Sunday, October 03, 2004

506 It's been a bad summer for the media

John Leo writes, "In truth, the news business had a disastrous summer. In July, a Senate intelligence committee and an official British investigation both concluded that President Bush had been on firm ground when he spoke the famous 16 words in his 2003 State of the Union message (that the British had learned Saddam Hussein had sought to acquire uranium in Africa). When the 16 words appeared to be untrue, the press endlessly trumpeted them, often on the front page, but when Bush drew heavy support from the two investigations, you could hardly find the news with a magnifying glass. In the New York Times, the British report was carried way inside the paper and read like a muddled translation from classical Urdu. This seems to happen a lot when the Times is forced to report news it doesn't like. On July 25, the Washington Post press critic, Howard Kurtz, reported that his newspaper had carried 96 references to the issue when Bush appeared to be wrong and only two after the revelation that he looked to be right. The totals for the three major networks and three elite newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, were 302 before and nine after. According to Kurtz, CBS never did get around to mentioning that the investigations had supported the president.

Media handling of the charges by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was even more peculiar. Most major news media stayed silent for nine or 10 days as the story of the charges spread over radio and the Internet. A few bloggers argued that this was an attempt by big-time media outlets to rule the Swifties' charges out of bounds. It seemed that way to me, too. When big media finally did rouse themselves and address the issue, they tended to focus tightly on Democratic talking points, such as who provided the funding and were the Swifties illegal surrogates for the Bush campaign. In many news outlets, the adjective "unsubstantiated" seemed welded to the noun "charges." "

U.S. John Leo, “Self-Inflicted Wounds”

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