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WSJ: Our Insular Media - Newsweek is guilty not only of bad reporting but of self-absorption
opinionjournal.com ^ | May 18, 2005 | CLAUDIA ROSETT

Posted on 05/18/2005 1:28:16 PM PDT by OESY

...Newsweek's editors, unable to substantiate the story, apologized. Then, as the furor grew, Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker [retracted his story]....

That will likely come as cold comfort to U.S. troops abroad, some of whom were among the immediate targets of stone-throwing demonstrators in Afghanistan when the story first spread....

Let's pause right there. We are hearing that Muslims, infuriated by a report of blasphemy, went on violent rampages that resulted in . . . dead Muslims and burned mosques....

What's really going on here is two stories. One involves Newsweek and the ups and downs of U.S. journalism. The other involves a swath of the Islamic world in which anger, fueled by years of gross political misrule, is a chronic feature of life--seeking to acquire a target. What produced these particular riots was the intersection of Islamic-world furies and that brand of U.S. self-absorption in which no subject is more fascinating to the American media than any possible misdeeds of the U.S. itself.

For better or worse, the U.S. media occupy an extraordinary position in the world. Richer in resources than most, and freer than almost any, American reporters enjoy an astounding ability to pursue stories of many kinds, in many places. By and large they produce a brand of journalism that despite its flaws is more reliable than most. But it is also focused chiefly on the U.S.

The tragedy in all this is that while the entire world is by now acquainted with tales--true and false--about Abu Ghraib and Guantanomo Bay, the information pretty much ends there....

But to whatever extent the press is engaged in the business of trying to report the truth, or contribute to the making of a better world, it would be a service not only to U.S. journalism, but to the wider world....

(Excerpt) Read more at opinionjournal.com ...


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: afghanistan; gitmo; iraq; koran; korandesecration; media; muslims; newsweek; pakistan; pentagon; quran; whitaker
Ms. Rosett is a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Her column appears here and in The Wall Street Journal Europe on alternate Wednesdays.
1 posted on 05/18/2005 1:28:17 PM PDT by OESY
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To: Senator Kunte Klinte
The Press Closes Ranks

Reading the transcript of yesterday's briefing by White House press secretary Scott McClellan, it's clear that the press is closing ranks behind Newsweek, despite the magazine's retraction of a story alleging Koran desecration at Guantanamo Bay. McClellan called on Newsweek to "do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done, particularly in the region," and a reporter (apparently ABC's Terry Moran) bristled:

Q: With respect, who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it's appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should print?

McClellan: I'm not telling them. I'm saying that we would encourage them to help--

Q: You're pressuring them.

McClellan: No, I'm saying that we would encourage them--

Q: It's not pressure?

McClellan: Look, this report caused serious damage to the image of the United States abroad. And Newsweek has said that they got it wrong. I think Newsweek recognizes the responsibility they have. We appreciate the step that they took by retracting the story. Now we would encourage them to move forward and do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done by this report. And that's all I'm saying. But, no, you're absolutely right, it's not my position to get into telling people what they can and cannot report.

This is a fascinating exchange. The questioner begins by accusing McClellan of exceeding his authority ("Who made you the editor of Newsweek?"), then switches to whining about an assault on press freedom ("You're pressuring them").

In truth, all McClellan has done is exercise his own constitutional rights by criticizing Newsweek. The questioner is failing to distinguish the press's freedom, which is in no way jeopardized by the Newsweek scandal and the concomitant criticism, from its power, which assuredly is.

The press's power--its ability to influence events--is inherent in the practice of journalism; were it not, dictators would have no need to restrict press freedom. But the press's power, especially in a free society, rests on its credibility--that is, on the reader's trust that the press is telling the truth. When the press falls short of that trust, as Newsweek has done here, it diminishes its own power.

"Some news media commentators said that the White House was blaming the press for problems of its [the White House's] own making," reports Elisabeth Bumiller in today's New York Times:

"This is hardly the first time that the administration has sought to portray the American media as inadequately patriotic," said Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. "They are addressing the mistake, and not the essence of the story. The essence of the story is that the United States has been rather indelicate, to put it mildly, in the way that they have treated prisoners of war [sic]."

It's the "fake but accurate" defense again: What's important is not the facts but the "essence of the story." What's happening here is that journalists are engaging in political damage control, trying to limit the diminution of their power that will result from Newsweek's error. It's entirely understandable--journalists are, after all, human beings--but thinking about it this way helps demystify the press, which turns out to be acting just like any other institution when faced with problems of its own making.

Moreover, as we argued yesterday, the "essence of the story" is at the root of the problem. It's rare for journalists to get the facts wrong as spectacularly as Newsweek did, or as CBS did with its fraudulent National Guard report last year. But the so-called mainstream media have a worldview, formed in the Vietnam and Watergate era, that distorts the overall picture their reporting presents. Consider this exchange from the McClellan briefing, apparently involving the Times' Bumiller:

Q: Are you asking them to write a story about how great the American military is; is that what you're saying here?

McClellan: Elisabeth, let me finish my sentence. Our military--

Q: You've already said what you're--I know what--how it ends.

Allow us to answer the question: Yes, in our opinion, the press should produce more stories--many more than it does--about how great the American military is. When it does so, it should adhere as rigorously to the facts as we expect it to do when it produces stories that make the military look bad.

But the cynicism about the military that underlies Bumiller's question is deeply embedded in the mainstream media. That is why the press was obsessed with Abu Ghraib, while it is left to an Australian blogger to track good news from Iraq and Afghanistan in a systematic way.

A free press is vital to a democratic society; the press is not, and should not be, a propaganda organ of the government. And "adversary" journalism has its place. An important reason that the military is as great as it is, and that the government is as honest as it is, is that the press is aggressive in holding them accountable.

What has changed of late is that the press, which is used to being accountable to no one but itself, has increasingly found itself taken to task--by journalists who dissent from the "mainstream" worldview, by bloggers and even by government officials. Kalbian fake-but-accurate spin is a wholly inadequate response, but it is a sign that the press's complacency is crumbling. If the criticism keeps up--and it will--the mainstream media will eventually feel compelled to respond in a serious way. American journalism will be better for it.

-- BEST OF THE WEB TODAY
2 posted on 05/18/2005 1:33:30 PM PDT by OESY
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To: OESY
The press should be about unbiased reporting of the facts and the American press should be on the side of America when it comes to "what's fit to print". The press should not be about "making the world a better place" (IE. a politically correct, anti-American, anti-Christian place).
3 posted on 05/18/2005 1:34:52 PM PDT by Jim 0216
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To: Jim 0216

I wonder what motivated America's news media to become so narcissistic and self-loathing. It has not always been thus.


4 posted on 05/18/2005 1:37:38 PM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: Jim 0216

Dittos..the press is showing whos side they are on in this war on terror.


5 posted on 05/18/2005 1:37:54 PM PDT by Ron in Acreage (It's the borders stupid!)
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To: OESY

More Whitewash, form the WSJ no less.


6 posted on 05/18/2005 1:39:16 PM PDT by CasearianDaoist
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To: OESY
...it would be a service not only to U.S. journalism, but to the wider world--including Muslims--to spend less effort dredging Guantanomo Bay, and more time wielding the huge resources at our disposal to report on the prisons of the Islamic world. It is in such places that the recent riots had their true origins.

I really enjoy reading Claudia Rosett's work...she is the engine behind the Oil for Food scandal unravelling...she deserves a Pulitzer and anything else she wants IMHO.

7 posted on 05/18/2005 1:40:11 PM PDT by foreshadowed at waco
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To: OESY

The MSM could find that closing ranks around Newsweek is akin to buying a ticket on the Titanic. I am more than happy to witness the MSM go down with a sinking ship.


8 posted on 05/18/2005 1:45:51 PM PDT by FlipWilson
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To: OESY
Newsweek will never admit fault. People died. A lawsuit would bankrupt the magazine.

TS

9 posted on 05/18/2005 1:50:03 PM PDT by Tanniker Smith (I didn't know she was a liberal when I married her.)
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To: OESY

bump


10 posted on 05/18/2005 2:06:41 PM PDT by Calpernia (Breederville.com)
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To: OESY
"Objective Journalism" was the Establishment in America long before Vietnam and Watergate produced the templates which that Establishment has been using since then. It was the same Establishment which, in the early days of the Eisenhower Administration, seized on the statement "What is good for the country is good for General Motors" (by Charles Wilson, Secretary of Defense nominee) as occasion to prove that "Objective Journalism" and not the chairman of General Motors was the Establishment in America. Journalism did that by inverting Wilson's statement to read, "What's good for General Motors is good for America" - a boldfaced lie about the intent of Wilson's statement.

Yes, the Objective Journalism establishment is insular.Newsweek can assume a pose of injured innocence after having admitted that a story which it published which injured the reputations of the entire US military and everyone in it. Let whoso marvels that reflect on the fact that throughout the Rodney King riot journalism was broadcasting exculpatory statements by the likes of Maxine Waters and was informing the public (potential looters included) in real time as to where the police were not able to maintain order.

The Objective Journalism establishment has only one concern, and that is to aggrandize its own importance. Its central idea is that NOTHING actually matters but PR.

Yesterday the President's Press Secretary was asked if the president was saying that Newsday ought to publish a story about how wonderful the US Military was. What he should have replied is that President Bush has repeatedly praised the honor, courage, and professionalism of the US Military, and the president would not shame to do so in any venue whatsoever. So it would always be the view of the president that a story which truthfully pointed out the virtues of the American military would be a good thing.


11 posted on 05/18/2005 2:15:04 PM PDT by conservatism_IS_compassion (The idea around which liberalism coheres is that NOTHING actually matters but PR.)
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To: OESY; Eaker; Squantos; Travis McGee; mhking; rdb3; Slings and Arrows; MeekOneGOP; Carry_Okie

the Old Media is for all practical purposes above the law.

aside from the relatively new ability of the private citizen to publicly bust them in a demonstrable lie (as we here did in Memogate), they cannot be policed from the outside. This new private ability is of as yet uncertain potency. For the time being, the Old Media continues able to escape serious financial and legal ruination as consequence of misdeeds of scale and import sufficient to land anyone else in jail or in the morgue.

unless that changes, or they are given compelling motive to honestly and effectively police themselves from the inside, they will continue to do as Newsweek and CBS have done.

It is not sloppiness: It is the ARROGANCE of the Untouchably Safe, playing power games without risk of consequences to themselves.


12 posted on 05/18/2005 2:31:06 PM PDT by King Prout (blast and char it among fetid buzzard guts!)
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To: Tanniker Smith

Oh sir but the planes to Indonesia are full of lawyers chasing a son or daughter or wife or husband who was killed as a result of the newsweak story.


13 posted on 05/18/2005 2:36:47 PM PDT by Joe Boucher (an enemy of islam)
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
"I wonder what motivated America's news media to become so narcissistic and self-loathing."

Self-love and self-hate at the same time...We all have some of that. However, it seems the problem with the left in general and the media in particular is that hippies (Savage's "Red-Diaper-Doper Babies") have infiltrated and taken over these institutions which now reflect the "If-it-feels-good-do-it" 60's mentality. Objectivity and rationality are gone, replaced by relativism, secular humanism and a hardened determination to make the America and the world politically correct. They seem to have a communistic commitment that anything is justified that furthers this cause - the ends justify the means. At the end of the day people like this will probably have a fair amount of self loathing.
14 posted on 05/18/2005 2:45:13 PM PDT by Jim 0216
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
I wonder what motivated America's news media to become so narcissistic and self-loathing. It has not always been thus.

The answer is in the sixties.

The people now running the MSM and setting its cultural standards found their identity by a.) supporting the civil rights movement, b.) emasculating the Viet Nam war effort and c.) bringing down a President.

In their mind, those achievements justify their arrogance and narcissism. Their self-loathing stems from their continued wallowing in the wrongs they believe America perpetrated.

Liberalism is a pathology.

15 posted on 05/18/2005 2:53:37 PM PDT by okie01 (The Mainstream Media: IGNORANCE ON PARADE)
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To: okie01

There is also a certain anti- (whatever) mindthink to some 60s people, especially the some of the more communicative ones, and those who stayed in the soft/non sciences. It's as though these folks were content to remain in an adult adolescence, thumbing their noses at all authority.

However, these very same people, especially the men, are rabid in the pursuit of power, much more so than their more traditional counterparts.


16 posted on 05/18/2005 3:01:13 PM PDT by combat_boots (Dug in and not budging an inch. NOT to be schiavoed, greered, or felosed as a patient)
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To: foreshadowed at waco
she deserves a Pulitzer and anything else she wants IMHO.

Unfortunately, one does not win Pulitzers by exposing corruption in the UN -- the church where liberal journalism worships.

17 posted on 05/18/2005 3:26:06 PM PDT by okie01 (The Mainstream Media: IGNORANCE ON PARADE)
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To: combat_boots
I agree. There is a distinct aroma of arrested adolescence about the children of the sixties.

However, these very same people, especially the men, are rabid in the pursuit of power, much more so than their more traditional counterparts.

I'm surprised you limit the gender -- given that the best example of the breed is probably named Hillary!

18 posted on 05/18/2005 3:30:07 PM PDT by okie01 (The Mainstream Media: IGNORANCE ON PARADE)
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To: OESY

>>Mitch Albom

google him up. he lifted a quote from jason blair. mitch is famous for "tuesdays with morrie", an oprah backed 15 minutes of wealth.

tell me how bad off you have to be to swipe twice removed fantasy?


19 posted on 05/18/2005 3:35:41 PM PDT by Glenn (pardon the e.e.cummings look. a busted arm makes typing seem like work.)
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To: okie01

"I'm surprised you limit the gender -- given that the best example of the breed is probably named Hillary!"

Sorry. Good catch. Then again, I always thought of her as part of the unborn beasts of H3ll.


20 posted on 05/18/2005 3:43:59 PM PDT by combat_boots (Dug in and not budging an inch. NOT to be schiavoed, greered, or felosed as a patient)
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To: Tanniker Smith

I am making a small, but psychotic effort to humiliate Newsweek, gemstone of the Washington Post.

I returned a renewal slip with some choice vitriol.

I am presently mailing back all past Newsweek issues with a request for a refund, on the basis that I cannot believe anything that is written on it's pages. I am cutting out the address and will claim that I purchased them individually at the grocery store!!!!!!!!!!!

Let's see if they refund the subscription or the newsstand price.
sp


21 posted on 05/18/2005 3:56:18 PM PDT by sodpoodle (The Ivory Billed Woodpecker discovered Arkansas - when HRC moved to NY)
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To: Eric in the Ozarks

Pretty simple. They are so full of it, that means, of themselves, that they actually have no choice and simply HAVE TO be narcissistic and self-absorbed.


22 posted on 05/18/2005 6:21:08 PM PDT by GSlob
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To: okie01

I dunno. I graduated high school in 67 and the university in 72. I never was attracted to collectivism.


23 posted on 05/18/2005 7:23:41 PM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: Eric in the Ozarks
I dunno. I graduated high school in 67 and the university in 72. I never was attracted to collectivism.

We were different -- you and I and most people on this board. We saw no need to exercise our anti-establishment wings or discover our identity in politics.

Probably, I suggest, because we liked and respected our parents...

24 posted on 05/18/2005 7:33:06 PM PDT by okie01 (The Mainstream Media: IGNORANCE ON PARADE)
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To: Ron in Acreage
I agree with your comment but I reply more about the date you joined Free Republic . . . 9-11-2001. Like me, this date seemed to jolt you into political "activeness." I'm an old bum and I should've gotten involved much, much earlier in the political process. I hope you're a "relative" youngster in this war against our liberal enemies. I've met many, many other conservative youngsters who have joined the fight because of the 9-11 horrors.

If my instinct is correct, and you are younger than I . . . say 40 or less . . . please, please keep up the fight. My generation was much too passive and we need help righting the ship.

25 posted on 05/19/2005 5:28:34 AM PDT by geedee (You're a Patriot when a half-masted Old Glory makes you grieve, and Old Hillary makes you heave.)
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To: geedee

I was actually a freeper before my join date. I had to re-register because of some glitch. I actually joined before 9/11. I am 41. I was not very interested in politics until it was too late and Clinton got elected. I started watching uncensored politics, known as CSPAN, the house sessions and 1 minute speeches in the morning and floor debates. It didn't take long to see which party or ideology reflected mine the closest.


26 posted on 05/19/2005 6:53:47 AM PDT by Ron in Acreage (It's the borders stupid!)
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