Sunday, July 29, 2007

Too good to be news - An article from today's New York Times speaks volumes about what many Americans (and most conservatives more specifically) dislike about the media. There is an abiding sense that rather than reporting "all the news that's fit to print," journalism is oriented around reporting the news that fits, with "fits" referring to fitting into a preconceived journalistic template that bespeaks the mindset of the reporters and editors. Considerations about the newsworthiness of a particular story are clearly influenced by whether the story can be made to cohere with the applicable journalistic meme.

In and of itself, this is not so terrible, as most informed consumers of news have learned to consider the source as it pertains to much of what passes for reporting. The harm comes when journalists and news organizations hoist the flag of journalistic objectivity to cover their inherent biases. By obscuring their efforts under a cloak of faux impartiality, journos hope to get a benefit of the doubt that is wholly underserved.

But every now and again, the halo of objectivity slips, and the prejudices of the media make themselves apparent; such is never more the case than during times of war.
As discussed elsewhere, one of the more petty media misdemeanors against impartiality was represented by Reuters' use of altered images by Adnan Hajj, a Lebanese photographer who "created" two photos that were digitally altered to make the damage from the July 2006 Israeli air strikes into Beruit worse than the original photos.

And we have observed similar outrages vis-a-vis our own conduct of the Iraq War. The kerfuffle between the New Republic and the Weekly Standard (also see the Standard's blog) regarding the former's publication of allegations of misconduct on the part of U.S. troops represents a parallax formed by each publication's bedrock views of the military as either victims and/or victimizers or as unqualified heroes.

All of which gets us back to the Times. Although the NYT has not yet issued any unsubstantiated indictments against the men and women serving in Iraq, it has evidenced a prejudice towards the idea that Americans are irretrievably against the war, and an incredulity when the country seems even the slightest bit more unified behind the war effort. When its own polling indicated a recent uptick in the number of respondents who thought that military action against Iraq was justified, the Times was left to ponder how such a thing could be the case.

The July numbers represented a change. It was counterintuitive. None of the other war-related questions showed change. Mr. Bush's approval rating had not changed. Nor had approval of his handling of Iraq. The level of support for Mr. Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq — the "surge" — was about the same as it had been in past polls. Support for the decision to go to war had risen modestly and nothing else in the poll could explain it.

A Newsweek poll conducted July 11-12 had a similar finding for the same question. But the magazine had not asked its question since December, so it is hard to know whether its current reading measured any recent change.

Once in a while a poll finding doesn't make sense. Sometimes The Times will wait to publish the results until another poll is taken asking the question again. But such a shift happens rarely with questions like this one, which the paper has asked many times over a long period. (Emphasis added.)
First of all, can we imagine the NYT (or Newsweek for that matter) sitting on the poll results if they confirmed their notions about support for the war? But perhaps more importantly, it is clear that in its analysis of the poll results, the Times refuses to acknowledge the one factor that would most readily impact support for the invasion: namely, the efficacy of the military surge.

We are more than familiar with the journalistic aphorism that says "if it bleeds, it leads," and we all know that the MSM makes its bones by way of inciting fear and loathing in the minds of its consumers. The reluctance on the part of the Times to present this sort of good news is of a piece with both the anti-military leanings of the journalistic community and a bent on the part of the media towards accentuating the negative in any situation.

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