Friday, September 12, 2008

The media's job is to unearth facts, not repeat myths

This piece was published in the Christian Science Monitor

9/10/08 -- In the summer of 2002, a senior aide to President George W. Bush met with a writer whose work had annoyed him to deliver a lesson in how his administration saw its mandate.

"The aide said that guys like me … 'believe that solutions emerge from … judicious study of discernible reality,'" Ron Suskind wrote, recalling the event two years later. "'That's not the way the world really works anymore...,' [the aide] continued. 'When we act, we create our own reality.'"

Even in the days before the Bush presidency and Karl Rove, widely believed to be the source of that quote, political campaigns of all stripes have strived to "create their own realities."

But while reporters have ridiculed Democrat Michael Dukakis for riding in a tank and belittled Barack Obama for the Greek columns at his nomination speech, Republicans have succeeded in turning the manipulation of myth into an art form.

That's been evident this week as Rove protégé and Sen. John McCain's adviser Steve Schmidt has steadied the ship of Sarah Palin's rollout. First, he bullied the news media into submission. Then the campaign pushed an unrelenting portrayal of her as a maverick.

As reporters disclosed that Ms. Palin sought earmarks for her hometown before she opposed them and supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it, the campaign's message only got more persistent and better packaged. On Monday, it released a new ad titled "Original Mavericks."

And while the McCain campaign hammered the media for invading Palin's privacy, it has used every opportunity to idealize her family, even flying in the boyfriend of her pregnant 17-year-old daughter Bristol and parading both on stage behind the governor after she accepted the Republican nomination for vice president. Reality television seemed to trump reality itself as the nomination took on the look of a new daytime soap. Meanwhile, the news media – pushed back by the McCain campaign, then fed this feel-good story line – converted Palin from untested and unvetted to "hockey mom," a "pit bull with lipstick" ready to bite Obama.

The turnaround has been breathtaking.

Just over a week ago reporters disclosed that Palin is being investigated for allegedly trying to intimidate state officials into firing her estranged state trooper brother-in-law. Commentators raised sharp questions about her inexperience and poor vetting. Airwaves filled with idle – and sexist – speculation over whether a mother of five could handle the vice presidency.

But by Friday, an MSNBC commentator offered the breathy pronouncement that the McCain-Palin ticket "will be ahead in the polls by the end of the week." And on Sunday a long profile in The Washington Post pivoted on this sentence: "Of the many striking images of Palin – sportswoman, beauty queen, populist – in Alaska the most iconic is working mother, a perfectly coifed professional woman balancing public duties and child-rearing in a charismatic blur of multitasking."

Meanwhile, reports of Palin's hard-right credentials (anti-abortion, pro-gun, possibly pro-creationism, and pro-abstinence education) receded rapidly as did news, covered in a blur, that she had attended five colleges over six years before graduating.

The see-saw story of Sarah Palin should give the press pause. Feeding frenzies followed by fawning serve only to confuse. If the public is to make sound decisions, to sort what's real from what's manufactured, the media must do their job with greater consistency and greater care.

1. The media should redouble efforts to unearth facts and spend far less time on speculation and titillation. McCain, Palin, Obama, and Joe Biden all have records. It's the media's job to expose contradictions in them – and to keep doing so even when campaigns push back. It is not the media's job to speculate who will be leading next week or whether a candidate can parent and govern simultaneously.

2. The media need to reexamine the meaning of journalistic objectivity. It is not to give equal weight and space to each side of an issue. It is to report fully and fairly, to determine where the facts fall, and to write what's verifiably true – giving a say, but not equal space, to those who contest the facts without evidence.

Palin, for example, does not believe climate change has a human cause. The scientific consensus says otherwise. Should her views carry equal weight as the campaign grinds on? My journalism professors would have said "no."

3. The media should regularly explain what reporters do and why. In an era in which reporters are about as popular as $4-a-gallon gasoline, this is imperative. This spring I gave a workshop to some 50 university public information employees. I faced a long silence before anyone could tell me what the First Amendment protects.

Until the news media turn both tougher and fairer, provides contextual truth and not just balance, political operatives will hold the upper hand. And the public will move through election cycles like motorists peering into a thick fog.

"You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can't fool all of the people all the time," Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said.

Only a vigilant media can keep Machiavellian calculations of contemporary campaigns from fooling enough people enough of the time to make such deceit the deciding factor in our elections.

6 Comments:

Blogger oakleyses said...

oakley sunglasses, longchamp outlet, nike free, burberry, tiffany and co, nike air max, louis vuitton outlet, prada outlet, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet, ugg boots, louboutin, chanel handbags, ugg boots, louboutin shoes, tiffany jewelry, christian louboutin outlet, louboutin outlet, louis vuitton, ray ban sunglasses, uggs on sale, nike outlet, nike air max, cheap oakley sunglasses, tory burch outlet, louis vuitton, polo ralph lauren outlet, jordan shoes, kate spade outlet, oakley sunglasses, louis vuitton outlet, michael kors, replica watches, ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren outlet, ugg boots, ugg boots, burberry outlet online, replica watches, michael kors outlet, longchamp outlet, gucci outlet, prada handbags, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, longchamp, michael kors outlet, michael kors outlet

6:36 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

coach outlet, nike roshe run, hollister pas cher, air force, air max, ray ban uk, mulberry, nike air max, michael kors, sac guess, lacoste pas cher, timberland, sac longchamp, hogan, michael kors, hermes, nike air max, true religion jeans, abercrombie and fitch, kate spade handbags, new balance pas cher, coach outlet, ray ban pas cher, nike free, burberry, hollister, true religion jeans, vanessa bruno, true religion jeans, ralph lauren pas cher, tn pas cher, air jordan pas cher, ralph lauren uk, nike roshe, michael kors, converse pas cher, lululemon, vans pas cher, true religion outlet, nike air max, north face, oakley pas cher, coach factory outlet, louboutin pas cher, nike blazer, longchamp pas cher, nike free run uk, north face, michael kors, coach purses

6:39 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

mac cosmetics, gucci, abercrombie and fitch, beats by dre, instyler, longchamp, p90x workout, nfl jerseys, jimmy choo shoes, nike trainers, insanity workout, bottega veneta, hollister, asics running shoes, hollister, north face outlet, babyliss, vans, reebok shoes, ray ban, nike air max, valentino shoes, timberland boots, birkin bag, louboutin, ghd, soccer shoes, converse outlet, wedding dresses, baseball bats, mont blanc, vans shoes, mcm handbags, ferragamo shoes, oakley, celine handbags, giuseppe zanotti, lululemon, chi flat iron, new balance, converse, nike huarache, herve leger, iphone 6 cases, north face outlet, hollister, nike roshe, nike air max, ralph lauren, soccer jerseys

6:41 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

pandora jewelry, canada goose, moncler, supra shoes, louis vuitton, moncler outlet, louis vuitton, sac louis vuitton pas cher, replica watches, lancel, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, juicy couture outlet, michael kors outlet, moncler, louis vuitton, karen millen, hollister, toms shoes, canada goose uk, swarovski, barbour jackets, barbour, canada goose outlet, moncler, ugg pas cher, michael kors handbags, moncler, pandora jewelry, doudoune canada goose, canada goose outlet, bottes ugg, marc jacobs, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, michael kors outlet online, wedding dresses, swarovski crystal, canada goose, moncler, canada goose, moncler, moncler, thomas sabo, montre pas cher, louis vuitton, links of london, ugg boots uk, pandora charms, pandora charms, doke gabbana outlet, juicy couture outlet, coach outlet, canada goose

6:42 PM  
Blogger xumeiqing said...

151215meiqing
louis vuitton backpack
montblanc
abercrombie
jordan shoes
michael kors outlet online
gucci handbags
canada goose outlet
nike huarache
abercrombie
kate spade handbags
nike air force 1
burberry outlet
nike air max
nike air huarache
toms
replica watches for sale
the north face jackets
uggs for women
pandora jewelry
michael kors handbags
toms shoes
coach outlet store online
fitflops
ray ban wayfarer
coach outlet online
coach factory outlet
mont blanc pens
ray ban sunglasses
mulberry handbags
hollister co
ed hardy clothing
coach outlet
ugg boots outlet
coach outlet
ugg outlet
ugg boots
ugg boots
instyler curling iron
louis vuitton outlet
ugg boots

7:25 PM  
Blogger chenlina said...

chenlina20160604
burberry outlet
louis vuitton
michael kors outlet
toms outlet
cheap nfl jerseys
coach outlet
toms shoes
oakley vault
louis vuitton bags
gucci outlet
jordan shoes
nike roshe run
michael kors handbags
giuseppe zanotti
kate spade
michael kors uk
coach outlet
tods outlet online
ralph lauren outlet
air huarache
burberry outlet
rolex submariner
louis vuitton outlet
jordan retro
toms shoes outlet online
tod's shoes
oakley sunglasses
oakley sunglasses cheap
nike air max
hollister kids
michael kors outlet
louis vuitton handbags
gucci outlet
toms outlet
gucci handbags
ralph lauren
ray ban wayfarer
kate spade handbags
michael kors uk
nike outlet
as

5:32 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home