Journalism the way it should be?

As I hoped, Katrina delivered a wake-up call to America’s media, making them far more willing to challenge the Federal government and point out its lies in so many words, instead of sheepishly offering different sides of the story and letting readers figure things out. That’s not journalism. When a blatant and intentionally misleading lie has been told, there aren’t two sides to what happened. The only story is that a lie was told, and when the media skirt around such malfeasances, it only encourages more lying.

Today the WaPo did an amazing thing: It actually said a senior administration official lied to them in spreading the meme that Louisiana Gov. Blanco delayed declaring a state of emergency in New Orleans. And they take full blame, and they don’t dasnce around what happened.

The Washington Post, like many news organizations, says it is trying to crack down on the use of anonymous sources. But the paper allowed a “senior administration official” to spin the story of the slow response to Katrina — with a claim that turned out to be false.

On Sept. 4, the paper cited the “senior Bush official” as saying that as of the day before, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco “still had not declared a state of emergency.” As The Post noted in a correction, Blanco, a Democrat, had declared a state of emergency on Aug. 26.

Liberal bloggers have unloaded on The Post. Wrote Arianna Huffington: “Why were the Post reporters so willing to blindly accept the words of an administration official who obviously had a partisan agenda — and to grant the official anonymity?”

Post National Editor Michael Abramowitz calls the incident “a bad mistake” that happened right on deadline. “We all feel bad about that,” he says. “We should not have printed the information as background information, and it should have been checked. We fell down on the desk.”

Imagine how coverage of the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, the Medicare bill, the Plame scandal – imagine how much better off we’d be if the media had been this diligent then, and blasted high-ranking officials who lied to them. I’m not saying the media have morphed from attack poodles into dobermans, but with examples like this and coverage of Katrina, we’ve seen the beginning of a real shift. They have a long way to go, and with so many reporters savoring their rock-star status as television talking heads, tempted by big speaking fees and corporate graft, I realize change can only go so far. But it’s nice, for once, to report that things are getting better and to see the media emerging from the long night of the Bush media manipulation.

Link via TPM.

Update: I like the way Atrios defines his vision of serious journalism:

I mean that the collective news media has to display the kind of outrage and hard-hitting continuous coverage they normally reserve for blow jobs and missing white women and presidential criticism by the Dixie Chicks.

Atrios also points out a less positive aspect of the WaPo story, and he’s right.

The Discussion: 12 Comments

New Orleans and Baghdad
George Bush in New Orleans

September 12, 2005 @ 11:38 am | Comment

Richard, I think your “optimism” about the American media is somewhat naive and misplaced. I mean the reason the American media can afford to “question” and “challenge” the gov’t is because the issue at hand is not so sensitive and does not touch the foundation of the gov’t. On other more fundamental issues like War on Iraq, Supreme Court, etc, I think the media will again be a lot more “obedient”.

CCTV is also very “open” and “critical” on issues like sports, environment, and other trivialities…

September 12, 2005 @ 11:44 am | Comment

Math, you obviously know nothing of what’s going on in the American media. There has been a shift in recent months away from the post-911 practice of accepting verbatim anything the administration says to asking tougher questions and demanding answers. We saw it dramatically during the Rove-Plame controversy when the press assailed Scott McClellan and caught him in his own lies and contradictions. Same with Iraq – coverage has improved, though it can’t change overnight after four years of mediocrity. It’s too bad it took Cindy Sheehan to shake up the press corps, causing them to realize that it’s their job to to ask bush what’s really going on in Iraq and what we are doing there.

September 12, 2005 @ 11:55 am | Comment

Gordon, that photo on your site is truly nasty. But thanks for posting it!!

September 12, 2005 @ 11:57 am | Comment

What’s happening now to the Rove-Plame controversy, what’s happening to Cindy Sheehan, they both “blew over” didn’t they? What serious consequences did the gov’t pay? Did any big-shots get jailed? Did anyone important get fired? At the end of the day, some small potatoe gets to be the scapegoat, and then everything is over. And the media gladly accepts it.

September 12, 2005 @ 11:58 am | Comment

Yes, Richard. I’s very twisted.

September 12, 2005 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

Math, with sincere respect and admiration, you are a true idiot. You spew out whatever bullshit pops into your head, then when disproven hop onto the next thing. The Plame investigation concludes in October, and if you have been following it closely (as I’m so sure you have been) you of course know Judy Miller is most likely about to sing. But until then there is nothing new to report; that happens when the prosecutor closes the grand jury. Cindy Sheehan is alive and well. But in case you didn’t notice, moron, America has just been hit with the greatest disaster in the entire history of the country. Virtually every story – Iran’s nukes, the coming trial of Saddam, Plame, Sheehan, tax cuts, Social Security, the China threat — every one has moved from the front pages, many disappearing altogether while the media focuses on Katrina, just as it did with 911. Have you noticed that the China Threat story is gone along with the Cindy Sheehan stories as the media does its job and focuses on a national emergency? Does this, according to your tortured logic, mean the press is no longer interested in portraying China as a threat?

Keep up the comments Math. They are precious. Again, I ask readers not to engage with our new troll, even though I am guilty of doing so at the moment. It’s pretty obvious what he’s doing here. (Anyone want to place bets on how long it takes for him to find one slim point and take the conversation in a new direction now that he’s made a fool of himself?)

September 12, 2005 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

How much are you willing to bet that nothing serious will come out of the Plame affair, as well as the Cindy Sheehan affair.

When some people say that China is not as democratic as the US, their most powerful weapon is that “China’s press/media is not as open as that of USA and Japan”. They say “Americans can make movies that curse at the President, Americans can go on the streets and protests, etc etc.” I do not dispute what they say. In fact, I want to applause and agree with those claims.

But this post wants say that: Freedom of press is not an indicator whether a country is democratic. This post believes that the key to detect democracyness is whether the government cares about the press.

When I was young, I used to spend time in my old hometown in China’s villages. During Chinese New Year, the village people kill a few of their pigs or chickens or lambs to make the New Year’s meal better. I used to watch my grandfather’s family take out a pig from their pigsty, and tie it all up, and pierce a pair of scissors into the pig’s belly. The pig would scream desparately before being gutted, and that scream was especially exciting to listen to. Thinking back today, I think that scream is just the pig’s way to “protest”, and in today’s words, that scream is that pig’s way to express a difference of opinion. Your opinion is that “I want to kill you for dinner, while the pig is saying “I don’t want to be killed please.” Of course, when the pig was screaming, the butcher did not try to silence it, the butcher gave the pig total freedom of speech, let it scream all it wants. But will that scream stop the pig from being gutted and placed on our dinner table? Of course not, everytime, that pair of scissors would pierce the pig’s belly no matter how loudly it screams. So can you claim that the butcher is very democratic toward the pig by allowing it to scream? Of course not. The American government indeed allows a lot of such screams and loud voices, but they know its ok to let those people scream a bit, the gov’t won’t be affected by it anyway. Just like when I heard those pigs scream, I was never worried that the pig won’t be gutted.

But China’s situation is different. China is currently on the level of “the cries of a baby”. What does it mean? Well, when a baby cries to protest, the mother accepts the baby’s cries, and will try to please the baby and makes sure it stops crying. The Chinese government is often very easily embarrassed. So whenever there’s any crying, it will try to find ways to solve it. For example, when the SARS outbreak came, the public was crying, and immediately the Minister of Health was fired. What does that indicate? That indicates that China cares very much about the cries. When China had a large forest fire in 1987, the minister of forestry was fired immediately. America has 100 forest fires every year, when do you see anyone being punished or fired for it? When people in the world everywhere went to the streets to protest the Iraq War, the Bush administration went ahead anyway, but says very nicely “We respect their freedom to protest, unlike Saddam Hussein”. When the Iraq Prisoner abuse scandal came out, did we see any serious punishment to anyone? Rumsfeld is still very comfortable in his job and so are all his close associates. An American director made the movie “Fahrenheit 911”, and you say “Look how democratic we are!”. Well, I cannot help but laugh. Did it change any government’s policies, did it do anything other than satisfy some Bush haters and movie goers?

The American government does not care too much about cries, and that’s precisely why it is so “tolerant” about it. If I were asked to babysit someone’s kid, I would put on some loud music on my earphones and let the baby cry all it wants, even if the baby may be crying from some pain in the stomach. Can you praise me and say I’m very democratic because I give the baby the freedom to cry and protest?

That’s why I say that America is on the level of “pig’s scream”. China is on the level of “cries of a baby”. The pig’s scream is indeed much louder than the babies’ cries, but those screams will not help the pig’s fate of being gutted for dinner. To put it more concretely, the pig’s scream is not being fed back. In engineering, a dynamic system (whether a mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, or financial system)’s power and performance depends not on how much information it can handle, but on the effectiveness of its “information feedback” system: whether it can receive feedback properly and whether it properly adjusts and reacts to those feedbacks. If a system cannot effective react to the feedbacks, then the feedbacks are useless.

September 12, 2005 @ 12:16 pm | Comment

You just changed the subject again. Like clockwork, a true troll. No sense responding. I’ll just say that if you are unaware of all that Cindy Sheehan accomplished in just a couple of weeks (and whether they are good or bad accomplishments is not the issue) then you’re even dumber than one might think. She created the first major debate on what we’re fightring for. Of course people’s attention spans are short, no news story reverberates for long in a system where new stories are cranked out every nano-second. But in terms of making a difference, few stories were as potent as Sheehan’s.

Oops, I engaged with the troll again. Sorry. Do I ban him? I won’t delete because he didn’t break the rules and hasn’t harmed anyone. But just as with Madge, he does seem intent on dominating the comments and causing us all a lot of needless work, since once we prove his BS he simply moves to the next thing to keep everyone scrambling.

September 12, 2005 @ 12:24 pm | Comment

How did I change the subject, everything I wrote is exactly on subject, the American media. Now you say “She created the first major debate on what we’re fightring for…”, ok great. What’s next? Debate is over. Let’s move on. Well, then, what is point? If you read my previous post, I said “A system is useless if there’s no information feed-back.”. Also, I said “the pig can scream as loud as it wants, but it will still be gutted at the end”.

So the question is, is the ultimate goal to generate “debate”? Or to correct some incorrect behavior/policy. If you have the debate, but it does not lead to any correction/improvement, then what is the point of that debate? That is the same point on democracy. If you have democracy, but it does not lead to better lives, then what is the point of the democracy?

Now tell me why is what I wrote “changing the subject”?

September 12, 2005 @ 12:28 pm | Comment

We were talking about the changes in US jouranlistic practices. Now you’ve pushed the conversation over into whole new territory about whether CIndy Sheehan’s story meant anything. And you’ve ruined a thread that I started to discuss changing journalistic practices. A passing reference to Cindy Sheehan is enough for you to seize on it and run in a whole new direction. This has now been pointed out many times to you in earlier threads. I won’t stand for much more, because it drives away commenters who can make a meaningful contribution. Consider yourself warned. Finally, I notice you’ve posted under three different aliases, although lately only as Math. The sure mark of a troll.

September 12, 2005 @ 12:42 pm | Comment

Katrina could be the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. But it was not a surprise. Experts have been warning for years of the potential catastrophic devastation that a category 4 or 5 hurricane could have on the Gulf Coast. And in Louisiana, local officials have fought for federal funding to implement hurricane defense plans that could have avoided the widespread flooding of New Orleans. But under the Bush Administration, funding for those projects has been continuously slashed, leaving the Gulf Coast unprepared for such a disaster.. I am doing now research for my dissertation on impact of Hurricane Katrina for one of my customers .For sure will use some of that information as a guldens.

June 2, 2006 @ 12:14 pm | Comment

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