December 29, 2004

Adventures in News-Doctoring

I’m sure it’s fun taking a quote out of context and sticking it in a headline. You can make it seem like anybody said anything if you limit your excerpt to only three words.

Here's an AFP wire story titled Insurgency in Iraq 'will not end': Powell.

And here's a snippet:
[Colin] Powell reiterated that Iraq's January 30 elections will take place as scheduled and that the US and Iraqi forces are working to have security in place for the polls.

But, he told CBS television, "the insurgency will not end."

The very same article quoted Powell as saying "the insurgency will be defeated." Instead of writing a headline that said Insurgency in Iraq 'will not end': Powell it could just as easily have been written this way - Insurgency in Iraq 'will be defeated': Powell. Both are technically accurate.

If you want to know what Colin Powell actually said about the insurgency, what I wrote above is as worthless as the AFP headline and the story's first couple of paragraphs. But, hey, at least the reporter fills in some of the context around one of those contradictory quotes. Too bad he or she didn't do the same for the primary quote. [That would have wrecked the headline - ed.]

Here's the relevant context:
"These insurgents are determined to have no representative government. They want to go back to a tyranny," Powell said. "And so the insurgency will continue and the insurgency will have to be defeated by coalition forces, but increasingly the insurgency will be defeated and brought under control, if not completely defeated, by Iraqi forces that we are building up as rapidly as we can," he added.
I can only guess at the context of the primary quote, the one that appears in the headline. The reporter never did bother to tell us.

UPDATE: Spartacus has fun with subordinate clauses.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 29, 2004 07:12 PM
Comments

I have a simple rule, and it works most of the time.

Assume Libs are lying or wrong, with the burden on them to prove they aren't lying or wrong.

They've more than earned that skepticism.

Posted by: David at December 29, 2004 07:23 PM

Michael, there's a sea-change in the making. What you identified as misleading is a fine example of what isn't so easily tolerated anymore. Foolish mice will play with the trap, but they get caught. Some media people haven't caught on to that.

Posted by: Curtis at December 29, 2004 07:25 PM

Oh, come on David. You'd call anyone out as a bigot if they said the same thing about conservatives.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 29, 2004 07:41 PM

From what I can tell, there are two facts of life in Iraq right now: (1) the insurgents are having success in that they continue to be able to kill lots of people (mostly fellow Iraqis); and (2) to this point, the democratically-inclined Iraqi people in general are not deterred by the insurgents.

The $64,000 question is whether the determination of the Iraqi people can outlast the insurgency. I certainly hope that is the case, but hope is really all I have.

Posted by: Todd Pearson at December 29, 2004 08:11 PM

I know. It's ancient history. but I guess that's my point. Microfiche of NYT etc. and today's school textbooks are indistinguishable re Viet Nam. And more full of crap thans MJTs AFP example. That's right I said more. No internet then. Piece of cake. Hell, even with the web, most of the world and half the country still can't see straight. Not that I'm complaining. I'm very happy blogs and such are helping those who want to see, to see. OK, and I'm still pissed a flock of cronkites became lemming herders way back when. Today cronkites abound but every day their words are dissected and they feel the pinch. Gorgeous.

Posted by: s at December 29, 2004 08:16 PM

You'd call anyone out as a bigot if they said the same thing about conservatives.

Ah, Michael,

It's fun to debunk these things the first couple of times, but life is short and it gets old. My own rule of thumb from the 60's was that the left was wrong about almost everything almost all the time. Note the nuanced use of "almost." Mama did teach me some manners.

Posted by: chuck at December 29, 2004 08:21 PM

Chuck: My own rule of thumb from the 60's was that the left was wrong about almost everything almost all the time.

My own rule of thumb throughout the 90's was that the right was wrong about almost everything almost all the time. I know the "right back atcha" tactic can be annoying, but it's true, I really did think that.

The first thing that made me reconsider was the thought that I was only one step away from yearning for one-party rule. Then 9-11 and my drift toward people I always thought were wrong about everything. It's a humbling experience, and it makes me wary of comments like David's and yours.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 29, 2004 08:28 PM

But Michael,

the left wasn't the Democratic party at that time. They were the Weather Underground, the SDS, the Black Panthers. And I saw the articles from the Liberation News Service as they came through. It was the revolutionaries who were the left, and they honest to god thought they were the wave of the future and that there would be a revolution. Remember, Vietnam was about oil. Yes, it's true.

Posted by: chuck at December 29, 2004 08:41 PM

Oh, come on David. You'd call anyone out as a bigot if they said the same thing about conservatives.

Bigot? That's a strange choice of words.

How can you blame me though? My only experience thus far since converting to the Dark side comes in the era of Michael Moore and Bush=Hitler. You'll forgive me if my first impression of Libs since my conversion hasn't been a splendid one.

I double check every statement of fact they make because I've found (as in the AFP headline you shared with us) their commitment to the Liberal cause too often overrides their sense of intellectual honesty.

Posted by: David at December 29, 2004 08:48 PM

Chuck,

Okay, if you mean the radical left then I agree. My new rule of thumb is that the far-left and the far-right are wrong about almost everything almost all of the time. Maybe that's as silly as my old rule of thumb, but I don't think so.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 29, 2004 08:50 PM

Though I feel compelled to add that the Lefties on this blog tend to be more sensible than the norm.

Posted by: David at December 29, 2004 09:06 PM

Thank God for the blogosphere. My dissatisfaction with the press began when I discovered that the NYT was wrong regarding every situation with which I had personal experience/involvement. Wrong every single time over about a decade. It was remarkable. So I figured their accuracy regarding other matters was similarly horrendous. Over time blogs have demonstrated the MSM is similarly biased and weak on the facts.

Wonder why network news broadcasts have lost huge numbers of viewers and major newspapers are seeing flat to declining circulations? One major reason is that they let their editorial viewpoints leak into their news reports and the other is their accuracy standards just stink.

Posted by: spc67 at December 29, 2004 09:11 PM

My general rule of thumb is believe nothing that the MSM says, believe nothing enyone you know nothing about says, only believe those that have - in the past - showed they can be believed and then research anything that doesn't sound right.

In my experience extremes are extreme because they refuse to see anything other than thier point of view. While not always true, some may just figure the consequences of thier belifes are worth the beliefe or sometimes the extreme stance is the correct one, it is almost universally true.

Since the Iraq war has was started i've found very few politically left people who are not extreme. Even friends who used to be rational have become, well, insane and unable to be around. Some of those people have been friends for years. I don't really know what happened but something flipped a little switch in thier heads and all they did was scream at me for supporting Bush and the Iraq war.

Though, were I in your position the phrase about "the right" would get my hackles up also. I dislike people like Buchannen more than I do almost any other political idealology and I get momentarily upset when someone lumps them in with "the right" and makes generalisations based on it, though usually the other person doesn't mean what I am taking it as.

Anywho, the main point of me posting is that the internet is a great thing. You can find transcripts of almost every single press conference any govt official of any rank gives. This one is no different :here is the unedited transcript. You can make your conlusions on what Powell said yourself.

Posted by: strcpy at December 29, 2004 09:52 PM

Let's be careful about blaming the reporter. Often they do not pick the headline. This is usually the responsibility of the editor.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 30, 2004 06:01 AM

The Watch Dogs mutated into Big Brother.

Posted by: syn at December 30, 2004 06:07 AM

Hazlitt, English essayist, in his essay on The Commonplace Critic said, 'The commonplace critic always takes the middle way between the extremes of right and wrong'.

At its simplest I think the left is still stuck in the 60's. Which is another way of saying it needs to grow up.

Posted by: ligneus at December 30, 2004 06:22 AM

My general rule of thumb is believe nothing that the MSM says

So when the MSM reported, say, that Jerry Orbach died, did you not believe it?

Posted by: Steve at December 30, 2004 07:13 AM

Labels aren't as critical to me as spin. And it seems that in many newsstories from the MSM there is spin. A shading of facts, a throw-away comment turned into a headline.

I don't expect and don't want reporters to be shills. But neither should they be anti-shills. If Rumsfeld or Bush, or Shumer or Clinton, in the course of a half-hour speech, stumbles over a word, or uses an inexact word, then it's safe to report that - but very, very disingenous to report it as if a major policy change is happening right before our eyes.

Posted by: steve miller at December 30, 2004 07:41 AM

For me, the only topic on which journalists of the MSM properly provide dispassionate reporting is sports. Sure, there is plenty of opinionating and hyperbole in sports reporting to go around, but you simply cannot turn a 100 to 90 victory into a loss (or vice versa). Thus, I generally avoid MSM sources for information about anything else.

It is the blogosphere for me! Bloggers have opinions, sure, but they express them forthrightly and obviously. There is little to no pretense that they are speaking (writing) absolute truths. And, yet, when taken as a whole the truth is discovered!

I love this shit.

P.S. Check out Wretchard today:

http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/

he is on the record on this topic too.

Posted by: too many steves at December 30, 2004 07:51 AM

Saved by Eris again!

Law Five of the Discordian Pentabarf states "A Discordian is prohibited from believing what he reads." - Principia Discordia, Page 4

It is the best rule of thumb. Everything that gets written is biased. Some writers work very hard to minimize bias (like Michael), others work very hard to maximize their bias (like... well... many liberals and conservatives). Either way, some bias will seep through. I think it's what makes writers more than simple scribes.

In Wales, all history was kept by the Bards. The Bards were socialites, who were paid, well kept political players. When you read the works of Lewis Glyn Cothe or one of his contemporaries,you can easily spot the bias (usually toward whoever was currently paying their salary), however, in reading them you can also find key bits of historical fact, which are really all we have to understand the circumstances around the War of the Roses, from the Welsh point of view.

I wonder, in 200 years time, if Bloggers and Pundits won't be seen in a similar light? Many of the Bards became key political players because of their writings. Their poems were used to incite riots in Wales against the British, they were used later to throw the power of the Welsh behind the Tudor claim on the Throne (which of course cause the War of The Roses).

Perhaps, centuries from now, there will be historical students discussing the Blogists of 21st century America and how they turned the populace to support Bush and an agressive stance toward Terrorism. Perhaps it will be in praise, or perhaps with a grimace...

I wish I had a time machine ;-)

Good catch Michael.

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 30, 2004 08:24 AM

My general rule of thumb is believe nothing that the MSM says

So when the MSM reported, say, that Jerry Orbach died, did you not believe it?

The newspaper with the largest circulation in my metropolitan area is the San Francisco Chronicle. A week and a half ago, they actually got the score of the Raiders game wrong. They get similarly easily-verifiable facts wrong with disturbing frequency. My rule of thumb with the Chronicle is to verify everything that they report with another source.

Posted by: Silicon Valley Jim at December 30, 2004 11:03 AM

"My rule of thumb with the Chronicle is to verify everything that they report with another source."

That's a good rule of thumb for any news source, Jim. :)

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 30, 2004 11:08 AM

Michael,
It has been my experience that the majority of newspaper or television articles (not all, but a majority) on stories I that I had direct involvement (present at the scene, or a professional level of expertise) with have been incorrect, slanted, factually suspect, or missing significant and relevant context that make them unreliable.

Sometimes this is a result of intentional bias and a preconceived "angle" by the reporter, often it is because of naive misunderstanding or lack of technical expertise on matters germane to the story.

It taught me to be quite skeptical of any newspaper, newswire, or TV/radio reports unless and until corroborated by several, credible sources. "That might be 80% true, we'll see..." is my first reaction.

However, if a story is by nature political, then the skepticism increases substantially. For a generation journalists have been trained that theirs is a profession with an obligation to change the world for the better... as they and their circle of friends has come to define "better".

But many non-political stories touching on matters of a technical nature (science, technology, business, economics, industry, professions) I have seen have been laughably unreliable and misleading, often due to cluelessness of journalists and their editors. Occasionally their political predilections affect how they cover a topic in which their understanding is weak, they project their preferred world-view in sometimes humorously inappropriate ways.

Keep a healthy skepticism at all times, if a matter is important to you it is now much easier to research for yourself. The Web and the blogosphere both make that much easier.

Posted by: Seppo at December 30, 2004 11:22 AM

often it is because of naive misunderstanding or lack of technical expertise on matters germane to the story.

Reminds me a Thomas Edison incident. Seems that on a rainy day a newspaper sent a naive young reporter to find out what was new at Menlo Park. So Edison and the boys sat around and told him the story of their new ultra sensitive microphones. Microphones so sensitive that they picked up the conversations of angels. Made a great story.

Posted by: chuck at December 30, 2004 12:08 PM

Seppo: It has been my experience that the majority of newspaper or television articles (not all, but a majority) on stories I that I had direct involvement (present at the scene, or a professional level of expertise) with have been incorrect, slanted, factually suspect, or missing significant and relevant context that make them unreliable.

Same goes for me. My wife says the same thing, too, and her areas of knowledge are completely different from mine.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 30, 2004 12:12 PM

"So when the MSM reported, say, that Jerry Orbach died, did you not believe it?"

They have reported deaths incorrectly in the past. See quite a few posts above mine for other reasons not to believe them. I see no reason to assume someone is correct if they get many different facts wrong many times in the past. That doesn't mean I assume the opposite either, just that I will not base my beliefes on it until I research the item enough (for example, based on my past performance don't take any of my spelling advice or dates I quote for gospel).

I also suspect some of thier problems stems from trying to get ratings and by trying to be the first.

Posted by: strcpy at December 30, 2004 01:30 PM

I don't doubt these stories of mistakes are true. But let's not speak of "MSM" as though the hundreds of organizations (and tens of thousands of people employed by them) are completely monolithic. And not like blogs don't make mistakes too.

Posted by: Steve at December 30, 2004 01:55 PM

... as though the hundreds of organizations (and tens of thousands of people employed by them) are completely monolithic.

To paraphrase Tolstoy, they are each dysfunctional in their own way.

Posted by: chuck at December 30, 2004 07:23 PM

"So when the media reported that XXXX died...."

The local newspaper confirmed my death.

My father was on his way to work when he heard a radio report that a person with my name, living in my town, had been electrocuted. He returned home and began trying to reach me; I was on my way to work. He frantically tried to get information, and eventually made the understandable mistake of calling the newspaper (in Long Beach, California). They verified that he was in fact the next of kin of the deceased. When I finally talked to him on the phone, he sounded like a man who had been in hell. To this day, many years later, I cannot forget the stricken, emotionally exhausted quality of his voice.

Trust the media? Yes, up to a point. But I have never forgotten and never forgiven, and I never shall.

May it never happen to anyone else!

Posted by: L. Barnes at December 30, 2004 07:31 PM

Great site--glad someone sent me over.

Posted by: Amy at December 30, 2004 08:56 PM

Forget what the AFP reported or didn't report or decided to edit, that is not the story here. The bigger issue to me is that our outgoing Secy. of State is making contradictory statements in the space of a single interview. Pick one or the other and run with it but don't try to have it both ways. Jeeeesus!

Posted by: Llew Roberts at December 31, 2004 02:36 PM

Steve, the MSM is not deliberately monolithic, but rather accidentally so. With exceptions of course.

The overwhelming majority of people who work in the press are Democrats. Study after study shows them to have a distinctly more leftist point of view of the world than the average citizen.

When everyone you know thinks the same way, it's hard to even see that you're not being fair. It easy to think you're being honest when you're not.

The Oil for Food scandal is ... awkward for those people who want or believe the UN to be a Good Thing, so they think about it a little less. Then if everyone you know is reluctant to talk about it, maybe you shouldn't do a story on it. Maybe it's just not that important. It's a detail. After all, Everyone Knows that the UN means well, right? It wouldn't be right to embarrass the good guys.

No conspiracy needed, just a shared outlook.

Posted by: Bostonian at January 1, 2005 08:45 PM

The bigger issue to me is that our outgoing Secy. of State is making contradictory statements in the space of a single interview.

They weren't contradictory statements; they just need explaining.

When Powell said the insurgency wasn't going to end, he meant what he said. And what he meant by using the passive word "end" is that we would have to crush the insurgency because there was no chance of it dissipating on its own. That's what he meant. Too bad that flew right over the AFP's head (and yours).

Posted by: David at January 2, 2005 07:33 PM

So when the MSM reported, say, that Jerry Orbach died, did you not believe it?

No but now that I've read it on a blog, I do!

Posted by: mona at January 10, 2005 01:28 PM

>"So when the MSM reported, say, that Jerry Orbach died, did you not believe it?"greatly exaggerated.

– Mark Twain, after hearing that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal (the mainstream media of its time).

Posted by: Mr. Snitch at February 8, 2005 10:57 AM

Hmm. Trouble with that last post (despite looking OK in the preview). The famous quote of course, was:

'Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.'

– Mark Twain, after hearing that his obituary had been published in the New York Journal (the mainstream media of its time).

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produit high tech
annonce vacances
annonce vacances
annonce vacances
annonce vacances
annonce vacances
video asiatique
video asiatique
video asiatique
video asiatique
video asiatique
video asiatique
video asiatique
changement
banque en ligne
banque en ligne
banque en ligne
banque en ligne
banque en ligne
banque en ligne
banque en ligne
banque en ligne
video beurette
video beurette
video beurette
video beurette
video beurette
video beurette
video beurette
video beurette
video black
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video blonde
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video blonde
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video blonde
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video blonde
video bondage
video bondage
video bondage
video bondage
video bondage
video bondage
video bondage
video bondage
video bondage
video bondage
sex shop
sex shop
sex shop
sex shop
sex shop
sex shop
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sex shop
sex shop
sex shop
video brune
video brune
video brune
video brune
video brune
video brune
video brune
video brune
video brune
cartouches encre
cartouches encre
cartouches encre
cartouches encre
cartouches encre
cartouches encre
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credit
credit
credit
credit
credit
credit
credit
video gay
video gay
video gay
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video gay
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video gros seins
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video gros seins
video gros seins
video gros seins
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video hentai
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video lesbienne
video lesbienne
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video lesbienne
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video lesbienne
video lesbienne
video lesbienne
video lesbienne
video mature
video mature
video mature
video mature
video mature
video mature
video mature
video mature
video mature
video mature
tuning
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video fellation
video fellation
video fellation
video fellation
video fellation
video fellation
video fellation
video fellation
video fellation

Posted by: sgsgsggsg at December 19, 2005 02:43 PM

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Posted by: epart at December 23, 2005 03:45 AM
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Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

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