Thursday, December 09, 2004

Modern Journalism is the Pitts

As a conservative, I love talking to liberals, partly because I find their view of the world amusing at times. Invariably, our discussions of this and that brush on the topic of liberal media bias, which those same liberals, of course, adamantly deny exists. "No, the media are not biased. Why, they're probably more conservative than not. I mean, the New York Times is a conservative paper." Riiiight. Have you picked up your copy of Pravda West lately?

I think media bias against conservatives and Republicans (in that order) has almost reached a level of ubiquity that it is no longer a question of is there media bias, but how bad is it on a given day, or how many individual instances can one spot in a 24-hour timespan. It reached a heretofore-unknown crescendo during the recent presidential campaign, but it would be a mistake to think the left has taken its ball and gone home just because President Bush was re-elected. Far from it.

This week's flap over Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's answers to soldiers' questions is an example of the type of bias that many like myself view as pervasive. The veneer of the story is straightforward: an enlisted man stationed in Iraq asks Rumsfeld about an alleged shortage of vehicle and body armor, and ignites a firestorm about troop preparedness in the process. Simple enough, right?

The bias shines through if you are willing to scratch through the veneer. An e-mail sent by Edward Lee Pitts, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter embedded with the 278th Regimental Combat Team in Iraq, reveals that the question asked by the 278th's Specialist Thomas Jerry Wilson was a question given to him by Mr. Pitts. Far from being a spontaneous news occurrence that was promptly made available to readers and viewers the world over, it was a journalist brush fire that was lit by one reporter and fanned by others. In the strictest of senses, it is not really news; rather, it is what one reporter made happen because he wanted his interest of the day to be the story. It is real news in the same way that a fire started by an arsonist is a naturally occurring fire. It is a joke, and a violation of the journalist code to report what is.

Lest you misunderstand, I am not criticizing investigative journalism. I am generally in favor of honest, in-your-face investigative reporting because I think it keeps everyone on the up-and-up and serves as a hedge against corruption, laziness, and other shenanigans. But there is a distinction between reporters who report stories that are out there and need to be told and reporters who insist on making themselves the story. Our friend Mr. Pitts opted to do the latter, and in so doing did a little bit of damage to his field today.

Full lid, everybody. Have a good weekend.

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