February 08, 2005

Reality-Check Time

Steve Silver posted a must-read essay in defense of the dreaded three-letter acronym known as the "MSM." He has been a professional journalist for five years and a blogger for three. He knows both worlds well, and what makes his defense of the mainstream media better than most is that he knows very well what really is wrong with it. In other words, this ain't no whitewash.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at February 8, 2005 07:06 PM
Comments

Interesting most of his commenters disagree with him and they are experienced journalists of long standing. One of them mentioned that he has been a journalist for over 26 years and he definitely disagreed with the original posting.

There is a definite bias in the MSM (or whatever you choose to call it) which shows up in a lot of different ways. One of the commenters mentioned story placement, choice of stories to cover, headlines, etc. The point that bothers me so much in MSM is that the story might even have both points of view in it; however, the LLL point of view is placed in the first couple of paragraphs in the place where the topic sentences would go while the conservative view is in paragraph 16 just before the summing up. Since most people read the first couple of paragraphs to get the gist of the story, the LLL point of view is the one they read. If that doesn't grab them, then the conservative counterview is never read. Another point that bothers me is that when you have a LLL commentator the commentator is on by himself with no dissenting view and no description that his is a LLL point of view. When the conservative commentator is present, there are several LLL commentators to make the opposite view and the adjective conservative is placed on the original commentator but no adjective is placed on the LLL commentators. The same goes for the description of think tanks. You hear all about the conservative think tanks. The liberal think tanks are just described as think tanks as though they were open to all points of view.

Check it out sometime. I think you will find that I am right at least 80% of the time if not more.

Posted by: dick at February 8, 2005 07:22 PM

"My belief is that yes, there is some general liberal bias among writers, simply because those of a liberal persuasion tend to gravitate towards more creatively-inclined professions. But those who bash the "MSM" in this manner have come to greatly exaggerate both the amount of liberalism and the amount of bias."

Sorry, he lost me there.

Posted by: joe at February 8, 2005 07:24 PM

I didn't find the article very convincing. And we get arguments like this:

“mainstream” is, after all, one word, not two

Wow! Guess that shows me.

MSM is effectively and ruthlessly biased, yet they’re also incompetent. How can both be true?

Think about it, big guy. They are incompetent at reporting the facts.

The whole essay is suffused with similar examples of poor reasoning and, furthermore, sets up several strawmen to advance the argument, thus,

But even worse is that these bloggers and commenters have deigned to shoehorn the entire media- consisting of dozens of institutions employing tens of thousands of people- into a singular, evil, three-letter entity.

This is reaching a bit, I think. I am personally certain that some good journalists work for Car & Driver.

Beyond that, Silver doesn't address how someone like Corey Pein gets to publish a ridiculous and uninformed article about Rathergate in CJR, a premier publication of the profession. And what about Jason Eason at Davos?

Sure, not every journalist is an ignorant hack with an agenda, but enough are that it is time for the rest of the profession to start policing the mess.

Posted by: chuck at February 8, 2005 07:37 PM

And what about Jason Eason at Davos?

I think you mean Eason Jordan. Who's "Jason Eason"?

Posted by: Stephen Silver at February 8, 2005 07:41 PM

pretty weak Michael.

Posted by: Carlos at February 8, 2005 07:48 PM

Yep, Eason Jordan. Jason Eason is the other guy.

Posted by: chuck at February 8, 2005 07:52 PM

One of the commenters made a major point - the blogs tend to be self-correcting systems and the "MSM" tends to not be - and the MSM will many times do their best cover-up mistakes - or bury the correction on page 27. Look at Dan Rather - the TANG memos are obvious fakes yet Dan and CBS, to this day, refuse to admit it.

Posted by: Brian at February 8, 2005 08:07 PM

I don't have time to read such a long essay now, but I definitely agree that the relentless, shrill denunciations of the "MSM" - and the attitude of those who use the stupid abbreviation, have gotten ridiculous of late. There are still many fine reporters and writers and editors etc. within the dread "MSM", and they don't act nearly as monolothically or conspiriatorially as their haters think.

Posted by: Eric Deamer at February 8, 2005 08:37 PM

Interesting most of his commenters disagree with him and they are experienced journalists of long standing. One of them mentioned that he has been a journalist for over 26 years and he definitely disagreed with the original posting.

Dick-

In fact, reaction has run about 50/50, only one commenter (not "most")said anything about being a journalist (calling himself a "journalism graduate"),the "26 years" was a reference not to his experience but to my age, and rather then "definitely disagreed," that commenter began his post with "first of all, you make some valid points."

If I were you, I'd proofread my own comments before accusing "MSM" of being biased and/or getting the facts wrong.

Posted by: Stephen Silver at February 8, 2005 09:46 PM

Oh Please !!!

A member of the offending(offensive?) media bases his defense of its flaws on :
A.Blogs are bad too.So there !!
B.We are not biased,and if we are,it is not everbody,and even if it is everybody,it does not affect EVERY story.So there.
C.The MSM turns out many 'unbiased'stories,so as a percentage of output our distortions and PROPAGANDA are much smaller than generally allowed.After all,everyone makes mistakes.
D.Whatever would you do without us?
E.We are not all 'liberals',and even if we all are 'liberals',that does not matter because we value MONEY more than we want to deliver our message.

My only comment---- An article I posted recently indicated that over 95% of the stories out of Iraq BEFORE the election(another wonderful MSM success story),were 'negative'in tone and/or content.That is NOT insignificant or harmless deviation from 'objective'reality.That is AGENDA journalism.
If this DEFENSE is the best the MSM can do,they are in worse shape than I had hoped.

Posted by: dougf at February 8, 2005 09:56 PM

Enough people have already discredited this essay, so I do not think I need to comment further. What I will say, though, is that I have recently noticed an alarming trend among members of the MSM – namely, that these charlatans have been more and more trying to infiltrate the blogsphere to a) get the heat off of the MSM and b) push their insane agenda even further. Maybe it is a sign that the ship that is the MSM is finally sinking, and now the rats are hopelessly scampering to get above deck. I do not know. All I know is that, as one commenter noted, it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

We must be ever vigilant of these wolves in sheep's clothing. These people have to be marginalized if we are ever going to have any kind of fair and balanced discourse.

Posted by: Kay Hoog at February 8, 2005 10:45 PM

Kay Hoog: Enough people have already discredited this essay

Not in my book. Fisk it. Pick out individual points and provide reasonable counterarguments. Chuck did a little bit of that, but he only addressed a small number of points. No one else has even tried, and Dick really mangled it. (What does LLL mean, anyway?)

Calling journalists "rats" and "wolves" isn't going to convince anyone of anything.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 8, 2005 11:36 PM

About 12 years ago I decided to do some freelance writing for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. I wrote for the business section, doing stories about specific industries that also incorporated profiles of local business. (My favorite was about neon benders; neon signs were becoming trendy, and the demographics of the artists -- and their individual biographies -- were fascinating.)

Anyway, the first thing I learned is that the Editor is God. I didn't mind that. The guy was paying me, and I was a novice. Initially I submitted a story proposal that caught his attention, we had a meeting, I wrote a story, he bought it, and from that point forward whenever I'd come up with an idea we would kick around different angles before I started hacking away. The end product usually appeard in the paper without a whole lot of changes.

I stopped because freelancing was a hobby for me, it paid squat, and it was hard work. A byline in the local daily was nice, but my main line of work was as a software trainer and my ego got stroked on a more personal and frequent basis in my regular job. But freelancing was a great experience nonetheless.

The moral of this story is that preconceptions and attitudes flow downhill. If I'd had a radically different approach in handling these stories, I wouldn't have gotten a response to my first query. If the story I submitted hadn't fit the editor's guidelines of what a good story was, it would have been rejected. Once we began kicking ideas back and forth, his expectations were of course given pride of place because, after all, he was the authority and I was the novice. So in the end my voice was mine, but I'm not so arrogant to think it was anything but conventional.

The Woodward/Berstein/Cronkite model of activist journalism won't fade until the though matrix maintained by an entire generation of editors collapses. We're seeing the cracks all over, and what emerges from the wreckage will be stronger. But it ain't pretty now, and it's likely to get worse before it gets better.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 8, 2005 11:56 PM

Interesting article ... though I do tend to agree that it's perhaps a partially, somewhat naive reactionary to Blog-ego's bashing the MSM ... that is, as one comment suggested, not counterweighted against more years of Anchor-ego jadedness.

LLL = Luciferian Luddite League?? ;)

Posted by: John Klein at February 8, 2005 11:58 PM

I'm not sure what's wrong with a biased media (as long as they're not on the government's nickel).
I may heartily disagree with the political agenda behind Fox news, but I have no problem with them having an agenda (and people who think it doesn't have an agenda are funnier than the Marx brothers).

If anything, I prefer the approach taken in most of the rest of the world with a free press, the bias of the media outlet is known (and taken into consideration by more discerning consumers).

Posted by: Michael Farris at February 9, 2005 12:00 AM

Not in my book---MJT

At the risk of being repetitive.
Deliberate Bias or Simple Stupidity? You Make The Call.

Why should critics of the MSM have to legalistically lay out all the evidence to make their points whereas media defenders merely have to show up,and say something reasonably germane, to get the benefit of the doubt?

Posted by: dougf at February 9, 2005 12:44 AM

Why should critics of the MSM have to legalistically lay out all the evidence to make their points whereas media defenders merely have to show up,and say something reasonably germane, to get the benefit of the doubt?

Because right-wing critics of the MSM are generally hysterical buffoons who think that the plural of "anecdote" is "data," and that the role of reporters is to act as stenographers, rather than as agents for their readers?

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 9, 2005 01:08 AM

Doug, Steve is not a "defender" of the mainstream media, he is both a defender and a critic. He's also a blogger and a defender and critic of blogs. It's really not necessary to be 100 percent on one side against the other, and it appears that point sailed clear over the heads of most people in this thread.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at February 9, 2005 02:41 AM

Personally, the argument seemed spot on to me, except the SCLM acronym dosen't mean that the left wants the press to be more left, but that we know they are centrist and that the press are only "so-called liberal" because conservatives have been playing the refs (see dick, above, make stuff up about who goes first in the quotes) for so long - they are called liberals but they are not.

Quick test for you to do - go through the stories on Social Security, and see how many of them mention that Private accounts as proposed by the White House actually makes SS's "crisis" dates come earlier.

While your doing that, look for how many times the accounts are described as "private" (the old word) and how many times the accounts are described as "personal' (the new orders from the White House.)

What Liberal Media, Indeed?

Posted by: FC at February 9, 2005 05:04 AM

Silver's main thesis seems to be that there are many journalistic areas where the MSM are pretty objective. Like sports and business. Presumably also, cooking and architecture. That's not exactly the point. His argument is totally unconvincing.

Posted by: melk at February 9, 2005 05:06 AM

I'm not sure what's wrong with a biased media (as long as they're not on the government's nickel).

Farris,

bias is allowed. So long as you fess up to it. Rightwingers like Rush, et al., have repeatedly said that the only difference between himself and much of the MSM is that he admits to support Bush, but that the MSM won't come clean about their agenda. Dan Rather will go to his grave before admitting he was trying to get Johh Kerry elected. He was, but he'll never admit it. That is the crux of the "MSM" issue.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 05:43 AM

Kimmet:

Because right-wing critics of the MSM are generally hysterical buffoons who think that the plural of "anecdote" is "data," and that the role of reporters is to act as stenographers, rather than as agents for their readers?

More stenographers, fewer rogue agents, please.

And for that matter, I'll take honest anecdotes to made-up s*** any day of the week.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 9, 2005 06:14 AM

"bias is allowed. So long as you fess up to it."

Well my in my mercifully short time as a journalism student, one of the things that bugged me most was the illusion of 'objectivity'. On the other hand, almost all the journalists I've known personally (a non-trivial number) really did try to be fair (another issue entirely from bias).

Limbaugh and Rather are different species altogether. Limbaugh is a propogandist/entertainer, trying to be fair or non-biased would put him out of business (nothing wrong with that). Lacking ESP I can't say for certain what Rather's motiviations were, but I'm inclined to think his main motivation was the idea of catching the president (the office, not the person in it) in a big lie. He probably is biased against Bush, but his wrongdoing was a question of fairness (trying to land a big fish with bad bait) rather than bias per se, I don't doubt that he'd have done with same with any president (again, ime journalists prize a big story over political preference any day of the week).

Posted by: Michael Farris at February 9, 2005 06:38 AM

Limbaugh and Rather are different species altogether.

Farris,

Let me explain to you why I think Michael's link is so weak.

You're right, most times the MSM delivers the story straight. And yes, we have extreme examples like Dan Rather and Eason Jordan. But the MSM isn't distrusted so much for isolated and extreme examples of their bias, but for the far more pervasive examples of their subtle bias. And it's consistently biased in one direction.

Even their choice of stories gives them away. For instance, why is the U.N. oil for Palaces scandal being completely ignored? It's the greatest financial scandal in history and not a peep about it. That's a pretty good example of what I'm talking about. It's like a website with an agenda, they only give you the stories that support their worldview. That's what the NYTimes is like. Yes, they try to report the story straight and not give their bias away, kudos to them. But even the very stories they choose to report gives them away because they ignore, consistently, stories that they don't like. It's far too pervasive to ignore.

We know a deep-sixing when we see one. We know consistently slanted reporting of straight news when we hear it. We know a terrorist from an "activist." We won't be spoonfed anymore.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 07:05 AM

Everyone should read a bit of the right-wing, mainstream, liberal and left-wing presses. And note the differences.

I particularly like the distinction that Silver draws between liberals and leftists. But, of course, conflating liberalism and the Left is bullet point number one on the Republican strategy board.

I also like his point that liberal or liberal-leaning journalists often write articles that do not further their personal views.

Speaking of the left-wing press, I listened to Pacifica's Democracy Now this morning, which was devoted entirely to a recent hour-long Chomsky speech. In it he accused the U.S. of war crimes in the Fallujah invasion, alleging that we shut down Fallujah's main hospital, tying up patients, doctors and nurses in it, because it had been releasing "inflated casualty numbers." A google search leads to further accusations, but no counter-response. Anybody care, or know more about this?

Posted by: markus rose at February 9, 2005 07:10 AM

Carlos alleges that Eason Jordan is an extreme example of not delivering the story straight.

Aside from one unverified, unpublished incident, is there any evidence that Eason Jordan has failed to tell the stroy straight?

If non-published statements count, we've got a lot of bedroom doors to start knocking down.

Posted by: FC at February 9, 2005 07:30 AM

It's really not necessary to be 100 percent on one side against the other--MJT

With respect-------------- It is !!

The media was,in large part,almost responsible for electing the doofus from Massachusetts in November.This sorry state of affairs cannot and must not stand.I like many others can live with BIAS,and AGENDAS but I want the equivalent of warning labels attached to MSM output.If smoking is dangerous to my health so are faulty,misleading,and incomplete information streams.
Mr.Silver is not,as MJT states, putting on two hats to deliver a 'fair & balanced'review of our current media;he is a 'journalist'using a blog as a tool to defend his industry.He admits to 'minor'journalistic sins,but only so that the 'major'ones can simply be dismissed.Nothing at all wrong with that,but nothing very profound about that either.

Posted by: dougf at February 9, 2005 07:37 AM

FC,

I actually wanted to use Eason Jordan as an example of extreme bias, and as someone who I wouldn't trust with a straight story.

Slightly off topic:

"Eason Jordan took to the op-ed page of The New York Times to strangely admit covering up several instances known to him of Saddam Hussein's torturous and murderous ways. Why the cover-up? Because, he acknowledged, he needed to maintain a bureau in Baghdad. If he'd reported on the dictator's cruelty, sometimes involving Iraqis working for CNN, why, CNN would have been expelled from the world's hottest news spot."

http://www.investors.com/editorial/issues01.asp?v=2/8

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 07:41 AM

Steve makes an effective argument for the fact that we as individual "Media Consumers" have to subjectively evaluate media sources on an individual basis. Not all reporters will succumb to their personal convictions when reporting stories, and not all media outlets operate under a single ideological doctrine.

Bernard Goldberg introduced many of us to the phenomenon of media bias in his book "Bias", however he, above others, meticulously deconstructs what we percieve as a "liberal" media bias in his book "Arrogance". Even he, the "Godfather" if you will, of the anti-Elite Media movement, doesn't ever once assert that bias permeates every single corner of the "Mainstream Media"; more so the bias of certain individuals permeates their contributions to the "Mainstream Media", be they Editors, Journalists or Columnists.

We must always examine what we take in from the media with a discerning eye, and an open mind; lest we become every bit as cant as those we criticize.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 9, 2005 07:48 AM

Marcus,

The hospital was located on the west side of the Euphrates in the northward part of a little S-bend in the river. It overlooked two main bridges out of the city and was taken by both the marines and Iraqi special forces who found insurgent forces there. The hospital had also been used as an observation point and command center in the previous siege. In short, it was an tactically important bit of real estate.

Chomsky is not a reliable thinker, has a record of defendiing tyranny and murder, and is uninformed. Listen to him at your peril.

Posted by: chuck at February 9, 2005 08:06 AM

I was one of those who initially commented on Steve Silver's post. He notes, accurately, that I called myself a "journalism graduate." I did that because I am a writer, not a journalist. It is probably more accurate to say I am a former journalist.

While I understand the argument to accept journalistic bias, and take that into consideration when reading news outlets, I think their is a fundamental flaw with that approach. If the major news outlets insist on incorporating an inherent bias in their reporting, I agree that their bias should be acknowledged and exposed. One problem with that is very few are comfortable admitting to any bias, much less acknowledging it. A more serious problem, to me, is it undermines the value of truth and fact. For a free society to function effectively, it is crucial to have accurate and complete information. Too often, we are provided a part of the story that, while possibly accurate, is certainly not complete. It is human nature to have disagreements about the effects and wisdom of any given information, but people need to feel a sense of trust about the institutions providing the information. It is obvious that sense of trust is evaporating.

I am struck that so many seem able to acknowledge an inherent bias at, say, Fox News, yet incapable of seeing the same problems at ABC, PBS, or CNN. For myself, I think we would all be better off if news outlets took the approach of C-Span--report without advocacy or editorializing, and allow people to make up their own minds. There seems to be a mindset in the MSMthat if people are allowed to make up their own minds without a weighted coverage, they won't come to conclusions that fit the MSM's worldview. At that point, we are closer to progaganda than is healthy for our society.

Posted by: DBrooks at February 9, 2005 08:12 AM

I am struck that so many seem able to acknowledge an inherent bias at, say, Fox News, yet incapable of seeing the same problems at ABC, PBS, or CNN.

Yup. Libs, to understand our problem with the MSM, should try to imagine living in a polar opposite world where everything was like Fox, and MSNBC was the one left-of-center holdout.

That's the world conservatives live in.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 08:17 AM

No, Carlos, it is not. You allege that every single news outlet is like Fox except Liberal.

A simple test of this -> How many liberals appear alone as hosts of non-Fox op-ed shows? How many conservatives appear alone as hosts of non-Fox op-ed shows? How many liberals appear alone as hosts of Fox op-ed shows? How many conservatives appear alone as hosts of Fox op-ed shows?

Why is the ratio of conservatives to liberals far, far greater than 1, even outside of Fox shows?

Here, let's move on!

On the Sunday talk shows, last week, how many of the guests were associated with conervative institutions? How many of the guests were associated with liberal institutions?

Why is the ratio of conservatives to liberals far, far greater than 1, even outside of Fox shows?

What Liberal Media, indeed?

How does not showing Saddam's atrocities in the 1990s show liberal media bias, exactly?

Posted by: FC at February 9, 2005 08:32 AM

Finally, if you don't have the finger strength to type out "liberals," it would be best if you used "cons" instead of conservatives. It would save you a lot of typing.

Posted by: FC at February 9, 2005 08:33 AM

Oh My God,

You people don't even try anymore do you? I mean, at one time, when I came to MJT's blog and we were gonna argue about a essay... people would actualy discuss the esaay, quote the essay and make intelligent arguments based on it.

At this point we have a few misquotes and a bunmch of people jumping on the "Yeah! He's been discredited" bandwagon.

Pathetic.

The very same personal bias, that is discussed in the article comes busting out in the very first comment. I know ya'll are self-absorbed, but for the love of whatever deity you worship, can't you at least apply the neurlogical system they graced you with on occasion? I'm not asking for miracles here. You can keep your lovely biases and partisan ways... the better for humorous material. Just try, once in awhile, not to sound like a bunch of lemmings. Just on occasion... please?

I'm starting to feel sorry for all of ya, and then its not as much fun to poke at you.

Posted by: Another Ex- at February 9, 2005 08:36 AM

Another,

why didn't you discuss the essay?

There's nothing more annoying than being accused of something by somebody doing exactly the same thing. Get off your high horse dude.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 08:40 AM

why didn't you discuss the essay?

Because I agreed with it. Since I wasn't bashing it, I didn't need to quote it.

Did you miss something?

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 9, 2005 08:51 AM

How many liberals appear alone as hosts of non-Fox op-ed shows?

The "alone" Lib hosts are all on the other channels. That's my point. Like Chris Matthews, and Dan Rather, and Peter Jennings and Brokaw and just about anybody on NPR and PBS.

On Fox, Libs only get to co-host, which is a lot more than can be said about conservatives in left of center MSN. No conservatives at all, not even co-hosts.

The more moderate Juan Williams, Mara Liasson, and the annoyingly plastic Flavia Colgan are also part of Fox's liberal stable of commentators.

Not to mentin all the Lefties invites on to spew as part of their daily programming. The problem is, Fox News has become just a little too fair and balanced. Where else can you catch such luminaries of the Left as Katrina vanden Heuvel, David Corn, and Eric Alterman on a regular basis? You hardly see these people on television at all, yet Fox has apparently decided to give the entire staff of The Nation a platform to spew their anti-American invective.

In its daily news coverage, Fox News essentially presents the same stories as everyone else. While news is news, the media literally shapes our view of reality by deciding which events to focus on and what slant to give the coverage. As such, Fox does little to differentiate itself from the crowd. Often, they go so far as to give voice to the canards making the rounds of the liberal media. For instance, in the wake of the tsunami disaster when the UN's "stingy" comment was being repeated ad nauseum by all the other stations, Fox followed suit, wasting an entire week on what was essentially a non-story. And they do it all the time. Instead of simply reacting to the left's agenda, Fox News should be putting forward its own.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 08:53 AM

Did you miss something?

Yeah. Your nic.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 08:55 AM

Yeah. Your nic.

Now that was funny ;-)

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 9, 2005 09:01 AM

Carlos: "The problem is, Fox News has become just a little too fair and balanced...Fox has apparently decided to give the entire staff of The Nation a platform to spew their anti-American invective."

What's wrong with Americans hearing anti-American invective? Isn't what the other side thinks NEWSWORTHY? How can journalism possibly be "too fair and balanced"?

"For instance, in the wake of the tsunami disaster when the UN's "stingy" comment was being repeated ad nauseum by all the other stations, Fox followed suit, wasting an entire week on what was essentially a non-story."

The White House initially offered $15 million for relief, $25 million less than was being spent on the inauguration. A non-story?

Posted by: markus rose at February 9, 2005 09:14 AM

Mr.Silver is not,as MJT states, putting on two hats to deliver a 'fair & balanced'review of our current media;he is a 'journalist'using a blog as a tool to defend his industry.

Doug F-

I never at any point claimed that my piece was "fair and balanced," and neither did MJT. Just like everything else on my blog, it merely represents my opinion and the way I see things.

Furthermore, I'm not using my blog as a "tool" for anything- I've been blogging for almost three years, after all. Am I somehow less of an authentic blogger because I'm praising some aspects of "MSM" rather than attacking them?

Posted by: Stephen Silver at February 9, 2005 09:21 AM

Carlos,

If you are even attempting to sell the rhetoric that Fox News is "Fair and Balanced" then you need to seriously re-evaluate your objective reasoning abilities. I watch, and enjoy watching, Fox News every single day of my life, and there is no way in hell that Fox News is generally "fair and balanced". I watch it because there is no true bastion of unbiased News and Commentary on cable or network television; therefore I gravitate to that which I best identify. However, time and time again, Fox News has been every bit as guilty of the same disingenuous practices as it's counterparts.
And to your reference to "Hannity and Combs", Alan Combs' presence is token at best.

The only true way to gain an objective analasys is to do exactly what Markus suggests; read, listen to, and watch media sources from all over the political-ideological spectrum. Read "Then Nation" and "The Weekly Standard". Listen to Conservative Talk and NPR. Watch Fox News, CNN, andMSNBC. And you know what check out english.aljazeera.net every now and again too; if for no other reason than to "know your enemy".

Posted by: Mike T. at February 9, 2005 09:26 AM

Markus,

I'm actually fine with the Left having a say. I want people to hear what they're thinking. It's good for our side. But it's silly to accuse Fox of not being fair and balanced even as their most conservative hosts are making a living by giving Lefties a platform. You'll not see that favor reciprocated by the other side. Can you imagine Ann Coulter and Bill Moyers having a sitdown on his show NOW? That would be truly surreal.

Re "stingy", it was a non-story. The accusation itself was silly and was made before anybody knew the true extent of the damage.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 09:29 AM

The White House initially offered $15 million for relief, $25 million less than was being spent on the inauguration. A non-story?

Definitly a non-story, which you are still pursuing as if it mattered. The initial response was before the extent of the disaster was known, and I might point out that the US Navy was ordered to the region, a non-trivial cost in it self. And the US Navy along with the Aussies was pretty much the only relief doing anything in Sumatra for the first month or so. In light of that, making a big deal of the $15 Million initial offer is purely a case of agenda ridden propaganda. Same for the non-issue of the inaugural costs, which were after all mostly private and dwarfed by the private contributions to tsunami relief.

Posted by: chuck at February 9, 2005 09:35 AM

The $15m contribution story was an assault, however the Bush Admin. brought it on themselves through extremely bad PR. It could have have been dealth with much more tactfully so as to thwart the obviously impending onslaught from the (dun dun dun dunnnnn) "MSM".

The White House tripped over their own shoelaces on that one.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 9, 2005 09:41 AM

I think the fact that so many commenters are getting irate and completely off-topic only proves one of Steve's points: that many times you see bias only if you don't agree with what's being reported.

As a right-leaning, "journalist" and "blogger" (whatever those terms now mean), I think much of what Steve said is true and has merit. I do, however, think that at the end of the day the upper echelon of media, the big-league editors, are out of touch and that whereas it used to be conceivable that a reporter (as opposed to the high-falutin "Journalist) could work his way up from the newsroom, to get on at the big-time papers, you need some fairly pricey learning.

But I think the most important point to keep in mind is that there would be no blogosphere without MSM, like it or not.

Posted by: ken at February 9, 2005 09:46 AM

Chuck -- no I'm not pursuing the tsunami story anymore ever since the White House responded to the negative criticism in a way that essentially confirmed it's validity -- by greatly increasing their offer of assistance. And while the extent of the tragedy was not recognized prior to the US announcment, it was recognized beforehand that this was the worst natural disaster anywhere in years.

Regarding the Fallujah general hospital, I don't give a damn about Chomsky's previous history, I want evidence for the claim that insurgents were using the hospital for military purposes [aside from the propaganda the hospital provided when it released "inflated" casualty numbers].

Posted by: markus rose at February 9, 2005 09:50 AM

the White House responded to the negative criticism in a way that essentially confirmed it's validity

Sure Markus, it was all you and the other critics, the real power in the world. No one does anything unless the righteous push them to it. Dream on, fella.

As to the Fallujah hospital, do your own damn research. There are photos and coverage available. Life is too short for me to pursue every fantasy of the lazy and uninformed.

Posted by: chuck at February 9, 2005 09:55 AM

Chuck -- no I'm not pursuing the tsunami story anymore ever since the White House responded to the negative criticism in a way that essentially confirmed it's validity -- by greatly increasing their offer of assistance.

Markus,

that's illogical. If the accusation was made before the extent of the damage was known and before the "confirmation", then the accusation itself was groundless at the time it was made.

Thus, the increase in aid in the ensuing hours and days (by everybody involved, by the way, not just the U.S.), shows not the validity of the original accusation, but reflects the growing realization by EVERYBODY as to the extent of the real.

Markus, as an aside, why are you so eager to confirm in the eyes of the world that we are "stingy?" There's more than enough evidence that we're not. But you choose to spin it the other way, the anti-American way. Why? You Libs are patriots aren't you? So called?

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 10:00 AM
Carlos:
Where else can you catch such luminaries of the Left as Katrina vanden Heuvel, David Corn, and Eric Alterman on a regular basis? You hardly see these people on television at all, yet Fox has apparently decided to give the entire staff of The Nation a platform to spew their anti-American invective.

Maybe Fox is applying the "enough rope" solution to the problem of the more rabid Lefties.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 9, 2005 10:03 AM

Carlos -- It wasn't the US being stingy, it was the Bush Administration. And as you know, criticizing an Administration is patriotic. You know, like when they do terrible things like try to provide health coverage to the uninsured? Didn't you ever see those "I love my country but fear my government" bumperstickers right next to the NRA stickers on pickup trucks in the Clinton era?

Posted by: markus rose at February 9, 2005 10:14 AM

You think, Mark?

The real question is why you will never see a non-rabid Liberal on Fox News, unless that non-rabid liberal is a Republican on the point under discussion.

Please note, Carlos, that you ignored the bulk of my question by trying to spin Rather as an "op-ed" host. He's not. Every single op-ed show outside of one on HBO is hostend by a Con.

Posted by: FC at February 9, 2005 10:17 AM

Carlos -- It wasn't the US being stingy, it was the Bush Administration.

Yes, Markus, I knew you'd come back with that.

But in the eyes of the world, America is Bush, and Bush is America. And even knowing this, you are more than happy to drag down America if you can get Bush, or drag down Bush at America's expense.

--even when there was enough evidence to the contrary about stinginess, the price was more than worth it.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 10:20 AM

FC,

what was the "bulk" of your question?

You asked several question, all making the same basic point that the MSM isn't "really" Liberal, and that Fox is fascist.

I think I addressed your basic point.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 10:23 AM

Markus,

You see what you want to see, but the initial offering by the Bush Admin. was just a band-aid until a proper assessment of the situation could be made. And you know what? The NYT, CBS, and CNN damn well knew it, but they smelled blood and went for it.

There's something to be said for not rushing to judgment and that's what the administration was trying not to do, however they screwed it up.

What they should have said was "We've dispatched the Navy and are coordinating with our close allies to get immediate relief to the region. Regarding our monetary contribution, at this time we are not willing to put a spending limit on what we intend to contribute to relief and reconstruction efforts. A pledge will be made as soon as the situation is under control and we have our assessment"

It may be slippery and ambiguous, but it would have saved them a lot of face, and bought them close to if not more than a week.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 9, 2005 10:31 AM

Injecting political bias into news coverage is the equivalent of adulterating food. It's just as objectionable, and much harder to legislate against. We have a right to be pissed off about it, to publicize it and to work for its elimination until the day they stop doing it.

A more civil and courteous environment can and will come afterwards.

Posted by: ZF at February 9, 2005 10:35 AM

As I recall, $15 million was what was left in the disaster relief budget for the year. (In other words, Bush promised what he could promise under the terms of the Constitution. Congress is responsible for the Budget, if I remember my High School Civics correctly.) Somebody correct me if I've got my facts wrong, I'm working from memory here.

(And of course that number doesn't include the costs associated with all the assistance provided by the military. How much do you think it costs to throw a carrier group at a problem? Not to mention the value of foodstuffs and materiel distributed to the victims.)

But oddly enough, this does go back to the original point of this thread. Certain outlets reached a consensus theme ("Bush is stingy") and anything that interfered with that theme was ignored. Since that theme sounded pretty scandalous (and scandal sells) it gained a lot of traction. And because it dovetailed nicely with certain political predispositions, the White House's initial statement is going to be trotted out as damning evidence against Bush even after his face gets carved on Mount Rushmore. Never mind the context or the subsequent exemplary U.S. efforts to aid the tsunami victims.

Posted by: Mark Poling at February 9, 2005 10:46 AM

Mr. Silver raised a number of issues that are worth discussing. Unfortunately, this comment section doesn't appear up to the task. I don't find Mr. Silver's assertions to be indicative that he is unaware of bias at all. His comments concerning the political views of coworkers make that argument specious.

He clearly states that within certain portions of news coverage the personal bias of the journalist will not be reflected in the journalist's coverage. I don't find that difficult to believe. In fact, it is undoubtedly true.

If the crux of his argument is reduced to - Aside from coverage pertaining to issues that have political meaning, bias plays little part in journalism. - is it invalid? I would say that he has made a valid point based upon that reduction. Life is more than politics (thank God) and journalism is more than the politico/economic beat. Mr. Silver's opinion piece has given me cause to think a bit about my blanket condemnations of the M$M. I need to be more specific in identifying those whom I so deeply despise.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at February 9, 2005 10:47 AM

Mike T. -- Believe it or not, I have noticed that Bush is sometimes unfairly maligned. The Tsunami happened late in the evening, east coast time, Christmas Day, a Saturday. By the time of the Sunday morning political talk shows the next day, it was clear that this was an awesome tragedy. If Bush had walked out to the press group camped out on his ranch Sunday morning, to convey our sympathies, mention the initial sum offered as well as the military support, AND NOTE THAT MORE AID WOULD BE ANNOUNCED ONCE PROPER ASSESSMENTS WERE BE MADE, then any criticism that he or the administration faced would indeed have been unfair. As it is, he refused to make a public statement until, I believe, the following Wednesday.

Posted by: markus rose at February 9, 2005 10:53 AM

Markus,

Then you and I agree that Bush f___ed up his delivery and the media had a feeding frenzy.

The cycle continues. I really had hoped that as time went on GWB would become more savvy with managing the media, but it would appear that instead he's just said "the hell with them all".

Posted by: Mike T. at February 9, 2005 11:26 AM

Mike T. -- my worry is that sometimes he says "to hell with them all" not because he is honestly tired of dealing with them, but because he thinks that his supporters enjoy pissing off smug foreigners and elitist liberals.

Posted by: markus rose at February 9, 2005 11:39 AM

>>>"but because he thinks that his supporters enjoy pissing off smug foreigners and elitist liberals."

LOL! you're funny Markus. You make being a conservative a lot of fun ;-)

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 11:42 AM

It's threads like this that remind me why I stopped blogging and why I come closer every day to no longer even reading blogs. The unwarrented triumphalism, the petty outrage, it's intolerable.

The claims of bias in the media are belied by the fact that while Fox's audience overwhelmingly self-identifies as conservative, most of the other big outlets (CNN, NYT, etc.) have audiences that are split pretty much evenly.

But let's say we actually wanted to try to do something about bias among the media. It's better, some have said, when the media announce their biases. So I wonder: who would determine the bias? Will we rely on the particular media outlet? Why on Earth would they want to label themselves as biased, even if they were? Will we rely on the government?

If that's not a recipe for disaster, I don't know what would be. We already have a president that has maligned major newspapers (I guess someone else must be telling him that they're bad, since he doesn't read them himself) as untrustworthy (I wonder on whom we're supposed to rely for our information - the Bush administration? no bias there!) and has said that a dictatorship would be preferable if he could be dictator. Sure, let's give this man the power to place ideological labels on our sources of information! And if you happen to be a fan of the man and are untroubled by this, just imagine if the terrible "LLL" (whatever that means) were to win a few elections and had that sort of power over the media.

Bill O'Reilly could be sent to prison and tortured! Only, we'd have to call it "The No-Torture Zone" because, get it? Because Bill O'Reilly calls his show the "No-Spin Zone" but it's so full of spin that it's amazing he hasn't died from a full-blown irony attack.

My favorite comment so far, though, comes from dougf:
The media was,in large part,almost responsible for electing the doofus from Massachusetts in November.This sorry state of affairs cannot and must not stand.
I love the notion that the only reason John Kerry came close to winning was that the media was on his side. In other words, they wouldn't have voted for the Democrat had they been told the truth, oh no. Somehow, magically, all of Bush's voters were insulated from the brain control rays emanating from NBC's headquarters.

But more importantly - how freaking dare Americans vote for a Democrat?! This cannot, to paraphrase Doug, be allowed to stand! We must - MUST - begin to censor the media in order to prevent a Democrat from ever getting that many votes again! It cannot be allowed to stand!

Posted by: Anonymous at February 9, 2005 11:42 AM

I love the notion that the only reason John Kerry came close to winning was that the media was on his side.

Anonymous,

it's a truism among the GOP that Dem candidates have a built-in 10 point handicap because of the friendly media. When you look at how the media always have to "vet" conservative sources, vs how someone like Kitty Kelly gets a full three hours to spew her malicious rumour mongering on the Bush family, it's no surprise we'd get that impression.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 11:49 AM

"it's a truism among the GOP that Dem candidates have a built-in 10 point handicap because of the friendly media. "

And in your mind, there is no possibility that this 'truism' is only true among people who share your personal biases and perceptions?

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 9, 2005 12:11 PM

Of course, the Swift Boat Vets lied through their teeth for months and months about Kerry, publishing and going on - hold on to your hats - the media to talk about why Kerry was a very bad man. They did this for months. They did this through the media.

Man, bias sure is a weird thing.

And what the hell does it mean if it's a truism among the GOP? Isn't that, I don't know, an opinion? Call me crazy (you're crazy - ed.), but for this 10% thing to be a truism - you know, something accepted immediately by everyone as true - shouldn't somebody do some actual research, present some data, that sort of thing, or is wild, ungrounded conjecture enough?

Posted by: Anonymous at February 9, 2005 12:11 PM

And in your mind, there is no possibility that this 'truism' is only true among people who share your personal biases and perceptions?

Rata,

There most certainly is that possibility.

That's why I qualified it as a "GOP" truism.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 12:14 PM

There most certainly is that possibility. That's why I qualified it as a "GOP" truism.

Ah, I see. :)

The word truism indicates a self-evident truth... so I think the word you used threw me off.

If you're saying that it is a GOP theory, or a GOP strawman, or a GOP anecdote, then that is a much different story :)

Its always about using the right word and not its second cousin. English Language, as spoken is difficult (I think Navy intel rates it a 5 (equal in complexity to Chineese and Russian)), in written form its even worse, then when you add the penchant that Americans have for using exaggerated words, inappropriate words, or words that they redefine on the fly... well its a wonder that we can actually communicate beyond:

"Og like bananas"

Perhaps, anything even approximating the communication levels on the Internet is either entirely by chance or simply the product of a bad batch of 'shrooms.

I dunno, but I'm pretty sure that the network cables under my feet shouldn't be moving like that.

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 9, 2005 12:30 PM

Maybe it should be called a GOP "perception" as opposed to a truism. I think that's probably the more correct word.

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 9, 2005 12:31 PM

So Markus, what he said is more important than what actually happened?

Frankly, I think Silver nailed it with this one. And sadly, the comments here seem to prove what he said. Way to prove him right (re: SCLM) FC. Too bad you didn't realize you were doing it.

Posted by: Court at February 9, 2005 12:32 PM

Frankly, I think Silver nailed it with this one. And sadly, the comments here seem to prove what he said. Way to prove him right

Actually I think the comments here prove him wrong. Silver has a blog now. So what.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 12:35 PM

Markus: my worry is that sometimes he says "to hell with them all" not because he is honestly tired of dealing with them, but because he thinks that his supporters enjoy pissing off smug foreigners and elitist liberals.

To be completely honest, while I don't know if he does it to piss off smug foreigners and elitest liberals, I personally love it. But that's just because I'm young, cynical, vindictive and spiteful. Such are my flaws.

Anonymous,

Aren't we quite "holier than thou". I'm glad you are so much smarter than all of us and are willing to lend your guidance to the ingorant masses of the blogosphere since you have moved on above our level.

Unfortunately for you, you're wrong. You can cite you personal unsubstantiated assessments of media audience ratios, and take GWB quotes out of context all you want, but it won't make you sound any more correct.

But I'll indulge you. You asked who should regulate the media bias? That question is so easy it's stupid. The consumer. We live in a free market economy where the almighty dollar reigns king. If the majority of media consumers reject specific organizations for a real or percieved bias, then they consequently are not subject to the product marketing employed by those organizations.

Media organizations are corporations like any other and they monitor and analyze advertising efficacy as much as everyone else. Efficacy suffers, inquiries are made, assessments are written, solutions put forth, policy is modified and put into effect.

Also in your intellectual musings, did you ever give thought to the fact that a portion of Bush's success could actually be attributed to the fact that many of his supporters voted for him as a rejection of Hollywood and the media? No probably not, you're too smart for that.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 9, 2005 12:38 PM

"Let’s talk a little media bias here," Newsweek's assistant managing editor Evan Thomas told PBS's "Inside Washington" last week, reports Sunday's New York Post. The American press has dived so deeply into the tank for Sen. John Kerry's presidential bid that they don't even bother concealing their pro-Democrat bias anymore.
"The media, I think, want Kerry to win. And I think they’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards - I’m talking about the establishment media, not Fox, but - they’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and all, there’s going to be this glow about them that some, is going to be worth, collectively, the two of them, that’s going to be worth maybe 15 points.”
Newsweek's July 19 issue "certainly backs up Thomas’ contention," notes the Media Research Center, which first uncovered the amazing admission."

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2004/7/18/125224.shtml

for what it's worth....

Posted by: Caroline at February 9, 2005 12:38 PM

that’s going to be worth maybe 15 points.”

or 15 points, whatever.

Thanks Caroline.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 12:44 PM

You cut me deep, Mike T. You cut me deep.

Anyhoo, I'd like to call everyone's attention to the fact that Mike T. has totally and finally concluded this whole discussion on "what is to be done about this media bias business?"

We agree that the media will not label themselves. We agree that the government should not be in the business of labeling the media. And we agree that, in our free society, the best way of dealing with media bias is through our free market - consumers can indicate, through their dollars, which bias they prefer.

So...remind me again why we bother with this conversation?

As to the question of whether or not a rejection of Hollywood and the media gave Bush many of his votes?

I'll say no. Here's why!

Because of Hollywood box office returns. Because of the giant porn stores that do so much business deep in the heart of red land. Because of the great ratings that Desperate Housewives gets in the states that voted for Bush. Because the high (much higher than in many blue states) rates of divorce and drug abuse that many red states suffer. Because of the abortion rate that goes down during Democratic presidencies and up during Republican administrations. Because all this talk about values this and morals that and what is to be done about the children?!? really amounts to self-serving hypocritical garbage.

I'd believe that Bush won votes because of the dread media if people actually acted like, you know, they didn't like the media.

Posted by: Anonymous at February 9, 2005 12:52 PM

The word truism indicates a self-evident truth... so I think the word you used threw me off.

Mr. ratatosk,

The 10 point handicap IS a self-evident truth in the GOP, therefore my use of the word was correct.

I certainly believe it's a self-evident truth.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 12:52 PM

Anonymous: So...remind me again why we bother with this conversation?

Errr, because most of us here enjoy stimulating debate an controversial issues and this happens to be one.

Anonymous: As to the question of whether or not a rejection of Hollywood and the media gave Bush many of his votes?

I'll say no. Here's why!

Oh yes they did. First of all, people don't always say what they do, or do what they say. Some of the loudest voices are the biggest hypocrites. I don't deny that, however it goes both ways, ahem Jesse Jackson ahem.

Regarding Hollywood: people like their entertainment, but not necessarily their entertainers righteously telling them how to think, feel and vote. And the "Media" a different animal in and of itself, know the difference. Haven't you noticed the lackluster performance of Air America, or the cancelling of CNN's Crossfire, or how about CBS's consistently declining ratings well prior to "Rathergate"?

You would do well to think out your argument a little better than that Anonymous.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 9, 2005 01:09 PM

"So Markus, what he said is more important than what actually happened?"

No, what "actually happened: is obviously more important. Although determining some aspects of "what happened" is not possible:

1) We don't know if Bush intentionally tried to inflame world opinion against the US.
2) We don't know what the final US government donation would have been in the absence of the stinginess accusations.

Posted by: markus rose at February 9, 2005 01:11 PM

Markus is right, we will never know the answer to either of those questions so the point is rather moot. But still worth speculation and debate I might add.

Posted by: Mike T. at February 9, 2005 01:13 PM

I think the comments here prove him wrong.

In what way?

Overall, my read of the essay, sensed three main points:

1. Some, but not all (sombunal) journalists are strongly biased, while most of the balance of journalists are less biased (after all, everyone is baised to some extent).

2. Many blog commentors and posters take every mistake, error, potential error, presumed miss, lack of focus on pet story X , etc etc etc to be yet another prime example of the MSM monster.

3. Usually, the individuals mentioned in point 2 are just as biased (if not moreso) than the people mentioned in point 1.

How do the comments disprove these thoughts? Or did you get a completely different set of key thoughts from his essay?

My personal view is that everyone is very biased toward their own viewpoints. The human brain recieves millions of signals from the sensory organs and neurological system. The human brain cannot possibly process and make sense of it all, so, it appears in most experiments, that the human brain tends to drop X% of the signals it recieves. It usually tends to accept and process the signals most familar to it first. This means that if "Evil MSM" is a familiar thought, then the brain seems to more readily pick up on signals that are similar or support the familiar thought.

There is a great set of experiments to support this:

1. 42 is the secret to Life, The Universe, and Everything. 42 is everywhere around you. Look for it in your life and you will find 42 more than any other numerical pair.

Interestingly, the more you try this experiment, the more often you find 42. A couple days ago, on the way home from work, I was following School Bus 42 at 4:20 in the afternoon. I stopped to get gas and ended up with 9.42 gallons that cost me $18.42.

This is a daily occurence for me now, 42 is everywhere.

2. Another similar experiment that I've tried successfully, is called "Seeking the Quarter". In this experiment, the individual focuses on a quarter. In his free time he imagines a quarter, as clearly as possible, he pictures the quarter in every detail.

After a couple weeks of this, I began to find quarters. I found lots of quarters, over a month I found 20 quarters. So I convienced myself that I apparently was making quarters materialize (this was during my 'Maybe Magic is Real' phase). I kept count and over the next month I found 25 quarters. I then decided that maybe I was just training my mind to filter for 'quarters', and the next month I found 23 quarters. I haven't focused on this as much in the past several months, but I still find at least 2 or 3 quarters a week.

My conclusion is that quarters are everywhere, and our brains simply ignore them as 'noise' in the neurological communication channel.

---

Based on those experiments, I personally think, that most of what we percieve is filtered before we actually get it into the thinking bits of our brain. I, of course, could be wrong and I might actually be forming these quarters out of etheric material. But, I'm inclined to think they fell out of people's pockets.

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 9, 2005 01:15 PM

News without bias? And what are the ratings for C-Span, exactly?

Opinion sells. Opinion is interesting, especially if you can throw in a fight. Fox has that figured out, as they generally prefer opinion to fact-based news on most occasions.

I would agrue that the media are indeed biased, and the mainstream media are biased towards the "conventional wisdom." That is to say they lean towards reporting what they perceive to be the general public's opinion (so far as it can be determined). They do this in an attempt to build/keep viewership.

And so, both the right and the left can hold up many instances of very perceivable biases, especially on stories or elements of stories that are not well-known to the general populace.

BTW, I am curious about the help the media gave to John Kerry -- I must have missed all the fawning. I just remember all the flip-flop stories, the "is he really a war hero" stories, and the "man, is he ever an elitist" stories."

Posted by: sivert at February 9, 2005 01:17 PM

Tosk,

That's a hell of a well made argument, but I should tell you that you that you frighten me now. : )

Posted by: Mike T. at February 9, 2005 01:20 PM

Tosker,

in my opinion....the bias is far more systemic than a few rogue journalists. You don't see it, but we do. I can go to Yahoo photos for crying out loud and just read the captions these guys put on pictures coming out of the middle east and see it. You certainly aren't looking for it, that's for sure, and you aren't sensitized to see it even if you were because they slant your way. Their presentation of the world is as the world really is through your eyes. When an NPR reporter at the sight of a blown up Israeli school bus chokes on the word terrorism, and then retracts it after after a fit of coughing, you don't notice that, but we do. But she was right the first time. It is terrorism. You don't notice it because the MSM confirms to you that the world you through your eyes is self-evident.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 01:24 PM

Carlos,

But, my opinion is that the MSM is an opinionated, biased communication channel. Sometimes it's biased for Democrats, sometimes it's biased toward Republicans. Most of the time it's slightly biased to the left or right, and (I think) the bias is exaggerated by the additional biases in the mind of the individual. (Bias on top of Bias makes Bias^2)

I think where we differ is that you see it as a conspiracy, and I see it as humans still slaves to their own brain programming. I see just as much bias in bolgs, as I see in the MSM. I don't think you were on here during the debates, but we had scads of people convienced that John Kerry took a cheat sheet to the debates. Later on, when it was realized that he did no such thing, the person who 'broke' the story on the blog, refused to apologize, (though he promised to 'be the first to apologize if I'm wrong') and continued with his blog. This bolg has had so many articles about the MSM and Liberal Media, that I was sure they'd work extra hard not to be percieved as hypocrites.

Bias is everywhere, hypocricy is everywhere, because humans are everywhere. (Well, there's always genocide - Ed.)

I wish Ed would quit sticking his comments in our posts.

Alas,

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 9, 2005 01:37 PM

Ratatosk: ...but we had scads of people convienced that John Kerry took a cheat sheet to the debates

You're kidding right?

Posted by: Mike T. at February 9, 2005 01:46 PM

I think where we differ is that you see it as a conspiracy, and I see it as humans still slaves to their own brain programming.

Tosk,

I don't see it as a "conspiracy" necessarily. They haven't sat down and agreed amongst themselves about it. Although sometimes, at a micro level, they do agree. For instance in what words they will choose to use or not use, i.e., "insurgent", "activist", etc.

But most of the times the it's them operating as free entities, carelessly or purposely inserting their bias into what should be straight news, and their superiors either don't notice it, or they turn a blind eye. That's how it works. It's mostly unstated, unplanned, and tacitly approved of.

But during presidential elections? All bets are off. They go into a frenzy. 10 points, at least.

Posted by: Carlos at February 9, 2005 01:50 PM

Mike T.

Little Green Footballs were all over it, they had him on video pulling it out of his pocket (it was an ink pen).

There were those on this board that bought it lock stock and ink cartridge too.. I won't mention their names though. Cooler heads here said "You have a grainy, fuzzy, 'bigfoot-esque' image. Why don't we wait and see what comes of this?" While others ranted "the MSM hasn't covered this Yet! Email them and DEMAND that they give fair and balanced news!!!"

Then, when it was proven to be a pen... some people shut up, some people said "Oh no they doctored the video!", then shut up.

Very, Very few of those who accused Kerry said 'Sorry'.

It makes me a little bit sad inside.

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 9, 2005 01:52 PM

Carlos,

I'll make sure to pick up a tinfoil beanie for you come 2008 ;-).

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 9, 2005 01:55 PM

Geez, and I was depressed because I thought Kerry was just such a good debater, and W can communicate for shit. I should have known something was up.

Shady liberal bastards, all of you!!!

Posted by: Mike T. at February 9, 2005 02:14 PM

Bias on top of Bias makes Bias^2

More like Bias^Bias.

And that's really the problem here. I bias on both sides but it frustrates me sometimes to hear the 'SCLM' chanted ad nauseum when there is liberal bias. Just like there is conservative bias.

It's not an XOR function. Both can exist simultaneously. And do.

Posted by: Court at February 9, 2005 03:26 PM

This was a great conversation,with some very good posts.
Thanks all.

Posted by: dougf at February 9, 2005 03:27 PM

Reality-Check Time is what MJT calls this piece. I don't see any reality here. Just Mr Silver, who's not really biased, or maybe just a little bit biased in a nice way writing some sort of essay. I guess the content is that bloggers should just go away: and that means you, MJT. Mr. Silver knows best. Ask him.

Posted by: Xixi at February 9, 2005 03:30 PM

I guess the content is that bloggers should just go away: and that means you, MJT. Mr. Silver knows best. Ask him.

If you think the point of my essay is that "bloggers should just go away," then you must not have read it.

Posted by: Stephen Silver at February 9, 2005 03:36 PM

Since this thread had pretty much run it's coarse I didn't want to leave with out saying to Mr. Silver that I think he added a much needed perspective to the MSM/anti-MSM debate, especially in this medium.

While we should applaud ourselves for identifying culpable offenders, we should be wary of our own prejudices and always challenge ourselves to justify topics from the opposite perspective. Only then will we be able to understand the intricacies of every issue.

Posted by: Mike at February 9, 2005 04:42 PM

Damn I mispelled course. Too many beers after work.

Posted by: Mike at February 9, 2005 04:43 PM

Points/Counterpoints:

"The right-wing Blogosphere almost universally called the report a “whitewash,” and they may have been right."

It was a whitewash. As I write this, Dan Rather is getting ready to read his script for the evening news. He still represents his network at Whitehouse functions. The executives that CBS "asked" to resign haven't gone anywhere, and I'm willing to bet that we'll never find out how many millions Viacom pays to keep them quiet about how far up the ladder the actual journalistic malpractice actually went. And the rest of the media has chosen to let that story die.

There were one or two days of holier- than- thou/isn't- it- sad stories written about CBS by their competitors. The same outfits whose style books have demanded since 1999 that "Cheney" and "Haliburton" must appear together in any sentence where one or the other is mentioned.

"I’m not here to argue that the mainstream media is perfect, that the emergence of blogs isn’t a major event, that incidents of bias and inaccuracy don’t exist, or that certain frequent targets of blog attacks don’t deserve it. But I can say with complete confidence that the mainstream media does a very good job with the vast majority of the content that it produces, and there is worthwhile, entertaining, and valuable work to be found in the MSM every single day. It’s about time they got a break."

That's a very broad swathe of ground to cover in one paragraph. Yes, there is good stuff to be found in media everyday. Weather, box scores, human interest stories, soybean futures, who Paris Hilton last believed when he said "nah, I just want this tape for me"... etc. The really important stuff - government, policy, conflict, social issues - just happen to be issues most open to bias at the same time as being stuff that affects the broadest segment of the consumers of media. That's why bias is the issue.

"The truth is that in most cases, bias is in the eye of the beholder." and "These bloggers –and the hundreds of others on both political wings who do the same thing- don’t object to certain stories because they’re biased or incorrect. They object because “MSM” doesn’t say what they want “MSM” to say."

I don't accept that. For a start, the blogs and persons he cites in the body of his post (with the exceptions of Kos and Alterman) have been relentlessly thorough in backing up their criticism or exposure of media bias/inaccuracy based on documented facts of the issues at hand, often providing source documents such as video or transcripts of events that were selectively "Dowdied" (wonder if that term will ever become as common as"fisked") to misrepresent the actual content of a story. Or they provide eyewitness accounts of events that contradict the media record. The bogus booing incident and the Humvee armor story immediately come to mind, but even a casual follower of blogs can probably cite those and many more. The ability of those contradictions to be exposed within the news cycle they happen in, and then recorded, debated, and remembered across literally thousands of nodes in the blogosphere means that after a certain number of those stories crop up many people will recognize that there is a pattern in place.

And they are right.

"Much like lefties simultaneously bashing George W. Bush as both stupid and cunningly evil, bloggers who bash “MSM” are making two arguments that contradict one another- MSM is effectively and ruthlessly biased, yet they’re also incompetent. How can both be true?"

I've never said they were biased and incompetent. I believe they are biased to such a degree that periodic blunders such as Rathergate or the Joe Wilson escapade genuinely catch them by surprise because they unconsciously discount facts inconvenient to their agendas. That's not incompetence - that's a function of operating without recognizing external controls. Or in a profession where eighty percent of your peers have a vested interest in the outcome of the events they cover.

"Yes, reporters will sometimes make mistakes. But such mistakes are not necessarily a sign of incompetence. There are a million things that can go wrong with a story and all those things can happen to bloggers too. That’s the way it is, and the way it will continue to be for as long as reporting is done by humans."

No problem with that one, on the surface of the argument. Media is a high pressure business requiring a lot of capital, talented personnel, savvy management, and a real commitment to get a story. The physical obstacles between the reporter and the press are only compounded by the injection of human randomness into the mix; mistakes will happen.

If it were merely honest mistakes manifesting themselves, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

I had this really cool anecdote about a RAuether's reporter going from Marine to Marine in search of a "what's it like to kill a Grenadain villager" story back in 1983, but I'm late for my Buffoonery Excellence continuing ed class.

Posted by: TmjUtah at February 9, 2005 05:02 PM

TmjUtah: I believe they are biased to such a degree that periodic blunders such as Rathergate or the Joe Wilson escapade genuinely catch them by surprise because they unconsciously discount facts inconvenient to their agendas.

I don't think this is totally accurate. I think it's more a calculated leap of faith. They believe so much that it clouds their judgment and they then take risks that a fundamentally schooled journalist would never take. Theirs (Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, et al) ought to be a lesson in class at Columbia U., although I doubt it will be for some time.

Posted by: Mike at February 9, 2005 05:28 PM

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Posted by: Mike T. at February 9, 2005 05:32 PM

Ratatosk,

"Very, Very few of those who accused Kerry said 'Sorry'."

Which is a sad state of affairs, true. You believe -- and I agree! -- that those people were entirely in the wrong. But they still believe they're right.

Many people here believe that your stinginess accusation is completely unfounded and wrong. You still believe you're right.

I don't see you apologizing to the President, for the same reason we don't see those people apologizing to Senator Kerry: you're not convinced that you're wrong, and you'll keep rationalizing and hiding behind "well, we can never know."

I'm not expecting you to apologize to the President. But maybe you're more like the "Kerry cheated" crowd than you realize.

Posted by: UML Guy at February 9, 2005 09:32 PM

M. Farris - review Mr. Rather's primetime interviews with first families George/Barbara Bush and William/Hillary Clinton. I think you'll find the tone much more hostile towards the former. While Mr. Rather would certainly go after a sitting President, regardless of party, I posit he’d take much more personal satisfaction if the target were Republican.

MJT - I think I understand Mr. Silver’s sentiments, yet what came across was a defacto absolution of traditional media. Certainly there is much more than bias and incompetence at play, yet it is typically ones bias that causes one to take for fact innuendo or conjecture. When the print media makes corrections of substance, they are predominantly for stories critical of the political right. That being said, I'll admit that the preponderance of the stories run are factual and balanced, in other words fair journalism. And in the long-term, fact-checking bloggers will only facilitate fairness within the Main Stream Media (see, three words).

What really sets me off however are those who denigrate FNC while only reading the BoGlobe, or lambaste the LATimes while only listening to Limbaugh. Or listening to only Dennis Ross' take on the Middle East... or reading only Paul Krugman's views on fiscal policies. And that is one point that Mr. Silver made, but probably not strong enough - too often we misattribute to bias that with which we viscerally disagree. Limited sources will result in limited views. A lesson the MSM, I hope, is just starting to relearn.

Posted by: bains at February 9, 2005 10:01 PM

or reading only Paul Krugman's views on fiscal policies

Actually, you could do a hell of a lot worse than reading only Krugman's views on fiscal policy. He's a tremendously respected economist in the field.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 10, 2005 12:28 AM

Krugman is highly respected by Brad deLong (ex Clinton economist) and the BIG gov't Berkeley type guys -- fast to complain about deficits, but not so fast to cut any spending.

Donald Luskin does a pretty good job debunking Paul K. (who HAS, in fact, done excellent work in the past), and his later anti-Bush anti-whatever rants.

Silver's main true point is that bloggers WILL depend on reporters for basic news facts.

His main false point is the idea that there has been enough of the blogstorm "witchhunts", and in particular too much over Eason Jordan.

Jordan should be fired. Each and every top News person, who makes terribly unprofessional remarks, should be subject to "accountability". If a politician, election. Like Bush -- an accounting, and he was reelected. Like Clinton had in both his reelection AND his impeachment (yeah he LIED, but it was only to allow him to have promiscuous sex and harrass and abuse women, so it's OK).

The News folk have NEVER covered news personalisties "as news" -- who is Dan Rather, what does he believe, what policies does he support. We need a new Media Choice Theory to look at individual decision incentives. The blog witchhunts are a way towards accountability in the Leftist, anti-capitalism, anti-American, anti-Christian MSM.

Anybody who is tired of the witchhunts -- look for some business blogs. Or God blogs. There's more every day.

(What do you burn besides witches?
Moore Witches!!!)

Posted by: Tom Grey at February 10, 2005 04:40 AM

Jordan should be fired, for lying; he should have been fired back in April 2003 when he admitted he HAD been lying, in order to kiss up to Saddam and get good Baghdad coverage (all Saddam approved).

Not Dawn Eden, for adding true pro-life facts to a story she was editing.

Posted by: Tom Grey at February 10, 2005 04:49 AM

UML Guy,

Many people here believe that your stinginess accusation is completely unfounded and wrong. You still believe you're right.

I think maybe you have me confused with someone else. If I understand what you are saying here, you seem to be under the misconception that I felt that Mr. Bush should have given more money to Tsunami victims, than he initially pledged. If this is your belief, then please allow me to disabuse oof the notion.

I do not believe that Mr. Bush was stingy, indeed, it is my opinion that Mr. Bush pledged too much. I do not think that it is the place of our Government to spend our tax dollars on a bunch of drenched countries in the Indian Ocean. I think that it's their place to hold fundraisers, encourage donations and give their own money. I would have loved to see Senators go home and compete to see what State could raise the most relief funds. America wasn't stingy, Bush wasn't stingy. In fact, I'd say that Mr. Bush was bullied by the bleeding heart liberals to spend money that he should not have.

I am not always against Mr. Bush. I am always against hypocrites like our blog friends who couldn't say sorry.

Ratatosk, Squirrel fo Discord

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 10, 2005 07:40 AM

Jordan should be fired, for lying; he should have been fired back in April 2003 when he admitted he HAD been lying, in order to kiss up to Saddam and get good Baghdad coverage (all Saddam approved).
Not Dawn Eden, for adding true pro-life facts to a story she was editing.--TG

Actually they both deserve to get the boot.Ms.Eden's fault was truly unacceptable in ANY organisation,and the fact that you might agree with her views,in no way,mitigates her actions.She both over-stepped her authority and placed her own agenda before an objective rendering of the article.As an example,to use the emotive and value laden word died to describe the non-use of a particular embryo,is NOT a valid or acceptable alteration of what she was given to review.She not only inserted her own ideas(MSM anyone),but did so under someone else's byline.We cannot complain about the media if we are prepared to do exactly the same things,except from a different perspective.
I would have expected to get fired(and deserved it immensely) had I done these things,and I wager that you would have been so prepared as well.
Very shoddy behaviour.Very !!

Posted by: dougf at February 10, 2005 07:56 AM

MJT,

The funny thing is that Steve has a point. Much of the MSM bashing is an example of the pathetic fallacy. Nevertheless, the people who compose the MSM are frequently guilty of bias and incompetence. Therefore, many times MSM bashing consists of reasonable generalizations.

You wanted a fisking. Steve is guilty of many logical fallacies.

I was reading one of my favorite blogs recently, one of several I read in which the host is There are two big problems I have with the “MSM”-bashing. One, “MSM” is a stupid acronym- “mainstream” is, after all, one word, not two.

The good Steve starts out with a bit of ad hominem, specifically an appeal to ridicule. "If they are too stupid to invent a better acronym, then why should we listen to them?"

But even worse is that these bloggers and commenters have deigned to shoehorn the entire media- consisting of dozens of institutions employing tens of thousands of people- into a singular, evil, three-letter entity. The “MSM” argument pre-supposes that all of these people think and act exactly alike- regardless of whatever natural disagreements (writers/editors, staff/management, editorial/business) they have with one another, and despite the competition for both scoops and marketshare that various newspapers, networks, and individuals are engaged in at all times.

There is some truth to this, but this is also the case with all generalizations. For example, the statement "cats have four legs" has legitimate truth value despite the obvious fact that some cats do not. A generalization does not in and of itself constitute the fallacy of division, which seems to be his point.

Much like lefties simultaneously bashing George W. Bush as both stupid and cunningly evil, bloggers who bash “MSM” are making two arguments that contradict one another- MSM is effectively and ruthlessly biased, yet they’re also incompetent. How can both be true?

It can be true because their bias makes them ignore important facts. Thus, their bias makes them good propagandist but bad reporters. Therefore, this attempted reductio fails.

Yes, reporters will sometimes make mistakes. But such mistakes are not necessarily a sign of incompetence. There are a million things that can go wrong with a story and all those things can happen to bloggers too. That’s the way it is, and the way it will continue to be for as long as reporting is done by humans.

Here is a red herring. The complaint is not that reporters make mistakes, but that they are biased. Their mistakes seem to inevitably hurt the right.

But the number one argument against the “MSM,” of course, is political bias. Conservative bloggers, who appear to have invented the “MSM” acronym (it’s unknown who originated it), argue that the media has a pervasive, leftist bias that infects every single moment of their coverage, which of course ends up painting Bush, Republicans, and conservatives as stupid, evil, etc. Leftists, who use as their acronym of choice “SCLM,” (or “So-Called Liberal Media,” as coined by Eric Alterman) believe that media outlets aren’t nearly liberal enough or tough enough on the Bush Administration, and are thus culpable for the wars, torture, and anything else.

The truth is that in most cases, bias is in the eye of the beholder. ...

This is a fallacy known as argumentum ad temperantiam or the fallacy of the middle.

Furthermore, liberalism among reporters doesn’t necessarily translate into left-wing coverage. In my last two journalism jobs- both in the trade press, though neither could by any stretch of the imagination be counted as “mainstream media”- every single one of my co-workers has been either at least left-of-center, or politically agnostic. But since most of our sources were in the business community, and because we were writing for a corporate audience, it would be hard to find even a hint of an anti-business or otherwise liberal bias in our product.

This is the fallacy of an appeal to motive.

And even if some liberal bias does come through in writing- and in some newspapers catering to liberal audiences, I don’t deny that it does- liberal isn’t the same as far-left-wing. There's a lot more distance between the New York Times and, say, the Village Voice than there is between the Times and the Wall Street Journal, and if the NYT editorial board ran the country for a month, the result would look a lot more like the Bush-Cheney status quo than it would Castro's Cuba.

This is more argumentum ad temperantiam.

This is how so many on the left can find fault with the coverage’s lack of leftist heft, that whole books can be written about the New York Times’ lack of progressivism in covering foreign policy, and an alt-weekly journalist such as New York Press’ Matt Taibbi can convene a weeks-long “tournament”- called “Wimblehack”- in which he matched mainstream political correspondents and eliminated on the basis of how much they kissed up to Bush.

This is yet more argumentum ad temperantiam.

Furthermore, the blanket, industry-wide generalizations of bias are overblown –especially when we consider the large percentage of news content that has no political dimension whatsoever. Is Hugh Hewitt prepared to argue that the New York Times business section has a leftist bias? (They’re not Marxists, and they accept advertising, so other than saying nice things about Eliot Spitzer, I’m guessing no). Is Power Line going to claim a liberal slant for the sports section at their nemesis, the Star Tribune- the one that constantly agitates for publicly-financed stadiums? Does Kos have a legitimate beef that the New York Times doesn’t lead every front-page political story with “Bush is a fucking liar”?

Steve sure loves the argumentum ad temperantiam. He throws in a bit of appeal to motive for good measure.

These bloggers –and the hundreds of others on both political wings who do the same thing- don’t object to certain stories because they’re biased or incorrect. They object because “MSM” doesn’t say what they want “MSM” to say. Many of these blogs are capable of cogent analysis and entertaining writing. I just wish they’d find a way to kick the “death-to-MSM” habit.

Here is a bit of ad hominem, specifically an appeal to ridicule.

The other big anti-“MSM” argument often put forward is that such reporters and editors are “out of touch,” as the MSM's foes for some reason got the impression that every media outlet is staffed 100% with upper-middle-class, hard-left Harvard grads (No, it isn't really). It’s an extension of the usual Northeastern-liberals-are-out-of-touch-with-Real-America argument that’s been around since Richard Nixon and Bob Haldeman tossed it around on the White House tapes. The right loves to obsess about liberals and their “cocktail parties,” but the fact is, aside from a tiny fraction at the very top, journalism has not ever been and likely never will be a highly-paid profession. How those who practice it are any more “out of touch” with “mainstream America” than, say, bankers or corporate executives remains a mystery.

Of course, it may be the case that someone has made such an argument. But in general, this is a straw man argument because clearly not everybody has made this argument. Thus, it implicitly contains the fallacy of composition.

Posted by: JBP at February 10, 2005 09:30 AM

JBP,

Well Done!

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 10, 2005 09:33 AM

That was the most nitpicky non-response I have ever read, JBP. You find a few times the author uses hyperbole, caricuturing the left and the right, and say that's proof that he always thinks the middle is the best place. You argue that stating that "liberal bias doesn't show up in the following places" is an appeal to motive. To top it all off, you don't have a single response to a single substantive point except to repeat innacurate fallacies.

I hate "fisking." It's a juvenille efort, and you've proved that adequatly, even when someone tries to "fisk" with latin terms they either don't understand or don't apply properly.

Posted by: FC at February 10, 2005 09:45 AM

FC,

JPB, in this instance (at least how I read it) was not disproving the hypothesis (Bloggers tend to be biased in their view of the MSM) and instead deconstructed the specific arguments being used to support the hypothesis.

This is a completely valid form of debate. It doesn't answer the main question, but it deprives the author of non-logical arguments.

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 10, 2005 09:52 AM

JBP,

very well done. You just made Silver sound like a member of the very MSM he's presuming to critique--just like CBS investigating itself. Like I said, he has a blog. So what.

Re fisking as being "juvenile", you'll only hear that objection from someone whose position is being fisked.

Good job.

Posted by: Carlos at February 10, 2005 10:00 AM

Ratatosk,

Then I need to read more carefully, and with more sleep under my belt. You have my humble apologies for confusing you with other posters.

Posted by: UML Guy at February 10, 2005 10:39 AM

Waiting for JBP to come and hit Carlos with the "arguement from motive," invalidating everythnig he says.

Posted by: FC at February 10, 2005 10:41 AM

JPB

Thanks for this interesting post.Whatever else,I learned some new terms today,and found them so interesting that I found a great website which details a myriad of fallacious reasonings.
Now at least I know the names of those things which one understands to be 'flawed',but has never placed in the proper context.

Great job.

Posted by: dougf at February 10, 2005 10:52 AM

UML Guy,

Then I need to read more carefully, and with more sleep under my belt. You have my humble apologies for confusing you with other posters.

No worries. :) With the speed at which comments fly on this forum... its a wonder we get any meaningful communication done.

Hrmmm, do we actually get any meaningful communication done on here? ;-)

Posted by: Ratatosk at February 10, 2005 11:16 AM

Hrmmm, do we actually get any meaningful communication done on here? ;-)--Tosk

Speak for yourself,sir! I find every one of my posts to be exceedingly profound.Now as to all the others--------- :-)

Posted by: dougf at February 10, 2005 11:31 AM

Krugman is highly respected by Brad deLong

And the Nobel Prize Committee, what with being on the short list this year and everything. He's a very successful economist.

Posted by: Kimmitt at February 10, 2005 06:35 PM

FC

You find a few times the author uses hyperbole, caricuturing the left and the right, and say that's proof that he always thinks the middle is the best place.

A few places?

Nice strawman argument. I of course never argued that he "always" thinks that the middle is the best place. I merely pointed out where he uses fallacious arguments.

You argue that stating that "liberal bias doesn't show up in the following places" is an appeal to motive.

I, of course, did not argue that. I was pointing out that one of the reasons why he claims that liberal bias does not show up is an appeal to motive.

... with latin terms they either don't understand or don't apply properly.

What Latin term did I not apply properly?

I actually agree with some of what Steve says. For example, one of his underlying points is that MSM bashers are committing the pathetic fallacy, anthropomorphizing the MSM. Nevertheless, his reasoning is poor.

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