Sunday, January 11, 2009

Be embarrassed. Be very embarrassed

What might we find at the top of the homepage of the Foremost Newspaper of the Carolinas? (Aside from a lot of football and basketball, which is the firmest ground most of your big regional dailies can stand on anymore?) Why, it's an important news story! Things I might not know about the Bush record! Let's have a look, shall we?

First thing we'll see is a title page: "100 Things Americans May Not Know About The Bush Administration Record" (Oops. Contents must have settled during shipping.) Next thing we'll see is the presidential seal. Do you suppose that might tip you off, just a tad bit, that what follows might not be the sort of thing we expect from the workings of the news machine?

But onward. The first thing I "may not know" about the Bush record is that Bush "waged the global war on terror"! Gawd. What planet do you people think your readers live on? We just sort of missed the whole GWoT thing amid the basketball, football and banking news?

But there are, of course, bullet points: Bush "removed threatening regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, which freed 50 million people"! It's interesting that the unnamed propagandists put Iraq, which in no conceivable way was "threatening" US security, ahead of Afghanistan, which was allowing safe haven to a genuine security threat. In the longer term, we might want to ask the "50 million people" what exactly they've been freed from -- or perhaps more appropriately, what they've been freed into. Endemic violence and foreign military occupation don't generally produce happy, stable, peaceable democracies. Or does the Observer just assume its readers have the same sort of zero attention span its editors have when it comes to ongoing stories like Gaza?

You could go on and on, as the PDF does for 41 relentless, disingenuous, morally vacant pages. I tend to look first at the stunningly Orwellian lies about international issues, because that's my area of interest, but that doesn't mean stuff like
Appointed Judges Committed to Ruling by the Letter of the Law
Appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Samuel Alito, and more than one-third of all active Federal judges, who will not legislate from the bench.
... gets a free pass. Please: On what planet, under how many funny-colored suns, did this thing look like news? And how do you propose to assure any of your readers who still put some faith in the market-based model of journalism that you can be trusted to make competent judgments about things that public officials do and say?

Somebody -- more than one somebody -- should be deeply embarrassed by this. What's the point of doing journalism if you can't do it right?


Anonymous Amy said...

Well, it's this thing, (see second PDF down on the right), but I'm not sure why the paper has republished it on its own URL.

1:50 AM, January 11, 2009  
Anonymous boml said...

It is now (five minutes before 9 a.m.) labeled as "White House release | 101 things you might not know about the Bush legacy"

I don't know if that's how the link was labeled when you saw it, but using a bar (|) instead of a colon (:) might lead to some confusion that the reader is going to a document prepared by the White House.

The header on each opposing page (The Administration of President George W. Bush) is another clue that the document wasn't prepared by the paper.

Hosting it on their own site is confusing as to the authorship, however. And, yes, the typo in the headline linking to the document needs to be fixed.

And, now that I've finished typing this about 9 a.m. (central time), the link has been removed from the front page completely, as far as I can tell. The link (typo included) is in an archived version of the story.

10:02 AM, January 11, 2009  
Blogger fev said...

The link wasn't labeled at all when I saw it (the image at the top of the post is what it looked like around midnight EST). Even with a label, and even if it had linked to the White House site, I don't think posting unedited press releases on a newspage is a good idea.

A White House press release isn't a source document. It isn't like a transcript of a hearing, or a report by an investigative committee, or a data spreadsheet that lets you re-create the crosstabs for yourself. It isn't like adding a link to the original study from a reporter's "study says" story (which the Obs and other papers should make a habit of doing; it'd be a good way of cutting down on the misuse of science in the news). What we have here is a failure of contextualization.

I don't know if it's as embarrassing as the current top story under "print edition," which is -- and has been for the last two hours -- "Test only Head here." But it still ought to be embarrassing.

10:58 AM, January 11, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe I remember hearing about this on "Wait, Wait" (or however they punctuate it) yesterday. Now I know that that show is taped on Thursday evenings, which means that this thing has been making the rounds for at least three days now. How exactly does it get labeled "news"?

12:04 PM, January 11, 2009  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Hey! This means Kitzmiller v Dover was NOT legislating from the bench!

5:36 PM, January 11, 2009  
Anonymous rayb said...

Jon Stewart had the uberwtit Dana Perino on Thursday night and they talked about this. How W had battled the forces of terror in general, particularly in Iraq. Who started that? Stewart asked.

10:51 PM, January 11, 2009  

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