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January 30, 2005 - Being Truthful Is Irrelevant?

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As Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta, was saying (among other things) last week in Media Notes – see this below - The television reporter, like a game show host, makes sure each warring party has his or her time to vent. The veracity of what is said is irrelevant.


Journalists' objectivity needs balance of truth

Chris Hedges, The Posted on Sun, Jan. 23, 2005


… The failure of the coverage leading up to the invasion of Iraq was the failure to be wary of the powerful, the failure to listen to those who are not our own. Stories about an imminent Iraqi threat, which turned out to be false, were splattered across the pages of the nation's most prominent newspapers. There were voices, important voices, that questioned the assertions, but they were largely unheard because the media ignored them. This failure was also, and perhaps more important, a failure to honor the moral contract that journalists have with viewers and readers to be truthful, even when it means challenging conventional wisdom and ferreting out unpleasant facts.

Those who defend the prewar coverage argue that reporters are only as good as their sources. They say they reported accurately the falsehoods leaked to them by those who sought to wage war. By making such an argument they are also saying they are morally neutral, that they are little more than conduits for lies, half-truths and truths all rolled into one unintelligible message. They forget the contract.

There is a concerted attempt to destroy this contract. Balance and objectivity have become code words to propagate the insidious and cynical moral disengagement that is destroying American journalism. This moral disengagement gives equal time, and sometimes more than equal time, to those who spread falsehoods and distort information. It tacitly sanctions the dissemination of lies. It absolves us from making moral choice. It obscures and often shuts out the truth.

This sophistry has come to characterize the circus that goes by the name of journalism on cable news shows. Facts on television are largely interchangeable with opinions. The television reporter, like a game show host, makes sure each warring party has his or her time to vent. The veracity of what is said is irrelevant. But the disease of moral neutrality is no longer confined to the poseurs on television, who are, after all, entertainers posing as journalists. It is seeping into those organizations that are still attempting to report the news. Objectivity is not the same as moral disengagement. Balance does not mean giving everyone the same space. We are more than dutiful court stenographers. Journalists have a contract with viewers and readers. This contract was broken. We must make sure it is not broken again.


Bob Patterson –


We must make sure it is not broken again?


Absolutely!  But can we wait and discuss this after the war with Iran begins?  




Or do you want the evidence that they have WMD's to be in the form of a mushroom cloud?


We will have time for drawing room debates later.  Right now there is a crisis with Social Security and a War on Terrorism to deal with.


First things first.


It is a noble sentiment, though, I must admit.


Our Wall Street attorney –


"We will have time for drawing room debates later, right now there is a crisis with Social Security and a War on Terrorism to deal with."

Were you serious, I would respectfully disagree.  Now is exactly the time for such debate, before more of our young men and women are needlessly killed.  Remember, the war in Iraq was over something that didn't exist.  (Of course I am making the assumption that we are talking about the original WMD reason and not the other 20 or 30 or so other reasons that have been foisted upon us since then.)


Steph in Canada –


Actually, if Iran actually does have WMD's then we don't have to worry about GWB starting a war there too.  Way too risky to attack someone who's actually GOT the bomb.  Witness the difference in policy with Korea (pretty sure they've got at least a few... hey, let's spend years scheduling multilateral talks).

To me, that is the ultimate proof that the US administration knew there were no WMD's in Iraq... the fact that we attacked them at all.


Dick In Rochester –


Terrorists, Bob?  I am guessing the terrorists your refer to are the ones we have created by totally f***ing up Afghanistan and Iraq - where before only those in the region have hated us and now everyone does ('cept those on our payroll.)


Rick, the News Guy In Atlanta –


Except those on our payroll?  And, in the heart of hearts, probably them also.


The question is, who IS on the payroll?  The press?  Think Armstrong Williams and all the rest like him.



Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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