Saturday, September 06, 2008

Fidelity to Fact

I don't want to step on Alex's important post, but also want to make a real point about politics and the media. So, read what Alex wrote, and then click read more below to join me on the jump.

Following the presidential conventions, I knew that Bill Moyer's Journal would feature a conversation between Moyers and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. I tuned in to Moyer's Journal on PBS last night and was not disappointed. It was a particularly pointed conversation because both McCain and Palin had taken shots at the Liberal Media. Of course, Liberal Media Bias has always been part of the Rush Limbaugh rant and this time it became almost a chant in St. Paul.

What Jamieson did was to indicate that there is nothing sexist about the media questioning the readiness of any of the candidates.
Is it fair to ask about the experience of any candidate for vice president? Of course. Any candidate for president? Of course. And it isn't sexist or racist to raise that question.
However, she had little patience for those who, in the haste to break a story, get it wrong.
Now you have a moment in which journalism has deceived its audience because in the rush to make this point about possible hypocrisy, a major commentator (Soledad Obrien) on a major network (CNN) has asserted as fact something which doesn't hold up. It took the researcher that I called on my staff about four hours to get back to the primary research documents.
In fact, the story that Soledad used had been circulating on the internet for a while before she, or her producer, grabbed it.

Moyer's raised the question that all of us should be asking, what are we to do when we can't trust the media. Jamieson had analyzed this in terms of the 2004 election.
The problem is that one can't trust anymore from some of these sources that there's going to be a fidelity to fact in the presence of contest. One of the things that we showed in 2004, from the National Annenberg Election Survey, was that those who are reliant on Rush Limbaugh and on Fox News accepted the Republican view of the facts.

Those reliant on NPR and CNN were more likely to accept the Democratic view of the contested facts. Now sometimes there's legitimate contest. Sometimes, however, what you essentially had was spin and distortion on each side. Those who are relying on newspapers and traditional forms of news were still more likely to hold a non-contested view of those facts.
The further we get away from any sense that elections have anything to do with the contest of ideas. the more I sense that we are vulnerable to a fascist pupulism and that scares the hell out of me especially as newspapers seem to be losing readership daily.

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