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  •  The Moral Bankruptcy of Journalistic "Balance" (44+ / 0-)

    This whole incident plainly exposes the central problem with the prevailing notion of "balance" in American journalism. The principle of balance is a good one, that is to say that one gets a fuller picture of a story by including within it multiple perspectives. But to automatically treat all perspectives as if they had equal merit is to do a profound disservice to ones audiences. This is especially the case when at least one of the major "perspectives" being advanced is a deliberately assembled collection of lies and half-truths intended to confuse people and advance the interests of the rich and powerful.

    Particularly troubling is the quote from Rowe:
    "If she or any other reporter stakes out a strong position on an issue that is still evolving both in society and before the courts, yes, I think that is problematic." What is implicit here is that the reporter's responsibility to the truth must wait for the emergence of a settled consensus. The problem here is that the consensus is formed through a process of struggle which is often profoundly unequal. For example, the administration can get on TV anytime it wants to give its account of what is happening at Gitmo while the detainees, the people who actually know those conditions most intimately, have no such automatic access. This is precisely why reporters have an obligatrion to exercise judgement and to explain clearly and forcefully when the government or the rich and powerful are lying to the people.

    Three cheers for Linda Greenhouse for refusing to be cowed by those who would have her balance truth with lies.  

    "Tell no lies. Claim no easy victories" -- Amilcar Cabral

    by Christopher Day on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 05:18:09 AM PDT

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      •  Journalistic "bias" today: (20+ / 0-)

        Reporting on the most important developments in your field, and putting out the truth without equal time for lies.

        Has anyone told Daniel Okrent, BTW, that he was fired as NYT ombudsman for comprehensive failure to perform that job?  He was always an apologist for the right wing when he did it, and was hounded out of the position by vituperative bloggers, among others.  Maybe he forgot....

        -4.50, -5.85 In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. --Orwell

        by Dallasdoc on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 05:34:51 AM PDT

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        •  Okrent (4+ / 0-)

          is a self-hating "liberal," compelled to flagellate himself and supposed fellow "liberals" for being "shrill."

          His parting Krugman shot is just one example.

          The Democratic Message: Security, Privacy, Justice

          by Upper West on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 06:42:35 AM PDT

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          •  Okrent and Liberal Bias (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Okrent also wrote a public editor piece remarking that, of course, the NYTimes is a liberal newspaper.  He has regretted that statement, somewhat, in public since, most noticably, it is reported, in his book about being a public editor.

            Since I go to events at Harvard's Shorenstein Center, I've met Okrent a couple of times.  He has a supercilious, privileged mien and acts in concert with his appearance.

            Here is my account of the first time we met in October 2004, when I asked him about revealing the name of a reader who had offended Adam Nagourney (Nagourney is another story - I've written two diaries about my interactions with him):

            "Daniel Okrent spoke at Harvard's Shorenstein Center today.  It was taped by CSPAN for later cablecast.  I asked about the Steve Schwenker incident, having called Mr Schwenker on Sunday to discover whether he was offered the opportunity to apologize to Nagourney before Okrent labeled him a coward.  As it was CSPAN, I didn't use Schwenker's name.  Okrent did.

            "The point I was trying to make was that Okrent engaged in a flame war in a way that was just so 1995.  He muddied the public discourse while he was, ostensibly, trying to help correct it.

            "After the event, I told him about Godwin's Law as he had repeated his painting a swastika on the synagogue analogy and told him that a public editor who insults the readers has no credibility.  He replied that was so only if he made it a habit.  I called Okrent on naming Schwenker and he said he didn't mean to but I got the feeling that may not be quite true."

            When I informed Okrent that he had mentioned Schwenker's name, repeatedly, on CSPAN, he looked up at me with an "innocent" face and said, "I did?"  My bulllshit detector went haywire.  He knew exactly what he was doing.

            My last exchange with Okrent was in April or May of this year while he was a fellow at the Shorenstein Center (that's how it works - reporters end or lose a job, get a fellowship, write an article or a book, and then go on to the next berth until they lose that job, get a fellowship....).  Okrent asked me, "What was the name of that law you mentioned?"  He wanted it for a lecture he was giving.  

            I didn't go to that lecture.

            Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at

            by gmoke on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 10:06:35 AM PDT

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    •  American Media "neutrality" is retarded (22+ / 0-)

      Is the sky blue? Let's get both sides. Did we land on the moon? Is the earth flat? Those are easy ones. Journalists don't run for both sides on those.

      But they are taking sides. So, what is the threshold? Is it a certain percentage of people believing something is true to not require "balance" in a story? That can't be the case. 70% of us believe Universal health coverage is the way to go, but that doesn't get reflected in coverage. Most of us are opposed to "free trade" but we get no real balance on that one.

      Nazi support? Does that get "balance" now? Obviously not, but how far down the road are we here? We now get balance on torture. Why is that? Just because the moron from Crawford wants to degrade human beings and hook wires to their genitals, it now means the media must look at "both sides" of the story. If he wanted to skin children and cook them in soup would we need both sides for that too?

      The media needs to explain itself. They have painted themselves into a rhetorical and philosophical corner with their crap, and they are not even consistent in it. The Republicans are thriving in this environment. All they have to do is keep pushing their positions more radical and radical, the media regurgitates the crap "without judgement" and the dialogue moves further towards the road of totalitarianism.

      Screw balance.

      "I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

      by trifecta on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 05:56:12 AM PDT

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      •  Gay people are long accustomed to "balance" (10+ / 0-)

        Our side:  Gay people are normal human beings who deserve equal human and civil rights along with all other human beings.

        Now for journalistic balance, we will go to Paul Cameron (or Focus on the Family or Donald Wildmon or other suitable rubes):

        Gay people are shit-eating demons who are lurking in the shadows to capture your children and drag them down to piss-soaked basement pits of hell. Save them while you can!

        I have exaggerated, but only very slightly. Several of those idiots have actually gone that far - child recruitment, the willing consumption of feces, etc.
        That those statements are lies or projections of the behavior of a microscopic minority onto all gay people doesn't matter:  The garbage still ends up in print. (For comparison, when was the last time someone wrote about straight men's willing consumption of vaginal juices - ick! NEVER: so why do the gay accusations appear in print?)

        BALANCE my ASS.  The very concept of balance has led journalism into a reporting "he said / she said" fallacy.  "Journalists project that as "reporting the truth," but they do not look for the truth in what is said, only report on the wild accusations of each side.

        Simply reporting preposterous statements like "there is no global warming" helps the campaign to derail any effort to address it. There's nothing wrong with reporting "he said there is no global warming," IF you back that up with FACTS, such as "nearly all national and international scientific groups are unanimous - there is conclusive evidence of global warming" and, by the way, those who claim it doesn't exist are lying assholes on the take from oil companies.

        Now, that would be useful journalism. And it would be accurate, too.  
        Balance and accuracy are not always the same thing.

        •  "balance" and civil rights (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          trifecta, debel u

          I'm not quite old enough to remember, and I haven't seen it mentioned in the history I've read, but I sometimes wonder ...

          During the civil rights battles in the 1960's, did the press interview KKK members to get "balance"?  If so, at what point did they realize that presenting a point of view based on irrationality was, well, irrational?

          "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner." - Nelson Mandela

          by Bearpaw on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 08:16:44 AM PDT

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          •  In Mississippi during the 60s (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Reporters for one paper would go out and cover a civil rights demonstration. They would then send the story to the Associated Press, which would move it over the wires. The paper would then publish the AP story instead of a version with its own reporter's byline so it could say that it was just reporting what the AP was saying rather than atrring things up on its own.

            Gunter glieben glauchen globen

            by quaoar on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 08:27:49 AM PDT

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      •  Nominate for BEST COMMENT of day! (3+ / 0-)

        Excellent points here, trifects, and stated brilliantly.

        Today in switching channels (I found one has to explain here how one could possibly have heard anything from Fox "news"), I noticed a scroll across the faux news screen implying that Democrats are "Extremists" and I got livid.

        (This was in connection with an interview with a Rethug Rep. about the NIE release.)

      •  newspapers are losing their audience to blogs (0+ / 0-)

        for precisely this reason, it seems to me.

      •  She should proudly tune them out & continue (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        papercut, Brooke In Seattle, quaoar

        “I think it's important to realize that when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity,

        the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them.

        It is possible for one side to be simply wrong.”   - Richard Dawkins

        "We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark;
        the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." - Plato

        Time for REAL LEADERS to right the wrongs .....
        that BushJr. & cronies have done!

    •  Reporting versus editorializing (6+ / 0-)

      Not a journalist, but I am a critical reader.

      I believe that editorializing has been so insinuated in the television and some newspaper reporting that the average reader and viewer doesn't notice the stance of the presenter.

      In the ideal world, reporting is free of bias, in all forms. But the human is a biased being, and so must consciously set aside biases when reporting.

      The journalist referenced in this diary was clear that she was reporting her biases and views in the public speech that she made. I believe that this is her right to do as a private citizen, and that she should speak from that reference point.

      If she cannot or is not willing to temporarily set aside her journalist role when editorializing publicly, then she would be breaking a reporter's ethic, and she could fulfill her wishes by converting to the editorial side of the news.

      However, I don't perceive that she did anything unethical or incorrect.

      She writes balanced, factual and logical stories, for which she is reviewed by readers - the ultimate editors - who find her reporting above board, cogent and ethical.

      "The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government." --Thomas Jefferson 1809.

      by Buffy Orpington on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 06:41:45 AM PDT

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      •  I disagree: (4+ / 0-)

        Reporting should not be 'free from bias in all forms.'  Reporting should have a strong bias toward factual information. Those who contradict factual information should identified as 'non-factual', thus there should also be a strong bias towards the truth.

        I know you didn't mean it the way I took it. In fact, I bet we'd 100% agree on what we expect from the media.  

        However, the "free from bias" is easily diverted to the "report both sides" even when one side consists of crack-pot loons with their heads in the sand. For examples of how some people have been victims of this kind of reporting (under the guise of 'reporting both sides') see my post above.  Thanks!

        •  Yes, I believe that they are two separate (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          and distinct entities.

          Free from bias, is an apporximation at best.

          Facts are what they are, and it's in the presentation that biases are present.

          However, if a reporter is diligent at reporting a complete set of facts, I believe that the reader must take on the editor's responsibility of looking for, exposing and discrediting bias where it exists.

          That too many readers do not do this is where our national laziness arises.

          "The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government." --Thomas Jefferson 1809.

          by Buffy Orpington on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 08:59:52 AM PDT

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      •  But we ultimate editors (0+ / 0-)

        seem to have no effect. The country is awash with reporters who are not above board, cogent or ethical, so much so that we practically declare a holiday when we come upon one.

    •  This is why I got out of newspaper journalism (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      YucatanMan, quaoar, Russgirl

      After struggling to be "objective" for a long time, I began to realize that I was losing something far more precious to me: my voice, and my moral right to stand up and say when I thought something was wrong. I just couldn't see a lifetime spent squelching my point of view for the sake of "objectivity" (and, let's face it, keeping the publisher's profit margins fat and healthy).

      I still remember the thrill of putting my first political bumper sticker on my car. In that moment, I felt a kinship with those who had been freed from political repression.

      But the sad truth is that it still feels like a dangerous thing to criticize the government. BushCo wants everyone -- not just the press -- to keep their mouths shut. I don't just fear being fired -- now I fear the 3 a.m. knock at the door.

      In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act. -- George Orwell

      by trueblue illinois on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 07:57:38 AM PDT

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    •  "Mrs. Johnson, the serial killer who chopped up (4+ / 0-)

      your 12 year-old daughter into little pieces says that the law against murder shouldn't apply to quote-nasty little whores who wear short skirts-unquote.  How would you respond?  Was your daughter a slut?"

      That's where we're going.

      If there's any bias anywhere, there ought to be bias for the Constitution and the law of the land, which was exactly the bias Greenhouse voiced.  

      Pumped and ready for "the rough and tumble competition of the memetic marketplace."

      by sagra on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 08:59:45 AM PDT

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    •  Absolute bullseye! (0+ / 0-)

      "Balance".  BULLSHIT.  Combine the right-wing assault on reason itself with right-wing control of the media moguls, and you arrive at the state of "balance" we see today.  The veracity of your argument is judged by the amount of money, power, or lawyers backing it.  Lies have enough "truthiness" to challenge, and then overcome facts by being promulgated so penetratingly throughout various forms of media.  The most important war of our lifetimes isn't being fought on a battlefield anywhere in the world.  It is the struggle for a free and independent press.  The fate of this democracy is riding on the outcome.

      It makes me so happy to see so many people commenting on this diary about this situation.  Because it is dire.  Net neutrality, if destroyed, could be the final nail in the coffin.  I'm not sure the traditional forms of media are salvagable.  But as long as DKos and the rest of the progressive blogosphere exists, we have hope.  Support net neutrality like no other issue you've ever fought for.  It really is that important.  Legislation like the torture bill, while the worst piece of legislation possible that does incalculable damage to the integrity of our constitution, can in fact be overturned.  The death of a free press is irreversible.

      "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

      by Progressive Liberaltarian on Wed Sep 27, 2006 at 09:26:57 AM PDT

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