Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

We expect MSM screw ups, but the arrogance when they’re wrong is troubling

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Originally published on on Mon, 08/11/2008 – 10:09am

The right-wing cries about “liberal media bias.” The MSM can’t cover things John McCain has said with tape to prove it.

Yet The Washington Post can stand by a Barack Obama quote, despite several clear signs that the quote was taken out of context (about alleged arrogance), and then chastise those who speak up, and yet we find out that the reporters didn’t do the basics to find out whether it was true.

As Robert Parry notes:

“Post ombudsman Deborah Howell also acknowledges that neither Post reporter who relied on the misleading quote spoke directly with the source, checked out its accuracy, or made any independent effort to determine the context of the remark, which was made to a closed Democratic caucus meeting on Capitol Hill on July 29.”

The two reporters from The Washington Post — Dana Milbank and Jonathan Weisman — don’t have a negative rap sheet. In fact, I’m a fan of Milbank’s Washington Sketches. But for a quote where the context isn’t clear, which goes against everything the candidate has said up to this point, and has produced this much of a backlash, you would think the reporters might have second thoughts.

But instead of having that curiosity, the opposite happened. Milbank turned on those who protested, ranking their concerns on a “whine” scale. This might have been funny if what Milbank and Weisman said was true, but the tiny problem is that the people complaining were right, and the reporters were wrong.

If you read where Milbank went with this “arrogance,” you will already see one correction, and a key one at that. But the correction we want to see, more than just a lukewarm ombudsman piece referring to those trying to get the truth out as “partisans,” is one where these reporters step up and say, “We didn’t give the whole context. We damaged Obama with our take. And we shouldn’t have made fun of people who turned out to be correct.”

This was an event where they didn’t attend, there was no tape, and the interpretation was completely out of context in every way possible. And they never talked to the source.

We expect the MSM, even The Washington Post, to show bias against Obama, to be in favor of McCain. We even expect them to screw up in similar fashions to this event. And we even expect them to get things wrong in such an egregious way that it implies incompetence or complete bias. We sadly expect this.

But what put this event over the top is that the “how dare you question what we wrote” mentality, especially when they didn’t take several Journalism 101 steps that would have killed the momentum (rightfully so) of the story.

Jonathan Weisman, Dana Milbank – you had this story wrong, completely wrong. And the steps you didn’t take show sloppiness that you don’t normally display. And I will let you in on a secret that you can share with the rest of the MSM: we are watching you. And much more often than not, we are right.

Yes, journalists are human. And we all make mistakes. But the next time you make such an egregious mistake, consider the possibility that you may have screwed up. Screwing up is a problem, but having the attitude that you couldn’t possibly have screwed up is a whole lot worse.

Robert Parry’s take

Media Matters analysis


Written by democracysoup

August 11, 2008 at 10:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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