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A must read:
Why they hate us
This is a belated Fourth of July column (superseded by the state shutdown). The headline isn't a prelude to a column justifying why the Islamists hate Westerners so much that they're pouring into Iraq to kill our soldiers (along with innocent fellow Arabs, including Egyptian diplomats). Or defending the sleeper cells planted to blow up Madrid, London and who knows where next. Rather, it's about why most Americans, particularly soldiers, hate the media.
I decided to become a journalist when I was a soldier. I was in the U.S. Navy in the early and mid-1980s ? "the glory years," as I like to say, a reference to President Ronald Reagan. As part of my duties, I went to some of the world's hot spots.
While sailing in the South China Sea, my ship picked up some refugee boat people on a rickety raft that I wouldn't take out on Como Lake, much less try to float across the Pacific Ocean. One of the survivors, shortly after coming up the accommodation ladder dripping wet, grabbed me (the nearest sailor), hugged me as tightly as his strength would allow, and could only murmur "thank you" through sobs of joy.
I'd then come back to the U.S. and read accounts of places I'd just been ? in papers like the New York Times and Washington Post ?that bore no resemblance to what I'd seen. There was one exception: the Wall Street Journal editorial page. I began reading a column called "Thinking Things Over" by Vermont Connecticut Royster, one of the legends of that august page. He would later become a mentor ? a God, really ? and I eventually worked there.
I'm reminded of why I became a journalist by the horribly slanted reporting coming out of Iraq. Not much has changed since the mid-1980s. Substitute "insurgent" for "Sandinista," "Iraq" for "Soviet Union," "Bush" for "Reagan" and "war on terror" for "Cold War," and the stories need little editing. The U.S. is "bad," our enemies "understandable" if not downright "good."
I know the reporting's bad because I know people in Iraq. A Marine colonel buddy just finished a stint overseeing the power grid. When's the last time you read a story about the progress being made on the power grid? Or the new desalination plant that just came on-line, or the school that just opened, or the Iraqi policeman who died doing something heroic? No, to judge by the dispatches, all the Iraqis do is stand outside markets and government buildings waiting to be blown up.
I also get unfiltered news from Iraq through an e-mail network of military friends who aren't so blinded by their own politics that they can't see the real good we're doing there. More important, they can see beyond their own navel and see the real good we're doing to promote peace and prosperity in the world. What makes this all the more ironic is the fact that the people who are fighting and dying want to stay and the people who are merely observers want to cut and run.
I feel for these soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan because I'm sure they're coming home and noticing the same disconnect that I did when I served. Moreover, stories about their families and others who are here and trying to make a difference largely go unreported.
Ever heard of Soldiers' Angels (http://soldiersangels.homestead.com/index.html) or Operation Minnesota Nice (www.operationminnesotanice.com)?
There have been just two mentions of Operation Minnesota Nice by the Twin Cities metro dailies, one a brief in the Pioneer Press and the other a front-page story in the paper across the river. Operation Minnesota Nice collects care packages ? of baby wipes, lip balm, baby powder and other items ? for soldiers serving overseas. Soldiers' Angels does the same thing, mating civilians who maybe don't have a loved one overseas with soldiers who don't have loved ones.
Where's the daily coverage of these groups and others like them?
Moreover, where are the stories on nearly every VFW and American Legion hall that's actively supporting the troops? What about their stories?
Instead, we get Monday's front-page story about a "secret" memo about "emerging U.S. plans" to withdraw troops next year. Why isn't the focus of the story the fact that 14 of 18 Iraqi provinces are stable and the four that aren't are primarily home to the genocidal gang of thugs who terrorized that country for 30 years?
And reporters wonder why they're despised.
Yost is associate editor of the Pioneer Press editorial page. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the Pioneer Press, 345 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55101.
As opinion polls and surveys tell us, public faith in the news media is low, and falling. Acknowledging the problem and asking why seems like a fine starting point for a serious discussion on the topic. But the above piece actually singles out a specific group, as the author clearly points out: it's about why most Americans, particularly soldiers, hate the media.
From my experience, that soldiers "hate" the media is true - though dislike or mistrust might be better words. If you were to poll American troops on the question you'd probably get about an 80% "yes" response to "do you hate the media?" Dislike or mistrust would likely raise the number to the upper 90s. But that's a semantic issue - the point is there's a problem. That a journalist who's also a military veteran sees it and writes about it is indeed a good first step.
Steve Lovelady, managing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review Daily, takes the discussion to another level:
Amazing. Mark Yost, an [editorial page] editor at Knight Ridder, the ONE news outlet which has consistently exposed the lies at the heart of the Iraq invasion and the grim reality of the current occupation, turns on his colleagues.That's his response in it's entirety - a point to remember as you read on.
I can't wait to see how the KR Washington bureau and the KR Iraq contingent reponds to this one!
There he is, guys. Go get him. You owe your readers no less.
What is amazing about this is that Lovelady is the managing editor of the friggin' Columbia Journalism Review Daily. You'd think that he would welcome intelligent, reasoned, two-sided discussion about media's coverage of this controverial story. Instead, he acts like the fat kid on the playground egging on the bullies in a fight.But Jarvis also wants a real discussion, and in fact invites one:
So how about a debate, sirs? I suggest an email debate. I'll be happy to post your responses on Buzzmachine.That would be a worthy debate, but note that even Jarvis doesn't mention the actual purpose of Yost's piece, which is about "...why most Americans, particularly soldiers, hate the media. That must be accepted truth. So then, are there valid reasons why? Good question - but we'll address it later.
First question, if you are willing:
Is American media coverage of the Iraq war balanced? Or do American media harbor an agenda in its coverage -- and if so, what agenda? Do American news media succeed -- or even try -- to present the positive and the negative news coming out of Iraq? Is there an obligation to be balanced? Or do you believe that balance would present an inaccurate picture of the news there?
Jeff Jarvis' proposal unfortunately brings a negative response from Lovelady, part of which follows:
I'll have to decline, on several counts...Let's review that "entire letter" again:
...if you think my "snipe" at Romenesko did not address the issues Mark raised -- when in fact I spent my entire letter pointing out that the very specific and detailed Iraq coverage of his OWN newspaper chain puts the lie to his careless accusations -- then you most assuredly would find my stance in any further debate "well, unsatisfying."
Amazing. Mark Yost, an [editorial page] editor at Knight Ridder, the ONE news outlet which has consistently exposed the lies at the heart of the Iraq invasion and the grim reality of the current occupation, turns on his colleagues.That's just the beginning - you can witness the complete melt down here. Come back when you're done.
I can't wait to see how the KR Washington bureau and the KR Iraq contingent reponds to this one!
There he is, guys. Go get him. You owe your readers no less.
"My guess is that by Monday Mr. Yost will be too busy standing in line outside the St. Paul unemployment office to engage in leisurely Internet debates. Which, frankly, is as it should be. He's a right-wing shill who belittled and betrayed the hundreds of reporters who go into harm's way every day to tell us what the hell is really going on.I might be mis-reading that, but it seems to me he's calling for Yost to be fired for what he wrote. An interesting position for a "journalist" to take. He also invites us to "Take a fresh look at Romenesko. This poor bastard has become the pinata of the day."
Fortunately, - and this is a crucial point - the responses at Romanesko are a bit more fair and balanced then that claim might imply. Though no doubt Lovelady would call them "right-wing shills", give credit to the journalists who offered these insights:
From MARTIN STEIN, A&E editor, Las Vegas Weekly: Dipping into Romenesko?s letters, it seems there?s quite a kerfuffle going on about reporting in Iraq. There is one person reporting on the good news going on there, and in Afghanistan and other parts of the world: Arthur Chrenkoff. I don?t know if he?s a reporter per se. Perhaps he?s just some retired gent who has the time to do things like research and read ? that sort of free time being a scarce commodity among many media professionals.These comments, along with Yost's original column, prove that the problem isn't with media as a whole - it's just certain individuals who bring the profession low.
However clever and true "The Daily Show?s" comment about not reporting on cars that don?t explode may be, it?s equally true (but far less snide) that the media always makes time to report on brites and feel-good stories. Except, it seems, in the case of wars that some find messy and distasteful.
From GARY BERKLEY, former Belleville News-Democrat publisher: As a former KR publisher I can say Mark Yost knows what he's talking about. Sadly, he is probably toast. I used to marvel at the KR's Washington Bureau psyche of "Let's ruin 'W' and anything he stands for" while proudly proclaiming no bias whatsoever. They pat themselves on the back every time they can stir the negativity pot against Bush, Iraq, tax cuts, Christianity, diversity, etc.
Unfortunately for Mark, the worst sin you can commit against these biased liberals is to call them biased liberals. It infuriates them to no end.
Unfortunate -- but true.
Meanwhile, Lovelady, having relied solely on ad hominem attacks in response to Yost, also accuses others of doing the same to him at Romanesko. This prompts the following response:
From MIKE HENKINS: Steve Lovelady writes:
In their ad hominem attacks on me, both Logan Anderson and Mike Henkins deftly avoid addressing the issue at hand:
Is Mark Yost, a Knight Ridder editorial writer in St Paul, correct in his assessment of the situation in Iraq, and his claim that it is being distorted by reporters on the ground?
This question would be easily solved and you and your colleagues are just the people who can solve it.
Ask a soldier and report all that they say. It's that simple, and it is something that it seems the media rarely does.
Many of these soldiers have personal blogs. Many of them are on leave or have rotated back. I spoken to a few directly and have read many of thier personal blogs and I have yet to hear one speak in favor of the reporting out of Iraq. None of them will say it's all went according to plan. No war ever has. None of them will say its a paradise. No country at war ever is. But to a man I have heard them say what they read in the papers and what they see on TV is not a factual representation of what they experienced in Iraq.
But hey, they do not have degrees in journalism, such as myself, so what do they or I know?
Instead of your own ad hominem attack on Mr. Yost, why did you not ask yourself the very same question you inquired of Mr. Anderson and myself?
Bias? What bias?
Lovelady's response is brief, and welcome:
STEVE LOVELADY RESPONDS: Mike, I hate to tell you, but 99% of the news coming out of Iraq already comes from someone "asking a soldier." Who else are they going to ask? Insurgents? I don't think so.
Terrified and often hostile Iraqi civilians? Occasionally, but not very damned often.
If you want to cover it, you get your information from soldiers and their commanders.
That's my que. Since I'm a military guy, I know that an attack deserves a response, measured and appropriate in force to that attack:
re: why most Americans, particularly soldiers, hate the media
Why? Because of you.
As for that bias business, welcome to Mudville. Start here.
Oh, and be sure and visit my good friends at Soldiers?Angels.
I know this column was about Iraq, but I've found it to be the same with Afghanistan.
I quit trusting the media a long time ago. Since my husbands deployment to Afghanistan and his recent return home..it's moved well beyond the trust issue.
He's furious with the coverage as am I.
Since many in the media refuse to give us the whole story on Afghanistan and Iraq, why would I believe they give us the whole story on anything at all?
I don't want "balance" I want the whole truth.Posted by Tink at July 15, 2005 08:02 PM
You're right about Afghanistan. But since the media can't oppose the fact that we're there without ending forever all doubt of bias, the story line there is that we don't have enough troops because they were moved to Iraq.
So we hear from the media (if they report Afghanistan at all) grudging acceptance that the Afghan "insurgents" are ex-Taliban thugs, while the Iraqi "insurgents" are noble heroes defending their homes. They are in reality all the same. If we weren't in Iraq we'd be confronted with the same total numbers of "insurgents" in Afghanistan alone as we now face in both countries - the jihaddis would have migrated there instead.
Maybe we'd even be up against more, since Saddam would also be funding, equiping, and otherwise aiding their cause.Posted by Greyhawk at July 15, 2005 09:10 PM
I've got friends (probably ex-friends now) who work in the media (several newspapers and 2 TV stations) and I can remember thinking (about 20 years ago) that I should have gone to work in that area, but no more. Since Iraq, and the Internet, and how the news media represents the military, and now with our ability to easily communicate with family, friends, and even making new friends through organizations like anysoldier.com, well, it's become crystal clear that there's no such thing as media integrity any more.
Mark Yost speaks the truth - looks like his associates and colleagues still aren't ready to hear it.
Anyway, in answer to your questions:
1) Media coverage balanced?. If the intent is for 0 degree of bias, NO WAY! Coverage is almost non-reality based.
2) News Media Agenda at play here? Well, obviously. I'm not sure it's even anti-Bush as much as it's got to be pro-contraversy. That old saying of "If it bleeds, it leads" really does apply.
3) "Balanced" news. Well, that approach only works is you take an unbiased viewpoint from the start, and based upon the intellectual talent level that currently seems to exist in the news media, an unbiased viewpoint is an undesirable commodity.
Just as a point, 5 years ago I subscribed to 4 daily newspapers - today, NONE. I've got the Internet. Watched TV news nightly - these days, maybe 1-2 days a week, until I get sick of the pap & turn it off. And I know I'm not that unusual.
Lastly, if Steve Lovelady's approach is typical, I think his journalism students ought to be learning to work at fast food joints so they'll have a career to look forward to.Posted by Art at July 15, 2005 09:20 PM
Thanks for bringing this incredible "debate" to light. By training, I should be torn between allegiances - I'm a journalist by education, and soldier by profession (happily, working in the Army's equivalent of journalism - public affairs).
But it's been clear for a long time that to side with mainstream, "established" journalism is to take a side on the actual issue of the war - that it's wrong, immoral, and inconscionable. Take your pick. "War in Iraq = Bad" is basically the formula.
Lovelady's defense of war coverage - "If you want to cover it, you get your information from soldiers and their commanders. Period" is indefensible. When was the last time you saw an article on the war that included interviews with soldiers on the ground? When have you ever heard the perceptions of the "grunts" or company commanders who are actually involved in anti-insurgent operations or in infrastructure rebuilding or security?
I always thought, in putting together training stories for The Indianhead in Korea, that a few quotes from tank drivers or infantry squad members, interspersed with battalion or brigade leadership's vision for the training, added a lot of grounding and perspective to a story. But I haven't seen any ground-level quotes for a long time, at least not in the AP or NYT.
But I suppose it might be a little frightening, actually going beyond the confines of a hotel room or briefing tent to get something more than casualty numbers from the latest car bomb.
I can't help but think that journalism - at least its established version - is in its last hours, and the debate Mr. Lovelady has hosted sounds to me like a death-rattle.
Thank God for blogs.Posted by brogonzo at July 15, 2005 09:21 PM
Please cite or quote some MSM stories that portray Iraqi insurgents as "noble heroes."
And what is the basis of your assertion that "[i]f we weren't in Iraq we'd be confronted with the same total numbers of "insurgents" in Afghanistan alone as we now face in both countries."
An AP wire story entitled "Friends: Iraq war spurred bombers" and carried on Fox News today suggests otherwise.
Here, as they say, is the nut graf:
"The U.S.-led war was what likely drove him to blow himself on a subway train last week, said his friends."
Is Fox News biased, or is it just typically MSM?
If you need evidence of bias all you have to do is look at what is and isnt news worthy. I've lost count of the number of times i've seen that one of the Iraqi's greatest problems is a lack of electricity. Almost always with the implication that it's somehow our troops fault. They make little or no mention of the insurgents repeted attacks on these basic services and how they are the ones at fault for this.Posted by Tim at July 15, 2005 09:57 PM
Noble heroes vice Taliban thugs - illustrating a difference in tone of reporting. No, you won't hear or read either term in a news report.
Fox News: I don't watch it. I live in Europe. I do listen to NPR via AFN and must say they've been doing an awesome job of balanced reporting from Iraq lately. I mean that.
Blame: I blame the terrorists in London for the bombings there. I blame the terrorists in Baghdad for killing dozens of children this week.
MSM: Read the above story carefully - I don't blame the institution for what certain members do. To paint with that broad brush would be to hold Yost accountable for what Lovelady writes.
Numbers of insurgents Iraq/Afghanistan is something for discussion. I started another post on it.Posted by Greyhawk at July 15, 2005 11:04 PM
Thanks for the reply. I wish I knew how to use html tags, so I could link you to this story responding to Yost's accusations:
Following up on that critique, my concern with Yost is that he was in a position to change things from the inside, but nowhere does he say that he tried to do so. Instead, he shakes off his own responsibilites and complains about the press as if he was not a member of it.
In that regard, how is he any different than soldiers who witness abuse and, rather than notify the chain of command, blab about it to the press after the fact?
Posted by whats4lunch at July 15, 2005 11:35 PM
When I was in Iraq for OIF1 there was an LA Times reporter imbedded with our brigade. As the occupation of Iraq went on the big story was troop morale and the LA Times reporter kept going around baiting soldiers for quotes.
He would ask a soldier, "Hey wouldn't be nice to be home right now?", and many soldiers understood the importance of what they were doing. But he would keep trying until he would find a soldier that would repond with something like "Yeah I would rather be home then here", or this "place sucks I want to go home." Then that would be what got reported, that troop morale is low when he wouldn't even report what the other soldiers told him about how proud they were of what they were doing.Posted by GI Korea at July 16, 2005 01:04 AM
I spent 20 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, long time ago. Even then, the journalism schools were turning out graduates incapable of thought. Any so-called "journalist" who believes, for example, that Dan Rather was a "reporter" is someone who cannot understand reality. Rather was a betrayal of journalism; so too are hundreds of reporters and editors today, in both the print media and in broadcast.
If you want to learn what an airhead a TV "reporter" or anchor is, work for a good daily newspaper for a while; you'll run into them and see them perform for the cameras and you'll understand why you should regard TV news with suspicion.
In the 25+ years since I left journalism, the American press has deteriorated into nothing more than a flack for the Democratic Party. If you doubt that, whenever you read a newspaper article or watch a TV news snippet, or Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, etc., just ask yourself this question: 'How would this be portrayed if the President were Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or John Kerry instead of George W. Bush?"
Many in the business have gone beyond propagandizing for the left into outright lying.
Posted by John at July 16, 2005 02:42 AM
I am not sure I follow you. The press seemed pretty happy to give Clinton's peccadilloes wall-to-wall coverage. I'm not sure how that equals shilling for the Democratic Party.
For what it's worth I have worked for a (reasonably) good left-wing daily and a very entertaining right-wing tabloid, and I certainly agree that TV types tend to be dumb as stumps, but that has nothing to do with politics.
I suspect the right-wing TV reporters are just as stupid as their left-wing counterparts. And, if anything, there has been an upsurge in bad right-wing journalism, everything from talk radio, to Fox News, to the Moonie-run Washington Times.
It seems to me that left and right-wing media suffer from the same problems, namely: "if bleeds it leads" and "you don't have to be right, you just have to be interesting."
Cable news channels run 24 hours a day, and how many stories do they run in that time? A dozen? 20? And each 2-minute segment is more devoid of content than the last.
I agree that news has become increasingly facile, exploitative and prurient, but that has more to do with competitive commercial pressures than politics.
As for bias, well, I think we should chuck out the the third-person authorial voice and the inverted pyramid and start every newspaper story with the word "I" just to let everyone know that this is how one person sees it, not necessarily how it really is. (And then make sure your editors don't get their grubby paws on it.)
Posted by whats4lunch at July 16, 2005 03:42 AM
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