Fat Steve's Blatherings

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What's the Matter With the MSM?

        Here's an example.   The Louisville KY Courier-Journal covered New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's remarks on rebuilding NOLA, the ones that said:
        It's time for us to come together.  It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans -- the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans.  This city will be a majority African-American city.  It's the way God wants it to be.  You can't have New Orleans no other way.  It wouldn't be New Orleans.

        As the Courier-Journal's Ombudswoman Pam Platt notes, though:
        Courier-Journal readers got pretty much all of the AP-reported God stuff in the version of the paper they received on Jan. 17.

        But Nagin's reference to "chocolate New Orleans" had been edited out of that same story in these pages.  Instead, our version read, "Nagin also promised that New Orleans will be rebuilt and again will be 'a majority African American city.' "

        C-J readers would not see the controversial "chocolate" reference -- which was all over TV news and the Internet starting at the crack of dawn on the 17th -- in their own newspaper until a day later, on Jan. 18.  That's when the Courier printed an AP story about the mayor's apology for his earlier invocations of God and chocolate.

        A copy editor editor decided to remove the remarks, allegedly because he thought they "might give offense" to some readers.

        As Platt says:
        In trying to address potential sensitivities of some readers by excising the controversial remark, it could be taken by other readers -- and believe me, it was -- that the newspaper was trying to cover or protect this particular public official from his own articulations.

        And those other readers would, and did, question whether the paper would allow the same editing grace to a white politician who promised a "vanilla" future to his city, or to the ever-dependable Pat Robertson the next time he said God would rain misery and worse on people whose views the reverend also happened to scorn.

        The "chocolate" quote should have been in the first day's story, as reported by AP.  Period.

        All well and good as far as it goes, but note what questions it doesn't answer:

  • Is the copy editor who removed Nagin's words is black or white?
  • Is copy editor is a Democrat, Republican, or Independent?
  • Whom did the copy editor voted for in the last election?
  • Does the copy editor support Nagin or not?
  • Does the copy editor support Nagin's goal of a majority black New Orleans or not?
  • How often do "mistakes" like this get made?
  • How do they stack up politically — pro-Democrat, pro-Republican or neutral?
  • If Nagin's remarks hadn't been widely available in other fora, would the paper have ever caught the "mistake"?
  • If they had caught this without the readers knowing about it, what would the paper have done?

        These questions are all relevant to a consideration of whether or not the editing reflected bias.  None of them are raised, though the last two are implicitly answered.  Instead, we get polite sneering at those who suspect bias:
        It's not a monumental goof, but it's one that fuels suspicions some readers have about the news media in general and this newspaper in particular.  That's why I'm addressing it today. . . .

        [The Copy Editor's] couching of the mayor's statements made the newspaper a target for familiar broadsides of bias.  This time, though, we provided the ammo for the salvos. . . .

        In trying to address potential sensitivities of some readers by excising the controversial remark, it could be taken by other readers -- and believe me, it was -- that the newspaper was trying to cover or protect this particular public official from his own articulations.

        The implicit line is, 'We made a stupid mistake, but there was no bias involved.  Trust us.'

        Except, of course, we increasingly don't trust them.  And they know it.  In fact, the whole thing reminds me of the song from Irma la Deuce: "Don't Get Caught (that's a crime)."  So the Ms. Platt's whole piece ends up, in the eyes of those whom she is trying to convince, as spin control.  And badly done spin control at that.

        So I guess the answer to the question in my title is: The MSM is biased, gutless and stupid.  It won't root out its bias, it won't admit the bias, and its attempts to cover up the bias are so pathetically bad, the efforts to appear neutral only make them look worse.

        Hope you enjoy your declining circulation, MSM.  So long, and thanks for all the propoganda.

        Hat tip: Screedblog.

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