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April 12, 2005

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Gerry

What I like is how he says that he thinks it is unfair to think of people in his profession as "arrogant" one sentence after saying that it is "nuts" to not think as he does on guns.

narciso

I don't know about 'Stones of Karbala', comparing an NRA
influenced America to Somalia, making Hatfill, the No 1
terrorist, Kristof's judgement seems forced.

VD

Kristof makes a few mistakes in this piece. First, he conjures up the usual bogey-man of the right-wing demogogue, just as Bertrand Pecquerie of the World Editors Forum recently blamed his failing industry on right-wing bloggers. Second, he doesn't seem to take any stabs at why credibility might be declining, other than to say it is partially a result of right-wing demogogues. Finally, he seems to assume the protected freedoms of the press automatically apply to highly paid employees of for-profit corporations.

I think an appropriate debate of the latter is yet to be had. Remember, it wasn't bloggers that ran Dan Rather (and crew) from CBS, Eason Jordan from CNN, Bill Maher from ABC, and Rush Limbaugh from ESPN. Those were executive decisions made to protect profits, a favorite past-time of for-profit corporations. I think these almost famous columnists are beginning to run into the conflicts between the lifestyle mass synidcation affords them and the stifling effect of the dependancy upon advertising/sponsors, for that lifestyle, has on their work.

However, there are two things that corporate journalists could do to immediately improve their appeal to consumers of news. First, always provide some searchable reference to the subject at hand. If discussing legislation in Congress, include the bill number. If discussing a study, include a reference to the source of the material, and so on. Second, stop the laziness of simply getting unchallenged quotes from partisans. If discussing legislation, don't bother getting a quote from a Republican and a Democrat; we already know what they're going to say. Just give us some objective dissemination of the details, we don't need comments from people who have repeatedly admitted that they don't read most of the legislation on which they vote.

Jerry

My email to Kristoff: Nick: At least you seem to at least partly admit there is a problem. Most of the media seem either deeply in denial or scornfully dismissive. I think this suspicion of the media we see is well founded and a necessary corrective to what kindly could be described as unconscious bias in favor of the left position on just about every important issue you can name. I would hate to think it was conscious, but then there was the illumination that was Rathergate. The problem has its roots in the 60s generation which now holds the levers of power in our institutions. It was on the campuses when a prevaricating president afraid to seem weak launched us into a war and then micromanaged it and dragged it out to where the revulsion tipping point was reached and then it was lost on the home front. Those years saw the 60s generation instilled with leftist values and anti-Americanism and these attitudes saturate the media today. Hiring from elite schools where ultra-liberal opinions and hatred for the country are in the very air that is breathed has only compounded the problem and insured it will persist for a very long time. Recruiting journalists at land grant colleges in the red states would over time restore some balance to the media, but it won't happen. Nobody in your line of work thinks that far ahead.

JonofAtlanta

my Email to Kristoff alluded to his fear of being on 'the wrong side of history' .. I pointed out that after the unmitigated disaster of his paper's performance in the last few years (both in reporting and editorializing), they were already there.

Brainster

The original Pew survey strikes me as flawed; how many intelligent people are going to say they believe "all or most" of what they get from any source? And yet if you parse it carefully, "all or most" could mean anywhere from 50% to 100%, and actually I'd say I trust at least 50% of what appears in the Times (with the obvious exception of the Op-Ed pages). I trust the sports section, I trust the business section, I mostly trust the metro section, and while I'm suspicious of some of the national and international section, they're probably true on basic facts more than 50% of the time.

Ted

Yet another example of 'blame someone else'.
Thank goodness that here in the USA the
cultural influence of 'not my fault, man'
is slowly receding.

The reason the LLL is whining about that is
because they are, for the most part, those
incapable of seeing error in themselves.

No wonder the libs and leftists are so fond
of the Arab/Islamifascists who have been
blaming the Israelis/Jews for all the world's
ill.

TM

The original Pew survey strikes me as flawed; how many intelligent people are going to say they believe "all or most" of what they get from any source?

Good point.

Cecil Turner

"The original Pew survey strikes me as flawed; how many intelligent people are going to say they believe "all or most" of what they get from any source?"

Well, since I cite that study fairly regularly, I suppose I ought to defend it. "All or most" seems reasonable, if the contrasting point is "little or nothing." Especially since (as you pointed out) the former translates to 51-100%, while the latter is 0 to something less than 50%.

I'm also not convinced that "all or most" is an incredibly high standard when it comes to basic facts. I'm sure most editors would insist it was the only reasonable answer. And you'd think intelligent people would be even more reluctant to say "little or nothing," but the numbers suggest otherwise.

JM Hanes

The fact that Kristof doesn't know enough about red(Guns!)state(God!) America to know who needs to be included is more than a little telling. But what strikes me even more powerfully here, as it did back when Demcrats were obsessing over the need to talk more religion in the South, is that Kristof seems blissfully unaware that red-state America is listening in!

Democrats defended the Howard Dean scream by saying that it didn't really sound that dreadful if you were actually there. That's precisely the problem. Dean never figured out that he wasn't just talking to the room, and Kristof doesn't really know who's in his audience.

JM Hanes

The fact that Kristof doesn't know enough about red(Guns!)state(God!) America to know who needs to be included is more than a little telling. But what strikes me even more powerfully here, as it did back when Demcrats were obsessing over the need to talk more religion in the South, is that Kristof seems blissfully unaware that red-state America is listening in!

Democrats defended the Howard Dean scream by saying that it didn't really sound that dreadful if you were actually there. That's precisely the problem. Dean never figured out that he wasn't just talking to the room, and Kristof doesn't really know who's in his audience.

thibaud

As someone who despises the incompetence and dishonesty of most MSM hacks, I'll point out that Kristof is of course biased, as he should be. He's an OpEd writer.

The problem with the MSM is less one of bias than their absurd pretense of objectivity and their refusal to show their sources, provide links, come out clearly and say what they know for fact and what's merely their POV. Were they to do this, the readers could very quickly distinguish the bullshit artists, who are little different than bloggers with expense accounts and high-priced legal counsel, from the really fine journalists, like John Burns of the Times.

In this regard, Nick Kristof is light years ahead of his colleagues. The man should be applauded, even if you find his opinions distasteful. He's on the right side here.

veryretired

This never ending discussion always revolves around bias in the media as if that were the only problem. In fact, most adults can detect and screen for bias in what they read or watch on TV.

The real disfunctions in the media are its utterly shallow take on every issue, its preoccupation with the sensational over the substantial, and the lazy cowardice of those who only pick easy targets, never taking any chances with more complex and/or dangerous stories that might require a little courage and effort.

The hotel bar reporters in Iraq who don't dare go out and get any real stories about what's going on, other than how many explosions there were that day, is a good example of the latter. The fascination with the celebrity murder of the month is the most obvious example of the former.

The media's problem is lack of knowledge and triviality, not bias.

Cecil Turner

"This never ending discussion always revolves around bias in the media as if that were the only problem. In fact, most adults can detect and screen for bias in what they read or watch on TV . . . The media's problem is lack of knowledge and triviality, not bias."

The media's shallow treatment of most issues is definitely an issue, and no-doubt partially due to the cluelessness you note (and admitted by Kristof--i.e., 12-ga vs AR-15). Or, my pet peeve, their apparently willful ignorance on military matters. But on the question of whether bias or shallowness is the bigger issue, I'd suggest it's a bit of both.

The average adult can indeed detect most of the bias in a story, but it's awfully hard to tell what has been edited out (unless you happen to have access to first-hand information or source documents). I'd also suggest the growing ability to reference source documents and compare the actual statements to MSM treatment is a major contributor to their credibility problem. Moreover, bias and shallowness tend to reinforce each other. A reporter cherry-picking his quotes from a political debate to support his preconceived notions can't delve too deeply into the subject, lest he find inconvenient facts that contradict his meme. Likewise, shallow treatment of an issue will tend to highlight the reporter's bias.

But if we're going to evaluate the Fourth Estate's performance by their own standards, the most important issue is how they perform in the "media watchdog" role. And there, the most disturbing trend is the growing tendency to present a united front to shape public opinion, often indistinguishable from DNC press releases (e.g., Bush National Guard, SwiftVet stories). As the "paper of record," the Times in particular needs a plausible claim of objectivity if they are going to pretend to play that role . . . and they can make no such claim.

Sisyphus

The most recent CDC Surveillance Summary on abortion I could find was this one: Abortion Surveillance --- United States, 2001

Nothing at Guttmacher with data more recent than 2000.

Dwight Galster

I would like to say a bit on the idea of believing the (any) media. I have been at a few functions that were reported in the media. NEVER did the reports accurately reflect what happened at the event. My definition of "accurate" includes that they capture the major spirit or meaning of the event. For example, if a 3 hour meeting occurs, and two of the three hours are spent discussing water supply problems, and the third hour is spent discussing a variety of miscellaneous lesser topics, then the media should report that water supply problems were discussed. However, if the reporter shows up in the third hour, he is likely to report something about the miscellaneous topics, and maybe having seen the agena, make a comment that water problems were also discussed. Thus, the entire "news" of the event is mis-characterized. This sort of thing has been my consistent experience with the media. In some subjects, such as religion, you can always count on them being wrong because they simply don't understand the issues (that applies to nearly all "professional" religion reporters too).

TM Lutas

One of the great savers of media opinion is the very human tendency to think that while they completely bollix subjects and events we have personal knowledge of, they must do better on other subjects. In general, they don't.

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