When journalists start making news
By F. Paul Valone
The following column ran in The Charlotte Observer on
To MoveOn.org supporters, those who still consider Dan Rather’s downfall an anomaly, and others deluded into believing the national media lack an agenda, I present Marine Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey.
Endearing himself to his Waynesville,
Eager to fuel the fire, Arabic network al-Jazeera seized upon Massey’s fabrications, decrying “rampant” brutality and calling the
But shouldn’t we expect better from
Or the Associated Press, which celebrated Massey’s book by recounting claims that his platoon killed unarmed civilians? As an afterthought, it mentioned a Marine Corps investigation finding his allegations “unsubstantiated.”
Or perhaps Vanity Fair, where former “60 Minutes II” producer Michael Bronner, unperturbed by Massey’s dubious credibility, highlighted him among allegations of Marine recruiting abuses?
We expect journalists to get facts right. Yet only recently did St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Ron Harris catalog Massey’s self-contradictions, concluding: “News organizations world-wide published or broadcast Massey’s claims without corroboration and in most cases without investigation”, apparently not even interviewing five reporters embedded with his battalion. (Kudos to the Observer for running Harris’ expose).
Weeks before the 2004 election, CBS’s Dan Rather, citing forged documents, depicted President Bush as AWOL from the Air National Guard. This miscue, his defenders insist, was an honest mistake or (enter menacing soundtrack) the product of conspiracy by The Evil Karl Rove.
Yet months later, Newsweek, citing anonymous sources, ran the infamous
Now we have a multi-media fantasy, presented as fact, which brands us war criminals.
Not only have offending organizations failed to offer retractions, Vanity Fair pressed forward with a rationalization for the Rather scandal by another “60 Minutes II” producer, Mary Mapes. (Forgeries? Heavens no. The fiasco was just “another part of the Bush supporters’ aggressive pattern of sliming anyone…who raised questions about the president.”)
If your Prius bears faded Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers, this is not a conspiracy theory (for that, see Michael Moore). Said Bernard Goldberg, a former CBS correspondent for Rather: “…we don’t sit around in dark corners [planning] strategies on how we’re going to slant the news. It comes naturally to most reporters.”
Intentional or not, reporters publish forgeries, anonymously-sourced exaggerations and fabrications about Bush and
The latest factoid being pounded into public consciousness recounts dwindling approval ratings for Bush and the war. Ignoring the fickleness of polls, ask yourself, “Why?”
Could it be lack of progress? Two new Middle Eastern democracies suggest otherwise.
Alienation of Arabs? Although USA Today hid it beneath earth-shattering news on the
Fears of terrorism? Since 9/11, the number of al-Qaeda attacks here is zero. Like it or not, the battlefield is
American casualties? Although 2,100 lives is a bitter price, it’s lower than in previous wars and, judging by 2,337 murdered on 9/11, proportionate to the risk.
The answer lies in what people read, watch and hear. The