Fair and balanced?


There's an old saying in the world of political journalism: Never start a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. I don't know if that advice still applies in the Internet world, but for better or for worse, it's long past time to start a fight with the Raleigh News and Observer.

Why? Because the paper simply isn't doing its job properly. Along with almost every other property in the main stream media, the N&O has gotten lazy and sloppy in ways that cannot be ignored. In particular, the N&O has been entranced by the self-promotional magic of the John Locke Foundation. So instead of critical analysis and healthy skepticism, the N&O regurgitates JLF talking points and "reports" as though they actually say something worth knowing. And while that's an abomination on its face, the problem is even worse. The N&O swallows JLF content like a ten-year-old eating Sweet Tarts, while largely ignoring counter-balancing voices like the Common Sense Foundation and NC Policy Watch. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

When I first brought this to the attention of the newspaper's public editor, he had this to say:

A couple of thoughts. One, the John Locke crowd is constantly churning out stuff -- every day -- some of which finds its way into our paper. I don't know how much stuff Policy Watch puts out. Also, there are other "liberal" centers out there that we do give coverage to -- the Common Sense Foundation, the N.C. Justice Center, the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research, among them. Not sure it's apples and oranges to just compare John Locke and Policy Watch. It's a function of how effective a job each does of getting its message out, and that's in part a function of widely disparate funding.

I'm sorry, but that explanation stinks. Who cares how much money is behind the JLF propaganda machine? Any reporter who used that excuse in any reputable newsroom would be terminated with extreme prejudice.

Now that the N&O and the Charlotte Observer are joined at the hip, we can expect this problem to get worse before it gets better. So I hope you'll join me in becoming one of many squeaky wheels calling on the N&O to work to regain some of its dignity.

You can reach them here.

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Very Nice A.....

You know, A, I'm constantly churning out stuff too. Maybe I need to send every single piece I write to the N&O. Although, John Hood is so full of it he can crap it out a lot faster than I can write.

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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

A follow-up email

Maybe you should send another note to the N&O and ask the editor if he realizes that he just admitted that money controls access, the media, and Democracy. And that his reporters actually are just lazy hacks (or stenographers if you want to be polite) who reach for the first thing handed to them rather than actually working to find the truth of the matter.


I wrote something similar in response to our first exchange. Feel free to pile on!

Thanks for helping me think this through. That was my initial instinct, but it sounded so unbelievable that I wasn't sure I was reading it right.

The last 25 years

I think "journalists" have gotten themselves in quite a trap over the last generation. The "present both sides" and "straight down the middle" ethic that developed after WWII worked well when you had a governing coalition in power (the New Deal) that believed in government, policy, pragmatism, and most importantly empiricism. That model has given way to the politics of assertion (a la the Suskind article from 2004). Facts no longer mean anything. If you say something, then it is a fact if you say it loud enough and long enough. I believe this was first adpoted on a large scale by Reagen when he would start telling his made up stories about trees causing pollution and welfare queens driving cadillacs. Neither of which was remotely true, but he was allowed to get away with it in the media.

Of course, journalists have also gotten squeezed since the rise of the republican noise machine. Now they're always so worried about being called liberals and having a liberal bias. But of course journalists SHOULD have a liberal (emphasis on small l) bias because liberal principles are based on using empiricism to establish evidence for arguments in order to establish TRUTH. Which is ultimately what journalists are supposed to searching for. Not he said/she said quotes to bang out a story before a deadline, but what actually is the truth of the matter (this gets at the point of journalistic laziness too, which is also a major cause of this).

If journalists actually start to do this (search for the truth instead of two quotes), then Republicans KNOW that their whole machine could collapse because it would mean the return of the media as the means to an informed citizenry. And informed citizens do not take kindly to politicians subtley turning their country into a corporate plutochracy based on an alliance between unfettered greed and dogmatic fundamentalism.

So it's easy to see why Republicans fund the John Locke foundation and why they scream so loudly about liberal bias. They have to in order to maintain their power. And the journalists either can't, won't, or don't want to see what's going on in this country. I have a feeling their failed ethic of "Straight down the middle" is so entrenched that it makes it impossible for most of them to see the radical changes that have happened in this country. It also makes it hard to see when your corporate employer PAYS you not to see these things.

It's a tough road ahead. Let's hope we can turn things around.

journalist v. reporter

The mistake is to think that anyone in this day and age is a journalist, they are all reporters. They report back what is told to them. This isn't new, I'm sure it goes back to the days of the town crier, some of whom probably added their own take and some of whom simply read what was written.

The N&O, minus a few good stories, is full of reporters.

Jesus Swept ticked me off. Too short. I loved the characters and then POOF it was over.