January 06, 2005

Blood Pressure Rising

When you participate in any activity which is not widely done, and which challenges the perquisites and powers of an established power bloc, you're going to be smeared from time to time. Thus also with homeschooling, which attacks directly the powers and perquisites of the teachers' unions (and, by extension, their political allies on the Left, including many in the media). Bryan Preston at Junk Yard Blog takes apart one such article. (hat tip: Wizbang)

And let's guess who wrote it, shall we? It's Doug Oplinger and Dennis J. Willard, whom we last met here, and who have now descended to citing their own reporting at the Akron-Beacon Journal as definitive, since no one else was picking up on their themes. Ah, yes, the "news".

Posted by Jeff at 12:34 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

December 06, 2004

Forgery?

CBS (a dishonest, sleazy, biased and partisan purveyor of "news" if ever there was one) is probably not this crazy. I hope they're not this crazy. If their 60 Minutes hit piece on President Bush is based on forged documents, it will be the end of CBS as a viable news organization: with the Internet commentariat - particularly the blogs - at such a high level of competence and presence now, CBS will have frittered away the one asset required of a reporting organization: trust that the presented facts are not invented, even though they may be spun or misrepresented. I wouldn't give a snowball's chance in hell of Dan Rather keeping his job if he pushed this story and it's really based on forged documents.

Of course, I'm constantly disappointed by people's lack of ability to feel shame, so even if it's true it might blow over almost unnoticed outside of the blogs.

Posted by Jeff at 09:50 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

November 21, 2004

Need a New Slogan?

It occurs to me that maybe I should change the slogan on the blog. "A Strange Loop" is great, in that it not only does homage to Douglas Hofstadter's concept of strange loops - a series of one-way transforms that, over time, reproduce the original work - but also makes a great pun on the caerdroia that is the symbol and namesake of this blog. But I was thinking, maybe, it's time to change the slogan to something like "more accurate than NBC". "Fake but accurate", of course, has already been more appropriately applied to NBC itself.

Posted by Jeff at 09:28 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

October 09, 2004

ABC Joins Newsweek and CBS

and, let's face it, the vast majority of the mainstream media. In what? Deliberately slanting news to influence the election. Ed Murrow is indeed turning over in his grave.

Posted by Jeff at 12:38 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 30, 2004

Who?

Lileks today bleats about a rant by a mainstream journalist about how horrible bloggers are. (Note: not blogs per se, but specifically the people who write them.) I'll leave it to Lileks, Stephen Green - and doubtless a host of others - to pick this apart. I'm just struck by two salient differences between bloggers and mainstream media journalists.

The first difference is that there is no significant difference between Coleman's rant and the many rants that can be found on numerous blogs: it's mildly entertaining and devoid of serious thought. OK, most bloggers who rant put more thought into it than Coleman did, but that's beside the point: the writing in this rant, published in the (Minneapolis-St. Paul) Star Tribune is not notably better than that of many bloggers; nor are the expressed thoughts more original; nor is there any better sourcing (in fact, there's less, because bloggers link). Indeed (pun intended - keep reading), the audience for Coleman's rant would have been smaller than that of any of Glenn Reynolds' tossed-off quick-links, had it not been for the fact that Lileks (whom every blogger except Lileks considers a blogger) linked to it.

The second striking thing about this rant is the notion of identity. To a blogger - even a pseudonymous blogger like Wretchard - identity comes from the contents of our work. How many of my readers (about 1000 uniques per day during the week - it's a small but select group - know me personally? Maybe a dozen? And many of them have blogs, themselves.

By contrast, most journalists are not known by their names. Sure, some columnists are, and there are "journalists" like Dan Rather who are well-known as individuals, but this is not the norm. Most journalists are identified with their news organization. Who's Norm Coleman? Who knows? He's just some guy that writes for the Star Tribune. And rather than being able to see all of his work in one place, so we can judge it as a body and thus be able to trust Norm Coleman as Norm Coleman, we are asked as a matter of course to trust him because some middle management type at some company that publishes a newspaper decided to print his rant, probably with numerous changes which Coleman may or may not have even seen, rather than Coleman being solely responsible for his words. Me? I'd rather trust someone I can judge fairly, and who's responsible for everything published or broadcast under their name.

I don't happen to believe that bloggers can replace the mainstream media. But only in one respect: there's no system to gather and collate facts, which are (theoretically) the basis of all media reports except opinion columns. (I'm trying to figure out how this could be done, but I'm not yet convinced it could be.) What bloggers can and do add to the debate is a mechanism for filtering and fact-checking mainstream media reports, and a good bit of puncturing of over-inflated journalistic egos. Coleman should think about that for a while, but he probably won't.

UPDATE: I just realized I was calling him "Norm Coleman" instead of "Nick Coleman". Not sure if this reinforces my point or his...

UPDATE: It doesn't help mainstream media's credibility any when they write stories in a past tense, filed before the event they were supposedly about. At best, it's just shoddy use of tenses. At worst it's dishonestly posing as being a retrospective article (a statement of facts that have occurred) instead of the speculation (a statement of events scheduled to occur and guesses as to what might happen at the event).

Posted by Jeff at 09:48 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

September 29, 2004

Ritual Seppuku

Not content merely to slit their own throat as a "reputable" "news" organization, CBS is now apparently going to also fall on their sword. I was going to ask what's next, but then I realized how easy it is to tell: we just have to wait for the next issue of Democrat Party talking points to see what CBS will lie about next.

Posted by Jeff at 11:01 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 28, 2004

Coming to You Every Hour on the Hour

Back in May, I noted (well before the Killian memos scandal) that while people might wish the blogosphere would overcome the mainstream media, there was something missing: information gathering:

Information gathering is the process of actually finding information, while information filtering is the process of determining which bits of information that you have collected are meaningful, rather than trivial. Information is all around us, but most of it is not meaningful except in very specific contexts. For example, if a city council passes a resolution against US involvement in Upper Slobonia, that is certainly information. However, it's meaningless in and of itself (though it may be meaningful if virtually every city council in the country does so, as it would be an indicator of public opinion).

The major media actually does not do a great job at these functions, mostly due to laziness as far as I can tell. For example, no one saw the Savings and Loan crisis coming. Why not? Because the reporters who could have gathered the information in the records offices of the SEC were too busy attending press conferences and parties and listening to what was being talked about to actually go dig up the information. What information did come to light tended to get filtered out as isolated failures or financial difficulties, because there were not enough data points being gathered until the crisis was already upon us.

That said, the major media do a far better job, at present, of information gathering than the blogosphere. There is no blog equivalent to the AP or the staff of the NY Times. Blogs excel at finding information in print - especially information published on the Internet, filtering it and disseminating it (see especially Instapundit), but the gathering of raw information is still all too rare.


While the blogosphere excels at analysis, as the CBS/Killian scandal demonstrates to any but the most oblivious observer, there is no mechanism for gathering information, categorizing it, and relating it to other bits of information. I've been thinking about how blogs could do this, and I'd like to throw out some ideas for general discussion.

The first problem would be the actual accumulation of information. To some degree, information could be culled from mainstream media sources (the mainstream media itself rarely generates news: most reports are recycled from other media). The problem is not in generating new information. INDC Journal did this in the Killian scandal by contacting Dr. Bouffard, for example. All that would be needed would be some information prominently posted giving bloggers pointers on how to contact people, and how to obtain and conduct interviews, and the amount of information blogs could collect would go up dramatically. While any given blogger may only do this a few times on a few topics, there are a lot of bloggers.

The problem, rather, is in how to collect and correlate information. Though there are bloggers everywhere, there is no place to centralize their information, and no way to judge it for reliability. It seems that we need a tool, with the following characteristics:

  • All information is posted in small chunks, with no analysis. Information could be as simple as "the weather is clear in Chicago, IL at present" or a summary of a mainstream media story (or even blog post). All information should be categorized and subcategorized for easy location, and could be cross-linked to many categories.
  • The system should have anti-spam features to prevent it from falling into noise.
  • Anyone can post information, and it should be easy to see all information posted by that user and how reliable it has been judged (in aggregate or by specific topics). By default, information should be tagged as unreliable, and only as a person obtained consistently high judgements on reliability should the information they post begin to be rated more highly. Anonymous entries or those not tied back to a verified email address should by default be ranked as effectively spam unless it was moderated up.
  • Anyone can judge the information presented, and it should be easy to see all other moderations that user has made.
  • It should be easy to filter (include or exclude) what is viewed by its categories and sub-categories, who posted it, its reliability, who moderated it and how, and so forth.
  • Such a system would need very good search facilities. Fortunately, these are widely available and could probably be plugged in without much effort.
  • It would have to be hosted on a high-bandwith, high-reliability environment, which means it would be expensive to maintain. As a result, there needs to be a way to recoup the operating costs.
  • The system should accept trackbacks to a category or bit of information, so that commentary about that topic could be easily collated.

A much longer list of features could be added, but I think that this covers the essentials: it is necessary to have a place to store information and judge its effectiveness, to which anyone could contribute and from which anyone could draw, which would moderate the information to make it easier to make snap judgements on the reliability of the information. It would in general be somewhat like a wiki.

I'm curious as to what I'm missing that such a system would need, and whether such a system would be interesting enough to people to be used. If it was used, would it serve the purpose of enabling information gathering, and would that be robust enough to supplement or supplant the mainstream media? If it gathered sufficient information and judged it sufficiently well, would it allow blogs to provide primary information in sufficient quantities to become, effectively, news services rather than analysis services?

UPDATE: Dave Schuler comments at the Glittering Eye. He asks a question that deserves answering: "How does it differ from something like Technorati? Or some of the blog indices that have died on the vine over the years?"

There are structural differences, of course, but these arise from a deeper cause: purpose. Technorati and other blog indexing systems I've seen are intended to enhance information connectivity; that is, they exist to make clear non-obvious relationships between hypertext pages. If I link to a page, it's easy to go to that page, but it's a one-way relationship. If you are looking at that page, you HTML provides no facility to determine who is linking to that page. Technorati provides bi-directional browsing, as do trackbacks for that matter. This is a useful service, no doubt about it, and Technorati is useful despite its flaws.

What I'm looking for is a way of taking real world data and making it available, so that bloggers (and, hey, why not?, journalists) can use it to pull out information. This is much more than a mere structural difference from Technorati. It would not be hosted on the same kind of database or have the same front end, but that's minor. What's major is the way that the data is organized and rated (actually, Technorati doesn't rate information at all, except to note how many incoming links and sources, and how old they are, exist for a given page). Information wouldn't be gleaned from the relationships between pages, but would exist in the abstract. The two together - using this system to find information and Technorati to find commentary about that information - would be a powerful combination.

UPDATE: This seems like a good start for bringing SMEs together with people who need their information. (hat tip: Transterrestrial Musings) The intro post is here. I'm wondering about the rule against self-nomination, though, in that it is unlikely that many bloggers will know the areas of professional expertise of other bloggers. Still, this is a great idea.

Posted by Jeff at 10:27 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

September 22, 2004

Trust Me

Jim Miller notes that the Killian memos story at CBS is likely not a departure from normal practice. From the recent "Israeli spy" story that came and went without a ripple, to the sensationalism surrounding the Abu Ghraib abuse stories, to a story on the Bradley IFV when I was a child, CBS's "standards" have been appallingly bad.

But it's not just CBS, because NBC got into quite a bit of hot water for faking a story on pickup safety, and it goes downhill from there.

And it's not just TV "news" that is at issue. One name for you: Jayson Blair. And if BBC radio mentions the time at the top of the hour, I check my watch first. Reuters and AP cannot even correctly use common English; thus terrorists are anything but.

So the question has to be asked: on what questions of fact can you actually trust the mainstream "news" organizations? I think that the answer has become: none of them.

Most "news" falls into three categories: editorial commentary (aka punditry), straight reporting, and investigative reporting.

Editorial commentary is just expressing an informed opinion; it's what the blogosphere specializes in. It's also what most "news" organizations actually spend their time doing, though they tend to say it's actually the smallest part of what they do. I have no problem with this, as long as editorializing is distinctly separated from reporting. My qualms begin when editorial opinions are inserted into the middle of other stories - as they often are - without any note that what is being said is not fact but opinion.

Straight reporting is simply stating observed facts, without any attempt to insert opinions or draw together strands of evidence. For example, "President Bush gave a speech before the United Nations yesterday, in which he [made certain statements]" is reporting, while "President Bush failed to convince UN delegates yesterday that his decision to invade Iraq was justified" is opinion-mongering. While most "news" organizations claim to do mostly reporting, anyone who reads or watches "news" reports can tell that most stories are largely punditry.

It is not difficult to separate out some of the punditry, but other editorializing goes by unnoticed. For example, choosing not to run stories if they contradict a newspapers editorial line (how many stories on the economy have you seen since it started improving?) is a way of hiding the truth while telling it. Then there are the outright lies and repeated failure to follow initial reports to their actual conclusion.

Investigative journalism is a hybrid, where observed facts are placed together in a sequence, along with supporting evidence and statements, to tell a story that is not evident from the individual disconnected facts. This is what "news magazine" shows like 60 Minutes, magazines like Newsweek, and some newspapers are famous for. But it is apparent from the evidence noted above that investigative journalism is far more selective and often even invented that we are led to believe by the mainstream media. It is this kind of reporting that is actually most susceptible to fraud, because it reports as fact some things which are not, while making inferences which may not be justified and leaving out critical disconfirming evidence. Unlike straight reporting, it is very difficult to separate out editorial opinion from fact in an investigative "news" story.

No one trusts a blogger, until that blogger has established a reputation over time by being right when he reports facts, ready to accept criticism when he is wrong, and honest when he makes a mistake. It used to be different with the mainstream media: we expected every journalist to be a Cronkite or a Murrow. Now we know Cronkite wasn't necessarily any better than Dan Rather. I only hope Ed Murrow and David Brinkley don't turn out to be equally off-base. Now we know that the mainstream media is no more trustworthy than any random person pulled off the street.

"Trust me," says Dan Rather while perpetrating a fraud. "Prove yourself worthy of trust, first," is the only rational response.

Posted by Jeff at 05:22 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 16, 2004

"I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things"

Betsy's Page points to this George Neumayr article on Dan Rather's version of "Truth", and how it's OK to lie to advance that "Truth" (the title of this post is a quote from Rather about Bill Clinton). I won't excerpt it - it's good enough to read whole - but the basic thesis is that Dan Rather thinks it's OK to lie about anything as long as the "good people" are lying and the "bad people" are the targets. It's yet another bit of evidence of the essential infantilism of the modern Left.

UPDATE: And Mrs. du Toit has a post on trust that is well worth reading, and only tangentially related to the CBS meltdown.

OK, I will excerpt one bit:

Perhaps Dan Rather's liberal defenders who now accept "core truth" fables owe author Gary Aldrich an apology. Shouldn't they now say to him, "Your story about Bill Clinton taking women to the D.C. Marriott, which predated the country's introduction to Monica Lewinsky, wasn't technically true but it contained a basic truth about Clinton. He was doing that sort of thing with women"? And shouldn't they also apologize to Mark Fuhrman? "Sure, you may not have followed every collection technique properly, but that's okay. O.J. was guilty," they should now say.

Donald Sensing talks about why this matters.

Posted by Jeff at 03:36 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 15, 2004

Credibility

The mainstream media is really just learning about blogs, as the blogosphere is ripping CBS to shreds over fraud in knowingly presenting forged documents to smear President Bush. Ignoring stupid and irrelevant comments about bloggers in pajamas, there are two charges to note: blogs don't have editors and they aren't held accountable for being wrong.

Well, as many bloggers noted, everything we publish is immediately scrutinized, and if we're wrong, we either take it back or die on the vine.

Posted by Jeff at 03:06 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 14, 2004

Wait a Minute!

LGF did a Photoshop experiment: take one of the CBS memos, and change the levels. The crumples used as part of the aging process in the forgery show up. But, if this was photocopied as part of the aging process, wouldn't the crumples not show up on the photocopy? It seems to me that just the distortion would show up. (I don't have a photocopier and scanner near to hand, so I cannot check directly.)

If photocopying gets rid of the direct evidence of crumpling, then this was the original document presented by the forger to CBS, which means that whomever was the source for CBS (or at CBS; I don't think we can rule that out) was almost certainly the originator of the document as well.

Posted by Jeff at 08:52 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 12, 2004

Bad Logic

Let me make an argument, and let's see if it holds up:

I can create a document on modern word processing software that is a very close match (at first glance) to a document made on a 30-year old high-end typesetting machine that looks like a typewriter; therefore,

if document A matches document B, and document B was made on modern word processing software with its default fonts, margins and so forth, then document A must have been made on a 30-year old high-end typesetting machine.

In other words, if A can reproduce B, then B can reproduce A. It's just nonsense., and it's a shame that our schools have gotten so bad that the PC Magazine authors did not immediately realize that the argument was nonsense.

I would have been more impressed if they'd attempted to make the same document that CBS presented, but even so they have failed to match the documents, once the slightest investigation is attempted.

Posted by Jeff at 04:51 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

September 11, 2004

Time to Say It

With the available evidence - of which a small fraction is here, here, and here - it is now beyond reasonable doubt that Dan Rather and CBS are peddling forged documents as a key element of libelous charges against a sitting President; and I suspect that they not only know that these documents are fake, but that their refusal to provide indications of their sources and the provenance of the memos shows that the true source is either not credible as a witness to their authenticity, or is in fact a Kerry campaign or DNC operative or a CBS employee. Of the first part, that the documents are false, I am certain. Of the second, that CBS knows they are false, the only alternative is that CBS is complete unable to determine the credibility of information that comes to them (which makes them useless as an information source in and of itself). Of the third, that the documents' source would discredit the documents' authenticity, I am reasonably certain. Otherwise, CBS would have produced the source (given that there is no harm to the source if the documents are genuine).

Had CBS admitted the possibility of error, and made a forthright attempt to investigate (including the identification of the provenance of the memos), they might have been able to come out of this looking silly but not complicit. As it is, they've attempted to bury the charges under misdirection they would never stand for had it come from any elected official.

Dan Rather is either lying or a fool. CBS has no further credibility as a news organization, and any information whose only source is CBS must henceforth be assumed true until and unless another source confirms it from a separate line of evidence.

Posted by Jeff at 08:20 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Trust

Reporting of any kind depends upon trust. If you do not trust a source of information, the information is worthless; and by extension, the source is worthless. For the mainstream media, whose only job is to be trusted source of information, and whose financial health depends upon being a trusted source of information, losing the trust of the public means losing your advertisers and eventually your job and maybe your business.

Trust is built by a history of being right, a willingness to name sources and the credibility of those sources, reference to other trusted sources, including all evidence, and treating stories and audiences with respect. CBS has failed on each count: they have a history of bad reporting, refuse to name their sources for questionable stories or only name questionable sources, denigrate competitors, exclude evidence contradictory to their desired story and assume we're all idiots.

When it comes right down to it, I find I'd trust a blog whose authors I don't otherwise know, such as Powerline, before I would trust CBS, because blogs have no natural credibility: they must source their points and argue believably or they are ignored.

Tactical maneuver is no aid on a nuclear battlefield.

Posted by Jeff at 02:13 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 10, 2004

One Way to Tell...

There's certainly one way to tell if CBS's apparently-forged memos were in fact created on an IBM Composer.

Posted by Jeff at 09:59 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Blogosphere Needs Editors

It's true, you know, what the mainstream media says: the big problem with the blogosphere is the lack of editors (producers, if you are a TV "journalist"). Because, without editors, bloggers might fall victim to easily-detected forgeries and partisan hacks and might spin a mighty story around trumped-up insinuations of wrongdoing or incompetence1, constantly repeating already-debunked stories and unsubstantiated charges in a blatant effort to smear their ideological opponent, while repeating the talking points of their ideological counterpart verbatim.

Curious, then, that all of these problems of credibility overload seem to be with mainstream media outlets that do employ editors.

1Let me just state for the record, that having landed C172s, I'd be amazed if anyone flying under a military flight regime and in an F-102A stuck every single landing. (Perfect landings can be hard.) Anyway, just exactly how relevant is it to President Bush's performance as President that he went around sometimes? Furthermore, if this doesn't disprove the occassional allegations by mainstream journalists that it's only blogs that focus on irrelevant non-stories, I don't know what will.

Posted by Jeff at 11:54 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 09, 2004

Forgery?

CBS (a dishonest, sleazy, biased and partisan purveyor of "news" if ever there was one) is probably not this crazy. I hope they're not this crazy. If their 60 Minutes hit piece on President Bush is based on forged documents, it will be the end of CBS as a viable news organization: with the Internet commentariat - particularly the blogs - at such a high level of competence and presence now, CBS will have frittered away the one asset required of a reporting organization: trust that the presented facts are not invented, even though they may be spun or misrepresented. I wouldn't give a snowball's chance in hell of Dan Rather keeping his job if he pushed this story and it's really based on forged documents.

Of course, I'm constantly disappointed by people's lack of ability to feel shame, so even if it's true it might blow over almost unnoticed outside of the blogs.

Posted by Jeff at 04:00 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

September 06, 2004

The Ultimate Ombudsman

If you want an idea of why the mainstream media denigrates and fears bloggers, look no further than Glenn Reynolds. Bloggers hold the media to a higher standard, the one reporters claim for themselves rather than the one they follow. It's got to drive the reporters nuts.

Posted by Jeff at 08:34 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 03, 2004

AP 2004 or Pravda 1976?

Your call. (hat tip: InstaPundit) And still the mainstream media wonder why people no longer trust them.

Posted by Jeff at 04:09 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

August 19, 2004

Cronkite Fails to Leave Graciously

I was going to shred Cronkite for his farewell essay, but Mark Safranski has taken care of it.

Posted by Jeff at 03:45 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

August 04, 2004

Pesky Questions

If you were wondering if, say, the New York Times had any kind of journalism skills, the answer is "no". For example, Jay Tea has some pesky questions for the Times to answer about one of its stories.

Posted by Jeff at 09:35 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 14, 2004

Leftist Hero Discredited

Largely ignored during news of last week's Senate Intelligence Committee report that criticized CIA pre-war intel was this story about Bush critic Joseph Wilson.

Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, dispatched by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq sought to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program with uranium from Africa, was specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly.

Wilson last year launched a public firestorm with his accusations that the administration had manipulated intelligence to build a case for war. He has said that his trip to Niger should have laid to rest any notion that Iraq sought uranium there and has said his findings were ignored by the White House.

Wilson's assertions -- both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information -- were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.

Wilson, who was all over television being fawned on by the "mainstream" media for his allegations attacking the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq, lied about his wife's involvement in his being sent to Niger by the CIA, lied to the Washington Post about documents he "saw" while in Niger, and lied in saying that his trip laid to rest any question of Iraq trying to buy uranium from Niger.

Whatever will CNN do now?


Posted by Brian at 05:08 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 13, 2004

Orson Scott Card on Media Bias

Orson Scott Card has an Opinion Journal editorial on media bias. Here's the conclusion:

What makes the liberal bias in the mainstream media so pernicious is that they deny that they're biased and insist that their twisted version of events is "reality," and anyone who disagrees with them is either mentally or morally suspect. In other words, they're fanatics. And, like all good fanatics, they're utterly convinced that they're in sole possession of virtue and truth.

In the editorial, Orson Scott Card takes one issue of one newspaper, chosen at random, and pulls out examples of implicitly biased articles, pointing out the ways in which each is biased. While the examples are not "best of breed" because of the limited sample, it's an interesting way to see the prevailing editorial opinion of journalists in general.

Posted by Jeff at 09:17 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 06, 2004

The Trouble with Anonymous Sources...

Well, the NY Post apparently got burned by an anonymous source, and headlined the wrong person for Kerry's VP candidate pick. Of course, if an anonymous source really did burn the Post, the Post can burn back: they can name the source in their correction. That source would then no longer be trusted by any reporters, and it would be clear that the Post will only respect your desire to remain anonymous if your tips are true.

Actually, that would be a good plan for the entire "news" industry: if you are going to use unnamed sources, you should name them if their tips are wrong. It would certainly cut down on waging political wars through the media. Which, come to think of it, is likely not what the media wants to happen: they benefit (in advertising dollars) even from blatantly false information that is sensational enough.

Posted by Jeff at 11:31 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

June 29, 2004

The Truth and the Story of the Truth

It's becoming more and more clear that the mainstream "news" services are simply untrustworthy. Take the NY Times, where more than one reporter was caught red-handed making up stories, or CNN, where Eason Jordan admitted reprinting Saddam Hussein's propaganda in order to stay in the country (and hopefully repeat their blockbuster ratings from Desert Storm). Reuters and the BBC are so transparently anti-American, anti-Blair and (as far as I can tell) against freedom of any kind that one has to look out the window and verify when they report the sky to be blue. This story, from a Marine reservist returned from Iraq, points out major issues with the Washington Post's coverage of the situation in Iraq.

I long ago stopped trusting the major media, because I realized that every time they put out stories on areas where I know a great deal, they were generally flat-out wrong, and frequently appeared to be deliberately misleading to serve an agenda. If that is the case with what I know about, why should I trust their opinions or editorial choices on any other issue? It's sad that it has come to this, but at this point I take nothing reported in a major news source without a large helping of salt.

Posted by Jeff at 08:04 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 21, 2004

The Obsession With Abu Ghraib

Ok, this story is preaching to the choir, but it's nice to see some in the press noting it.

I am so sick of hearing the constant refrain of mistreatment at Abu Ghraib. Why the continual slow release of pictures in the press? We know what kind of things happened there. The news value of these photos is minimal to nil at this point. The only story left is the investigation and punishment. I don't care about the media's sick fetish with these pictures. Of course, we all know this story is no longer about the actual events, but is instead a means of attacking the war in Iraq, and by extension and more importantly the Bush administration in an election year.

It's interesting that the press often defends their actions by saying they are giving people what they want (especially with their frequent obsessions of celebrities on trial). However most people do not seem to want this continued coverage of Abu Ghraib. The public was far more interested and appalled by the killing of Nick Berg. Yet, the media dropped that story after a day and a half. Where is the continued hand-wringing about what happened? Where's the outrage in the press over the killing? Where's the call for stepping up efforts to get Zarqawi? Where are the stories regarding Zarqawi's links to Bin Laden? Why was the story of an American strike on an Iraqi wedding party big news all over the place, but quickly dropped once it appeared it was a legitimate strike against a safe-house for foreign fighters?

Why does the Western media oppose the system that allows them to function? Why do they seem to want us to lose the war on terror? Do they not realize they would be among the first people to be oppressed by those whose cause they are championing?

Posted by Brian at 01:59 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 17, 2003

Good Comeback

Brazos de Dios Cantina has the best comeback yet to Chrisitiane Amanpour's drivel about her misreporting of the situation in Iraq during the war. First, Ms. Amanpour's statement:

I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did.

And, from Fox News' Irena Briganti:
Given the choice, it's better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda.

Heh.

Posted by Jeff at 04:07 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

May 04, 2003

Journalism and War

Phil Carter at Intel Dump points to this fantastic article by David Zucchino, who was an embedded reporter in the war. (use laexaminer/laexaminer to read the article) The article makes a few interesting points:

Not since the Vietnam War have journalists worked so closely with soldiers in combat. The embed, in which reporters live 24 hours a day with their assigned units, was instituted on a limited basis in Afghanistan after the heaviest fighting had ended. Expanded, it was to be the grand journalistic experiment of the Iraq war

Actually, it was pretty rare in Viet Nam for reporters to work closely with units in the field. Instead, the reporters would usually drive out from Saigon or wherever they were based (at least some were in other cities) to find a firefight to report on, then drive back in the evening. Obviously, there were exceptions to this rule.

The coverage of the blatantly anti-war reporters in Viet Nam (possibly it would be more accurate to note that there were decent reporters there as well, who frequently were edited out by the newsrooms back in the States) led to the military deeply distrusting the media. Of course, the military had been in a position of lying to itself through much of the Viet Nam war, because of political pressures from the Johnson White House, and so the military also lied to the journalists. There was bad blood both ways. In the end, though, it was the American people who lost out. There were no reporters at Desert One, or with the troops in Panama or with the troops in Desert Storm or with the troops in Mogadishu. Because of this, the American citizens lost out on the ability to really see what our military was doing. I think that a huge amount of credit has to go to Secretary Rumsfeld for overturning this long-established animosity and integrating journalists into the forefront of combat operations.

During seven weeks spent with half a dozen units, I slept in fighting holes and armored vehicles, on a rooftop, a garage floor and in lumbering troop trucks. For days at a time, I didn't sleep. I ate with the troops, choking down processed meals of "meat, chunked and formed" that came out of brown plastic bags. I rode with them in loud, claustrophobic and disorienting Bradley fighting vehicles. I complained with them about the choking dust, the lack of water, our foul-smelling bodies and our scaly, rotting feet.

Frankly, I think that this is the genius of the program of embedding journalists. It will be more true in the future than in any generation since WWII, that our journalists will empathize with the troops. While those journalists may disagree with some future policy, it will be very hard to get someone who has served alongside the troops to criticize those troops themselves unless there is serious cause. This can only be a positive for our nation.
Most important, I wrote stories I could not have produced had I not been embedded -- on the pivotal battle for Baghdad; the performance of U.S. soldiers in combat; the crass opulence of Hussein's palaces; U.S. airstrikes on an office tower in central Baghdad; souvenir-hunting by soldiers and reporters; and the discovery of more than $750 million in cash in a neighborhood that had been the preserve of top Iraqi officials.

Yet that same access could be suffocating and blinding. Often I was too close or confined to comprehend the war's broad sweep. I could not interview survivors of Iraqi civilians killed by U.S. soldiers or speak to Iraqi fighters trying to kill Americans. I was not present when Americans died at the hands of fellow soldiers in what the military calls "frat," for fratricide. I had no idea what ordinary Iraqis were experiencing. I was ignorant of Iraqi government decisions and U.S. command strategy.

Embedded reporters were entirely dependent on the military for food, water, power and transportation. And ultimately, we depended on them for something more fundamental: access. We were placed in a potentially compromised position long before the fighting began, and we knew it.


This is a tradeoff of course. The viewpoint that the embeds brought to the public was one which most of us hadn't seen before, hadn't even in most cases read about. The thing to remember is that there are still reporters who are not embedded, who are capable of reporting on the broad sweep, on policy issues and so forth. And if the journalists are skilled and resourceful, there will be journalists reporting from the enemy trenches as well. Reporters have proven that they will take risks to get the story. It is surely a greater risk, and also a rarer story, to be in the enemy positions under American attack. Such an enterprising reporter could find stories about civilians after being caught in a fight, or of the defeated (or even victorious, in some cases) enemy.

The US military has provided reporters with that which the military can provide: access to US military operations. It's a bit of an overstretch to ask the US military to provide access to the enemy military operations. It's also possible to cover the grand sweep of the story - but not while you are embedded. That viewpoint brings home the immediacy of operations, not the sweep of vision of the war planners or the civilian strategists. The article points this out, in fact.

This newspaper, like many, also assigned reporters and photographers to Iraq who were not embedded with U.S. troops. They covered what we could not -- the Iraqi government, civilian casualties, humanitarian crises, military strategy, political fallout and everything else beyond our cloistered existence.

I think that, as we begin to unravel the unprecedented access journalists had to cover this war, we will find that we have the most personal story we've ever before had of a war. I believe that this can only be for the good.

Posted by Jeff at 07:31 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 15, 2003

More on CNN

Part of what bothers me about the whole scandal that CNN is in is that their defense simply has no credibility. They can say that they were trying to save lives, but it is apparent that they only wanted access. They even would go so far as to read a straight summary of the Iraqi Information Minister's talking points in hopes that it would help them get an on-air interview with Saddam Hussein. I wonder what Rather did to get his?

(Thanks to InstaPundit for the links.)

Posted by Jeff at 01:18 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 10, 2003

Betrayal of Trust

American media prides itself on its ethos. Among the ethical rules which journalists claim to abide by are:


  • Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
  • Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
  • Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.

CNN appears incapable of or unwilling to live up to these standards. No doubt, Mr. Jordan faced difficult choices. However, the ethical response would have been to pull all of their reporters out of Baghdad, report the offenses honestly, and refuse to remain in a position where their reporting was compromised by the Hussein regime's brutality. All of the above rules were violated in CNN's conduct:

  • The voiceless remained mute in the face of their torture, because CNN refused to give them voice.
  • CNN put itself in a position of being dependent on the good graces of a thuggish despot.
  • In order to continue reporting from Iraq, and having access to Iraqi government officials, CNN compromised their ability to report the truth of what was happening.
  • Having done this, CNN then failed even to disclose that they were unable to report the truth of what was happening.
  • CNN certainly saw, by their own admission, what was happening, but their behavior was in no way courageous, and in no way sought to hold accountable those in Iraq who wielded power.

Yet through all of this behavior, for over a decade, CNN would have us believe that they did everything they could to bring us the truth? Shame! Shame on CNN. They cannot now be trusted with any news from any nation willing to brutalize its own people, because they have shown that in such a situation, they will sell out any principle for the opportunity to get stock footage and meaningless interviews. Worse yet, by not reporting these events, CNN encouraged them to continue, and thus became complicit in torture, attempted murder and suppression of the truth.

Hat tip to the Command Post for the story.

UPDATE (4/11): Sgt. Stryker has more.

UPDATE (4/11): Winds of Change is all over this as well, and has links to others who are.

Posted by Jeff at 10:48 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

March 30, 2003

The BBC

I used to think of the BBC as a great way of getting news that American sources didn't cover. Now, though, I just wonder how reliable they are. Here is an only slightly off version of a story I heard on the BBC World Service while driving around tonight:

Anchor: Today near Basra, British soldiers fought against fierce resistance for twenty hours. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers fought valiantly against the supposedly-superior Coalition forces. Hundreds of Iraqi troops were captured, and the bodies of their comrades littered the battlefield. One British soldier was injured when he fell off his armored vehicle in a fit of giggles. And now we go to our correspondent on the scene 850 miles away from Basra, Priscilla Upton-Stuckly. Priscilla, how long until the inevitable defeat of the Coalition, and more importantly, until the cowboy Bush gets his?

Posted by Jeff at 10:42 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)