Monday, February 12, 2007

New York Times Reveals "Reporter" Michael Gordon Actually Voice-Activated Tape Recorder

Go read. Then come back and read the next paragraphs.

Those of us in the Reality Based Community tend to have a lot of criticisms of newspapers. We see them as uncritically rote-reciting the words of politicians, whether said words are truth or lies. We see them as doing the job of tape recorders, not of reporters. And we flame them big time for it. The newspapermen, on the other hand, are unapologetic. Actual email from Michael Gordon defending his Iran article spreading the bullshit that Iran (majority Shiite) is arming the Iraqi insurgency (majority Sunni): "I spent some time talking to a range of officials on this issue and quoted the intel reports accurately."

So why do citizens see a problem and newspapermen do not? I think the problem here is a disconnect between what newspapers see their job as being, and what citizens want and need in order to do their job as citizens of a free nation. Newspapers, and the reporters thereof, see their job as being accurate transcriptionists of people in power. See Michael Gordon's "defense" of his reporting above. As far as he is concerned, he did exactly what his job description says he's supposed to do -- accurately transcribe the words of people in power. But citizens of a democracy want newspapers to go beyond simply transcribing. Citizens want newspapers to find out what the truth is and report the truth. Newspapers today don't see that as part of their job. Thus evil and venal men of power, using the newspapers as uncritical transcriptionists of their words, find it easy to manipulate a public that cannot figure out what's true and what's not because the truth is literally buried beneath a sea of lies accurately transcribed by newspapers.

So now, you ask, why do newspapers see their job as transcription? I'm not sure. I do know that indoctrinating reporters and editors into this mindset starts early, in "journalism" school, which could be more accurately described as "transcription schools". Future reporters are taught a style of "he said she said" transcription, and taught to never attempt to find out the truth because finding out the truth and reporting it is "analysis" rather than "reporting". Thus they give equal weight to lies and truth on their pages -- that's "fair and balanced", as far as they're concerned. But we as citizens of a democracy need more than equal helpings of lies and truth. We need to know who's telling the truth, so that we can properly execute our duties as citizens. Newspapers aren't giving us what we need, and thus newspapers bleed readership as we turn to other sources, such as the blogosphere. If we had newspapers interested in the truth, we could read newspapers. But we don't. We don't. And not only the newspapers are poorer as they bleed readership, but the nation is poorer for it.

-- Badtux the Media Penguin


  1. It's not the reporters that are to blame- it's the Editors and people running the newspaper. They send out the reporters and they declare what the spin will be. Some reporters will be happy to do whatever their editors tell them because that's who is signing the paycheck. However, there are just as many if not more reporters chaffing under the bit wanting to do Real Stories. These reporters face being fired or are giving so much other scut work they don't have time to investigate thoroughly like they would like to. Or at least, this is what I observed when I worked for a newspaper.

  2. But, listen, let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The President makes decisions. He's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration? You know, fiction!

    - Stephen Colbert


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