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Is the News Media in Iraq practicing "compensatory criticism"?
March 23, 2006 10:10 AM   Subscribe

The big payback in Iraq. Last night on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, ROBERT LICHTER, President, Center for Media and Public Affairs put forth the following: You know, Charlie Peter, a great Washington journalist, once said, "The message of Watergate was dig, dig, dig, but journalists thought the message was act tough." And so I think you're getting negative coverage that may be kind of compensatory criticism.

Should the news focus more on the optimistic elements or is it reflecting public opinion. Is "compensatory criticism" justified for what it might wrongly perceive as possible White House manipulation during the run up to the war?
posted by Skygazer (22 comments total)

 
possible?
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 10:17 AM on March 23, 2006


The White House has repeatedly denied any attempt to manipulate the press or the public to go to war due to an "Iraq agenda" or through the use of (what is now admitted as being) "faulty intelligence".
posted by Skygazer at 10:33 AM on March 23, 2006


Does that mean they didn't?
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 10:34 AM on March 23, 2006


Anyone who thinks they didn't hasn't been paying very much attention.

Seriously, what "optimistic elements" are there in this situation? We've spent millions of dollars and thousands of lives transforming a relatively stable, nonthreatening part of the world into an anarchic breeding ground for exactly the sort of threat we claimed we were going in there to prevent in the first place.

We're not fighting terrorism, we're creating it.

The only "optimistic element" is that finally, finally, all the dire predictions we wacko anti-war people have been making all along are at last becoming so obvious that even the mainstream is finally paying attention.

the beatings will continue until this horse is no longer dead
posted by ook at 10:45 AM on March 23, 2006


And just how much of the "good news" from Iraq comes from psy-ops?
posted by jefgodesky at 10:48 AM on March 23, 2006


- A school just opened on one side of town.

- Five people were just blown to bits on the other.

Which would make the front page in your home town?
posted by wfrgms at 10:54 AM on March 23, 2006


How about if they just start reporting news, instead of trying to spin it one way or another? Stick to the 'Who, What, Where, When, Why and How" school of jouralism, not the "Damnit all, I'm going to come up with a good bloody story here that'll get me a Pulitzer, no matter HOW far I've got to twist things!" school.

Dig, dig, and fucking dig. Give me FACTS, not suppositions and opinions, and don't drop facts because they're not convenient to your story. Don't SCRIPT the damn news, and find stuff to fit the story. You want my trust as a news consumer? Be worthy of it, and you'll get it. Do a piss-poor job, and you'll lose me forever.
posted by JB71 at 10:55 AM on March 23, 2006


A school just opened on one side of town.

Really? I'm very skeptical of any "good news" out of Iraq now, because this is precisely the kind of story that we have a large contingent of our armed forces employed full time to make up and plant in local Iraqi newspapers. Which then get picked up by a small, usually conservative paper in the U.S., which then ends up in Google News, leaving war supporters here asking, "Why doesn't the media ever cover any of this good stuff going on in Iraq?"

Well, for starters, most of it never happened.
posted by jefgodesky at 10:58 AM on March 23, 2006


I always find it odd that for the past few years, nearly every soldier interviewed has the exact same good news to say in every interview. How can that possibly be? That place must be overrun with school buildings by now with all the soldiers building new ones and repairing old ones!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:07 AM on March 23, 2006


Why should we think all the bad news coming out of Iraq isn't, you know, reflective of the reality in Iraq?
posted by Nelson at 11:10 AM on March 23, 2006


Skygazer: "Is "compensatory criticism" justified for what it might wrongly perceive as possible White House manipulation during the run up to the war?"
[emphasis added]


Don't be so quick to editorialize. You give away a rather partisan position on the issue in the face of overwhelming evidence of exactly that kind of manipulation. Or do you just want to engage in "truthiness"?
posted by mystyk at 11:20 AM on March 23, 2006


Give me FACTS, not suppositions and opinions, and don't drop facts because they're not convenient to your story.
Yeah, fine, whatever. That'll be great once we develop a news medium that can convey every conceivable trivial detail of every event -- as well as the motivations of all participants -- and convey them without misunderstanding.

Imagine a story, covered by three news outlets:

Story 1: "50 Civilians killed in US Bombing."
Story 2: "US Destroys suspected terrorist hideout."
Story 3: "Terrorists killed in US raid."

What if all three are true? Saying, 'Just report the facts' sounds great, but in reality it turns into the CYA journalism of 'cover the controversy.'
posted by verb at 11:45 AM on March 23, 2006


Richard Engel: "The situation on the ground is worse than the images we project on television"
posted by aaronetc at 11:51 AM on March 23, 2006


If it is, it's gutlessly barking up a safe tree, instead of doing the job, which is grilling the administration on behalf of their employers. The press is still treating the president the way the American press always treats the American president - like it's some big honour just to have him spin your question into meaningless rhetoric. The press should take a cue from some other countries - this guy is an overpaid public servant at the helm of a job too important to bow and scrape knee too. Lock the guy in a room with a no-holds-barred reporter (import one if necessary, since the US press has no spine), roast him over every detail, and see what comes out.

That's what democracy is. Nevermind Iraq, we could use some here.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:52 AM on March 23, 2006


What a farce. The cult of media bashing on the right has really gone of into an alternate reality.

The bad news out of Iraq is because of the media bias on the issue. It has nothing to do with, you know, all of the bad news in Iraq.

And never mind that the media coverage of Iraq is probably only giving Americans a tenth of the feel for just how bad things are over there.

*rolls eyes*

It's amazing how far official Republican propagandists have pushed so-called intelligent discourse into la-la land in this country.
posted by teece at 11:57 AM on March 23, 2006


Mystyk: Don't be so quick to editorialize. You give away a rather partisan position on the issue in the face of overwhelming evidence of exactly that kind of manipulation. Or do you just want to engage in "truthiness"?

You must be new around here. I blame my over-compensatory non-partisanship for what might seem like partisanship. The operative word there is might, babe.
posted by Skygazer at 12:10 PM on March 23, 2006


Story 1: "50 Civilians killed in US Bombing."
Story 2: "US Destroys suspected terrorist hideout."
Story 3: "Terrorists killed in US raid."

What if all three are true? Saying, 'Just report the facts' sounds great, but in reality it turns into the CYA journalism of 'cover the controversy.'

All you did is illustrate the point. Although not as catchy, how about:

Story 4: "50 People Killed in Bombing"

Within the story the journalist then is free to report the opinions of others, and the facts, i.e., "So and so #1 believes or says that the 50 were terrorists. So and so #2 disagrees and says the 50 were civilians."

I have been involved in several stories reported in news reports, and the reports always cut detail in an effort to make the reports shorter or more sensational.
posted by Capt. Bligh at 1:31 PM on March 23, 2006


The administration is already paying Iraqi newspapers to run good stories.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:47 PM on March 23, 2006


Skygazer: "You must be new around here."
Au contraire. Don't let the number alone fool you. I've been a "lurker" since just before 9-11. But that's not really the point, so...

Skygazer: "I blame my over-compensatory non-partisanship for what might seem like partisanship."
That's a potential problem already. If you try too hard to sound fair, you end up using language that can make it sound accidentally unfair. If the problem rests here, I apologize for my hasty remark.

Skygazer: "The operative word there is might, babe."*
Except in the context it's used in, it is linguistically weak. It is used to link the phrase of "is it justified" with that of "wrongly perceive," not as an active modifier itself. Further, placing "possible" in front of the remaining phrase gives the perception of "minimal chance," not "likely but not established as fact."

Skygazer: "Should the news focus more on the optimistic elements or is it reflecting public opinion[?]"*
Or maybe they shouldn't obey either and should just report whatever they see, good or bad. This argument was touched on above, but I believe it to be the heart of the issue.

One side of the political spectrum is claiming that if the media is showing stuff they want covered up, it must be biased reporting. The other side (excepting a few extremists) wants all things shown so that the public can make up their own minds. It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the former is Republicans, and the latter Democrats.** Now the latter has some pretty serious fucking problems, but on this issue the former is JUST PLAIN WRONG and has absolutely no valid excuse.

* Changed italics formatting for clarity.
** I use R+D to denote political affiliation, since it is not a 1:1 correlation with the "conservative/liberal" ideologies.
posted by mystyk at 2:00 PM on March 23, 2006


I saw this piece on the News Hour. The most important point made was not so much about paybacks etc. but that the "if it bleeds it leads" mentality of reporting really does not do justice to the situation in Iraq. One suggestion of a daily journal (remember these, before blogs) of the current situation.
MICHAEL MASSING: I'm really glad you asked that. It's a big concern of mine. I think our major media are locked into traditional ways of telling the story: number of people that died, attacks, and so on. And all of that is, of course, important.

But the texture of what's there -- I mean, just what Jeffrey Gettleman was describing, you don't get that so much in our papers. They're boxed into traditional ways of telling the stories.

I would like to see somebody like Jeff Gettleman or another reporter do an actual regular column from Iraq. What's it like? What are you hearing on the street? You can often communicate much more that way than in the traditional political type of story.
Supporters of the war in Iraq might not like what such a journal would report, the fear consuming daily life in Iraq. Sure there are good things, but there are also lots of bad things. Regardless, there are a lot more important things than how many people were killed and injured each day. As for paybacks, I believe they were discussing White House press conferences and the like and the feeling was that paybacks were not really an issue in Iraq.
posted by caddis at 4:50 PM on March 23, 2006


The White House has repeatedly denied any attempt to manipulate the press or the public to go to war due to an "Iraq agenda" or through the use of (what is now admitted as being) "faulty intelligence".

That's so cute.
posted by ssmug at 5:21 PM on March 23, 2006


Mystyk:Except in the context it's used in, it is linguistically weak. It is used to link the phrase of "is it justified" with that of "wrongly perceive," not as an active modifier itself. Further, placing "possible" in front of the remaining phrase gives the perception of "minimal chance," not "likely but not established as fact."

Thanks for pointing that out. It is weak. But you have to work with the raw materials you get.

Caddis: I saw this piece on the News Hour. The most important point made was not so much about paybacks etc.

I didn't think it was the most important thing. But I thought this notion of "compensatory criticism" deserved some discussion. New labels for the media's actions sorta rings an alarm bell with me.

Ssmug: That's so cute.

Thanks. I thought so too. See my response to Mystyk in this comment.
posted by Skygazer at 8:35 AM on March 24, 2006


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