33 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: ‘“The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting…”, And My Epiphany About Investigative Reporting”
I don’t think they’d cared all that much for the victims either. What do the victims get out of this besides some sound bite time and possibly costing Moore a close election?
I first noticed the media’s tendency to release stories in artificial ways when the local paper decided to do an expose, so called, on a downtown redevelopment deal that was being participated in and spear headed by a number of the partners at the locally prominent firm I was working for at the time. The story was debuted on a Sunday morning, and lo and behold, there were new developments every day of that week through the next Sunday morning. What a surprise. There was a new development every day a new paper had to come out. What a coincidence! Ironically, the newspaper ownership was also involved in the project and built their new HQ building next door to the “controversial” assemblage. I was also impressed by how factually incorrect the nearly all the reporting was.
I have no idea what the actual truth is regarding Moore’s alleged behavior but I wonder- So, Jones wins – now what happens with the allegations of misconduct. If they were so important to have the story retold ad nauseum by the media will they just be forgotten now that the desired effect has been achieved.
We should demand that the accusers go forth and continue in the courts to validate or invalidate these claims. Currently, we have numerous allegations against Trump but to my knowledge no civil suits lodged against him. Why not? More importantly when will they file a civil or criminal complaint. You just can’t say events happened and walk away without ever proving your assertions. Courage requires taking risk when believe you have been wronged.
I cannot in good conscience automatically believe allegations of sexual impropriety that appear to be strategically timed for political reasons unless they stem from court filings. What could stop anyone from leveling a claim that never will be challenged through cross examination by a skilled lawyer.
What I think we can agree to is that given the social reaction today regarding sexual harassment, impropriety, or assault claimants should barred from claiming fear as the reason for waiting years to lodge a complaint.
Okay, folks – we all defer to Jack on ethics; given that I dance with the devil (the press) for a living, grant me a brief hearing here.
Why are any of you – including Jack – surprised? Media is, first and foremost, a BUSINESS. It doesn’t sell news – it provides news as a mechanism for generating advertising (in the case of NPR, underwriting and/or listener) support.
The United States is one of the only so-called free nations that embraces the concept of objective media. In fact, the whole concept started in this nation – with Joseph Pulitzer (recognize the name?). In other words, the concept of objective media is an American conceit.
Pulitzer’s drive towards so-called “objective” media certainly raised standards, but it wasn’t due to the noble idea that newspapers – pretty much the only game in town at his time – should be objective. Pulitzer was the visionary who recognized that the way news was being reported was scaring off the advertisers, and the advertisers were way more important than the folks who plunked down a penny or two to buy a copy at the news stand.
American media at the dawn of the 20th century wasn’t dissimilar to the way it is today – and much like it has ALWAYS been in nations in which the media isn’t state-controlled. It’s rambunctious. It’s partisan. It wears its beliefs on its sleeve – both with regard to what it covers and the way it covers it.
As an aside, did you know that three of the top-20 news websites in the US are actually British? They are, in order, the Daily Mail (downscale female-skewing libertarian), the BBC (benevolent government with a left-ish twinge) and The Guardian (left wing)..You can credit Drudge for at least part of their popularity, but that’s beside the point: Brit news media outlets understand to whom they’re selling and provides content accordingly.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. If one is sufficiently curious, one can peruse a variety of British media sources and find vastly different takes on the same story. Given that journalists are human, and humans have biases, I’d actually argue that this is more honest than the way we do it here. One can see numerous different takes on the same story, from different perspectives, and make up one’s own mind – if, and it IS an if, one is sufficiently curious.
Many people are not. The risk lies in the fact that people select their news sources based upon confirmation bias. But I would argue that this is actually healthier for free discourse. One can not lead a horse to water and demand that it drinks. But one CAN provide a variety of hydrating liquids and offer the horse a choice. From there, it’s up to the horse to determine whether or not to keel over in hypovolemic shock.
A big part of our current problem as a nation lies in the fact that so many Americans don’t question the validity of its press. Heck, many journos don’t get it. We will all be better off once we learn that NO news source can be trusted, and that even a blind pig finds an acorn once in a while. We must all be skeptical of what we read.
Might take a generation or two, but as an optimist by nature, I suspect we’ll get there.
Confirmation bias is a part of the problem, certainly. We all want to have our biases confirmed. There is a another problem with the news media that I think is an even deeper problem, and the reason I am adamantly skeptical of every news source.
They’re wrong all the time.
In ways big and small, either by omission or commission, intentionally misleading or simply incompetent, outright fraud to simple laziness, when you need information, the news media will get it wrong.
Here is a simple test: Have you ever been involved in anything that was reported in the media? Perhaps a product launch for a large company, or a lawsuit, a disaster, a piano recital, or anything really that you had pretty good first hand knowledge of. In the media, were the facts thoroughly and accurately presented? If the answer is no, what reason does one have to assume that they do so with anything else? That they just blew it about the story that you have knowledge of?
There is certainly slanted news, but I could live with that if the facts, data and logic of the story held up to scrutiny. If the headline said: “Recent study of 72 Princeton undergrads proves…” Instead of “Recent study proves…”, well, we could all draw our own conclusions about the value of reading further. I’m OK with a sports story that starts: “Vile Yankees’ filthy tricks result in big win”. Fine, the Yanks won, now get the score right.
The news media is in richly deserved bad shape, and certainly the politicization of itself hasn’t helped at all. The forcing facts to fit a narrative, ignoring those that don’t, the fortuitous timing of ‘breaking’ stories, the self-affirming moral superiority of the media players, all contribute to getting the stories wrong. Whatever the cause, the consistently incorrect will inevitably be progressively disregarded. As is happening now.
I long for the City Editors of old who would tell new reporters that they had to check, and double check, and verify sources: “If you write that your mother loves you, you better have another source that can verify it!”
This comment by Humble Talent, one of several COTD entries he has made lately, has to get up today before the ick that was the Alabama Senate Race subsides, and the comment feels moot—though it would not be.
But first, my epiphany about investigative reporting…
Humble’s comment made me realize something that was right in front of my eyes, and has been for a long time, and yet I never before connected the dots. This is especially galling because it involves distrust of the news media, and as you know, I think about this a lot.
What I only now realize, thanks to Humble Talent, is that investigative reporting is virtually always partisan or agenda-driven one way or the other. It isn’t the highest form of journalism, as we of the post-Watergate era have been taught to believe. It may be the most sinister.
Journalists can’t investigate everything. They have to choose what to investigate, and when, and those choices are inevitably determined by biases and political agendas. If choices are made, and they have to be—what do we investigate, about who? When do we know we have something worth printing? When do we run it? What will happen if we do?—the choices will reflect biases, unless coins are flipped and lots are drawn.
I never thought about whether the timing of the Roy Moore teen dates stories the Post ran were timed to come out when they did. But Humble makes me think: did the Post bother to look for dirt on Jones? I doubt it. I think an editor said, “This guy Moore is horrible. I bet there’s some scandal out there that can take him down, maybe a sex scandal. Let’s dig.” The Post sees that as a public service—Moore is objectively horrible—but the “investigative reporting” is essentially opposition research to benefit the Democratic candidate. Then the damning results of the investigation were published when they were deemed to be able to cause the most chaos in the campaign.
Why didn’t this occur to me when I was watching “Spotlight”? We see, in that film about the Boston Globe’s investigation into child abuse in the Boston Catholic Diocese, how the story was held up for months as a mater of tactics and politics. The story almost wasn’t run at all. Now, why did I just assume that it was random chance that…
I’m an idiot. Was I the only one this gullible? I knew that the press could have ended JFK’s Presidency almost at will, but was intimidated out of doing so and wasn’t that unhappy about it. I knew the press intentionally kept the Clinton rape allegation from the public, for fear it would affect the impeachment outcome. I knew that CBS and Dan Rather’s investigative reporting about President Bush’s National Guard conduct was devised and timed (and falsified) to give Kerry the election.
Investigative reporting regarding politics is always politically driven. It has to be.
I am completely dedicated to the Bill of Rights’ guarantee of a free and unencumbered press. A democracy without a free press is doomed. I am also convinced that a free press that abuses its power and influence is as great a threat to democracy as no free press at all.
Here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day on the post, “The Popeye,” From The Ethics Alarms Ethics Estoppel Files: I Can Say The Republican Party Is Rotting, Democrats, But You Can’t: