Fat Steve's Blatherings

Sunday, September 25, 2005

How NOT to be an "Ombudsman"

        Jeffrey Dvorkin's September 13th piece is almost a manual on doing the job badly.

        There's a lot of self-praise, stupidly disguised as listener comment.  Yes, I'm sure that the letters he prints are genuine.  I'm also sure I could have assembled a column twice as long that would have been nothing but listener vitriol.  What would be interesting is a statistical overview ('We're getting X e-mails and phone calls per day; A% are unqualified praise, B% are a mixture of praise and criticism; C% are completely negative.')

        Dvorkin doesn't just pat the his network on the back by quoting readers.  He also does it directly, saying:
I thought the timeline reporting on All Things Considered on Friday, Sept. 9 was especially impressive.

        That's very interesting, because soon he'll be printing a letter of criticism concerning just that timeline story.  The critic felt that the timeline story laid all blame on the Feds and W., and gave the Governor and Mayor a complete pass.

        The Strib our local substitute for a newspaper, used to have a "reader's representative" named Lou Gelfland.  I don't thing he was gigantically good at his job, but at least, when he ran a critical letter, he'd quote what was being objected to, ask the reporters and editors responsible for the story for their reaction, which he'd print, and then give his own view, which ranged all over the spectrum from support for the paper to condemnation.  Dvorkin first praises the piece (thus influencing the reader in favor of it), then prints a short reporter's response (which amounts to mostly "You've mischaracterized us;" no transcript, so no way to judge for yourself) then finally a letter that "sees it from another perspective," (Dvorkin's words), but which doesn't even touch on the criticism of the timeline story, but does bash the Adminstration.  It's yet another example of (all together now) editing as lying.

        After praising NPR some more, Dvorkin criticizes the BBC.  But it very muted and apologetic criticism, mixed with praise about how great the BBC usually is (translation, 'the BBC usually agrees with NPR;' and no, I'm not being snarky, that is a main point Dvorkin makes).

        Then he notes, more in sorrow than in anger, that the BBC is portraying southerners as ignorant, bigoted, redneck idiots, which NPR would never do (not surprising, given that residents of Dixie can retaliate against NPR but not against the BBC).

        Dvorkin notes:
I am sure that the BBC is not inventing these interviews. But the effect is that it sounds less like reporting than like caricature.

        Yeah, the Beeb didn't invent the intervies, and Dvorkin didn't invent the letters.  But they're both disguising their opinion behind other people's views, by carefully selecting what they print>

        Pop quiz: do you think Dvorkin is so stupid, he doesn't understand what's going on, or is just reluctant to call attention to it, when he's been doing it in his column, and NPR does it regularly on the air?  Or what?



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