A particular fascination of mine is with the media’s inability or unwillingness to report events accurately. I admit I was slow on the uptake here. The myth of competent and fair journalism is a powerful one: I wanted to believe, all the evidence to the contrary.
Like most people (according to my informal survey of people I’ve felt like asking), I had noticed that whenever the media covered something of which I had personal or professional knowledge, they invariably reported something wrong — often the central facts of the story. But, I always figured, it’s the junior reporters who cover local news, or science and technology. They must get the major stories right. On the occasions when they got caught making stuff up (like 60 Minutes and Dateline NBC rigging cars to make them appear unsafe) I saw it as just an aberration.
It wasn’t until December 2000 that I really grasped the scope of the media’s incompetence and/or dishonesty. In my own defense, there didn’t use to be as many alternative information sources you could use to double-check the mainstream media. Still, my realization came, not by the Internet, as you might expect, but by an older technology: C-Span. It was during the month of legal wrangling in Florida that followed the Presidential election.
One of the many lawsuits was in (iirc) Seminole County. Democrats were suing to have all the county’s absentee ballots thrown out because many absentee ballot request formswere handled improperly. (This would have given the election to Gore.) The day that case went to trial, I was home with the flu, and I watched the proceedings on C-Span. For the first time, I had direct knowledge of the facts of the day’s top story. Later that evening, I watched the media report on what had happened: not a single story got the central facts right, and every one erred in the direction of making the lawsuit sound more reasonable than it was. Sitting alone in my living room, I apparently had better news-gathering resources than the entire mainstream media.
That was the day I realized that the media cannot be trusted, but it still took me a while to realize that (at least when it comes to politics) they don’t necessarily even try to get the story right. Now, I’m not someone who gets exercised about media bias. Journalists have always had their biases; the myth of the impartial journalist is a modern vanity. However, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to tell the truth.
In a typical example, the BBC has just admitted (“clarified,” that is) that a recent report critical of Israel was fabricated:
The BBC showed a bulldozer demolishing a house, while correspondent Nick Miles told viewers: “Hours after the attack, Israeli bulldozers destroyed his family home.” . . .
The house, however, was not demolished; the BBC was embarrassed when news reports from other broadcasters showed the east Jerusalem home intact and the family commemorating their son’s actions.
Last week, the BBC apologized live on its news program, admitting it had used footage of another house being demolished.
(Via Power Line.)
While we’re discussing the BBC, last week they reported on a speech in which President Bush claimed victory in Iraq. Except, he didn’t. (Via LGF.) Unfortunately, I didn’t start this blog quickly enough, and the article referenced has already gone down the memory hole. Will they apologize for this? I doubt they are sufficiently embarrassed. (UPDATE: Screen grabs are at the Monkey Tennis Centre. (Via Instapundit.))