Monday, February 28, 2005

News Media, Good and Bad

The last two mornings provided contrasting examples of how the news media performs. NPR's Morning Edition deserves praise, while Meet the Press was another disappointment.

Yesterday's Meet the Press had Tim Russert, joined by Thomas Friedman and William Safire, continue their usual support for Bush's Iraq policy. We would hope that the news media would work to expose wrong doing in Washington, especially in an era where traditional checks and balances have broken down, rather than devising novel theories to justify Bush's acts. The impression they tried to convey was that the elections in Iraq are evidence that Bush was right. They took the democratic elections in Iraq as justification for the war, and gave Bush credit for every move towards Democracy in the middle east and the rest of the world. They even credited Bush for the change in government in the Ukraine.

Maureen Dowd was the only voice of reason on the roundtable, reminding the rest of how Bush lied us into war. There were many other points which should have been discussed, but the pro-war commentators dominated the discussion. There was no mention of how there are many forces pushing towards Democracy in the world, independent of Bush's actions. While having elections is in itself a good thing, it is far too early to tell if these elections will lead to a government which is capable of governing, and which will govern in a democratic fashion. There was no mention of how Bush's actions is leading to victories for anti-democratic forces, helping al Qaeda recruiting better than any other recent events. They did have some condemnation for Bush's weak response to Putin's anti-democartic actions without sufficient review of the anti-democratic actions of the Bush administration.

While Meet the Press tried to give the false impression that Bush's policies have been shown to be correct, NPR's Morning Edition gave support to more critical thinking about what we hear on the news. Morning Edition had a story today about the words used by the news media, primarily on describing Bush's Social Security proposals as reform. As reform suggests changes which are both necessary and for the better, NPR has decided to use more neutral terms instead.

Other examples were also given, such as whether the "war on terrorism" should include Iraq, and on how there was little support for repealing the inheritance tax until Frank Luntz came up with the idea of calling it the "death tax." Morning Edition, unlike Meet the Press, leaves us to consider the possibility that there are views beyond what we hear from the Republican noise machine.

While Morning Edition concentrated on use of words which was often unintentional by the reporters, on Fox News we see examples of intentional use of GOP-preferred terminology. This includes Fox's description of suicide bombers as homicide bombers--as if there are people running around with bombs without the intention to kill. Not only do Fox's own reporters use this term, but Media Matters has noted that their web site has changed text from wire service reports to use the same language. In one case they even altered a quote from Hillary Clinton to use their terminology.


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