities, that is an American victory. But not in the mainstream media. The headline is more likely to read: "Ten More Americans Killed in Iraq."

This kind of journalism can turn victory into defeat. Kept up long enough, it can even end up with real defeat, when support for the war collapses at home and abroad.

Again, I've singled out The Baltimore Sun, but they are hardly the only example. Click through the hundreds of images of newspaper front pages around the country available here to see just how depressingly uniform the press was in reporting this story.

My complaint (and Sowell's) isn't that these stories aren't news or that they shouldn't be reported. Nor is it that the facts reported in them aren't accurate in a technical sense. The MSM's biggest failing, which we've seen becoming more pronounced as new outlets for information become available to the public, is the priority, emphasis, and the complete lack of balance and context with which they treat these stories.

Clearly part of this failing is driven by liberal bias. Another part of it is that the MSM has become utterly reactive and entrenched in the mind set that carnage and chaos sells newspapers.

The new media, however, isn't burdened by any such orthodoxy. Just take a look at the new Iraqi election web site/blog, Friends of Democracy that is being edited by Michael J. Totten. It's a collection of reports from local Iraqis, none of which are trained journalists. The first hand accounts are interesting, informative and by no means Pollyannaish.

Yet they provide a completely different context through which people in America can watch the Iraqi election unfold, one that isn't overshadowed by the "if it bleeds it leads" mentality and the ideological baggage of the U.S. press corps.

The old media is failing the American public badly - and the worst part about it is that they don't seem to have a clue. Even as viewers change the channel and readers drop subscriptions, many in the traditional media keep playing the same tune, unwilling or unable to address the ever-growing number of justifiable criticisms of the way they choose to package and deliver news and information. - T. Bevan 1:00 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend

 

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