Monday, August 14, 2006

Fair Reporting

My wife and I had a conversation around the breakfast table this weekend. Living in New England will nudge your politics to the left unless you are either so incredibly researched that you are not easily swayed, you are immune to peer pressure, or you are just a whacko winger that cannot be reached by any amount of reason. My wife, with some indignation, quoted to me a piece from an AP article concerning Homeland Security, and a six million dollar takeaway from research to do with liquid explosives.
As the British terror plot was unfolding, the Bush administration quietly tried to take away $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new explosives detection technology. Congressional leaders rejected the idea, the latest in a series of Homeland Security Department steps that have left lawmakers and some of the department's own experts questioning the commitment to create better anti-terror technologies.

I thought about this for a moment and said that I would have to know why the administration did such a thing. The article comes from the Associate Press, and did not offer any sort of explanation. I've read in the past about the bias of the AP, and probably was given an example or two in the past. Today I decided to use that wonderful tool that none of us can live with out. Namely, the internet.

It turns out that the six million in question was rerouted to the Federal Protective Service, which suffers from a 42 million dollar shortfall. Congress took money from the DHS science and technology program for other state and local grant programs, which in turn challenged the administration to find the money somewhere, and thus the six million in question. Cause and effect. Don't expect the AP to tell you that. They apparently want you to believe that Bush and company are asleep at the wheel. That everyone else before the thwarted attacks understood the imminent danger liquid explosives posed, except for the people that mattered most.

If you hate this administration, as most of my readers do, be very careful. This is a sword the cuts both ways.

Insist on fair reporting.


Moni said...

Yay, I'm first again! Good morning! Great article. Some times you just have to sit back in amazement at the blatant, "spin doctor," tactics the media uses.

Case in point, I was living in foreign country and some Americans were ambushed. The media reported that all the Americans were safe inside the protective walls of a military installation. What a crock?! That couldn't have been further from the truth.

That old adage should be revamped to say: "Believe none of what you hear and only half of what the media feeds you."


Anonymous said...

I'd probably fit more in New England than here, but even so, I cannot stand biased reporting either way. Biased reporting is the ultimate laziness. Instead of convincing someone which course is correct, you simply lie to them in order to give their brains only one logical conclusion.

Reality is complex and hard, but those certainly aren't reasons not to deal with it.

Scott said...

Moni - Our media or foreign media? Either way that is far more egregious than what I'm talking about. That is outright propaganda. At least the AP is representing the truth, effect minus cause.

Jason - That was certainly a fair, even-minded assessment on your part.

Flood said...

Apropos of little in your post, I am concerned after seeing airport pictures of people throwing their liquids into a common disposal bin, when the plot included liquid explosives sensitive to rough movement when mixed.

Bernita said...

Re: ambush.The media sometimes rushes with a story before all the facts are known.
Caveats -even if not mentioned every single time -should be understood by all readers that sometimes information, particularly about crisis situations, is scarce, scanty and incorrect. There are such things as lazy readers too.

Scott said...

Flood - That is a cause for concern, a huge cause.

Bernita - It is not understood. In fact, the author of this article is banking on it. I would make a concession on this but for the verbage of the quote. ...the Bush administration quietly tried to take away $6 million... Also see theives in the night. No, this is intended as a disparagement.

magnetbabe said...

There is no such thing as fair reporting. Journalists are humans and opinions are what makes us human. Unbiased news is as abstract as reality itself. You can be upset that AP didn't report "the whole story" about rerouting being perceived as DHS budget cuts. If the story would have the included the facts you uncovered, that, to you would make it fair reporting. What if I read the story you deemed unbiased and said, "they have an obligation to mention that money had to be shifted all around as a direct result of major budget cuts made to research and development funding this year." Where do you draw the line? Every cause is still an effect from another cause. A truly unbiased news story would probably be the length of a PhD dissertation in order to include all the background and relevant side information. We have a responsibility to supplement the information we read in order to make our own opinions.

Scott said...

Again, look at the verbage I pointed out in my reply to Bernita. The AP story used the 6 million out of important context that completely changed the flavor of what the author was trying to convey, thus the omission. If a story reported that a man ruthlessly murdered another man, I would conclude that the murderer did so without cause, since none was provided. However, if the deceased was in the process of raping his daughter when the father happened up him, that would be pertinent to the story, and no amount of rationalizing would make it ok to leave that part out.

mr. schprock said...

If I want objectivity, the only person I think I can turn to for telling it how it is is Michael Moore. How can anyone even tell which side he's on?

Devon Ellington said...

I do disagree heartily with 99.9% of this administration's decisions and know that they are asleep at the wheel.

Yet, I still want to see both sides.

That's the most frustrating part of journalism -- when I studied it in school, the emphasis was on the research and presenting BOTH sides, equally, letting the reader make a decision.

I realize there's always been one-sided journalism, but it seems to me that it's gotten worse than usual.

I was born in Massachussetts, lived thorough 9/11 here in NY, and am relocating to Mass. in the next few months. New England points of view are EXACTLY what I want to be around.

But your point is important -- the AP should have dug deeper and presented the info.

What was your source for the info? Was it a reliable one? That's my question.

Scott said...

Mr. Schprock - Yeah, he's good. I also like Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh. It's all a matter of personal taste I guess.

Devon - Good to see that someone of your political can see the merits of what I am saying. The source is Homeland Security Watch ( I don't know anything about them really. It's possible that they in turn are doing their own misleading. I'm starting to wonder though if there is any such thing as a reliable source.

Bernita said...

Dammit, Scott, I was talking about the ambush story mentioned by an earlier poster.
I know it doesn't apply to your example.
Atilla the Honey.

Scott said...

Bernita - Arggh. I see it all so clearly now. Why am I always so confused!?

Moni said...

My point exactly Scott, even though it was an extreme point. In this case it was "our" media and not the foreign press.

Maybe I missed your point, but I thought it went something to the effect that the media can be swayed by outside sources. The smallest to the largest infractions, should not be tolerated.

Scott said...

No, you hit the nail on the head Moni. It's just that in cases like the one I gave, it leaves room for debate such that you see here.

fringes said...

I read this post this morning and I didn't have anything intelligent-sounding to contribute. But I will say that it's important to read everything you read with a healthy dose of skepticism and try reading international papers along with the domestic reports.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

So, uhhh

Why is the Federal Protection Service suffering from a 42m shortfall?

Scott said...

Erica - Agreed, but foreign press can be just as biased, and less guarded. A UK paper started a campaign to influence the vote of Clark County Ohio for John Kerry.

Toast - Don't know, but at least with this information you are asking the right question.