June 20, 2003

The Rochester Post-Bulletin Bothers Me Sometimes

Here in Southeastern Minnesota, the newspaper of note is the Rochester Post-Bulletin. It's a cute little newspaper that thinks it's a lot bigger and better than it actually is, and I'm not just saying that because they outright suck from time to time. The P-B has such a high opinion of itself that it actually tries charging people to view its online content (hell, even the Minneapolis Star-Tribune doesn't charge for that), which I easily get around by using the username and password of a friend of mine. Sometimes, though, the P-B just bothers the living shit out of me, particularly in their editorial department.

I think what bothers me most about the P-B is that it's a deeply conservative newspaper that thinks it's liberal. Being neither conservative or liberal is just fine. I straddle the lib and con fence on a slew of issues, so I see myself as a middle of the road type of guy on a lot of issues. I'm a conserviberal, if you will, or a libervative. Whatever. But, the P-B refuses to admit its essentially conservative leanings, and its editorial department continually churns out tripe selling itself as liberal. Take, for example, one of their most recent blathers. It bothers me on many levels, which are pointed out here.

liberal media bias disproved
Thursday, June 19, 2003

If there is a liberal bias in the U.S. media, it was not in evidence during coverage of the war in Iraq.
The existence of a liberal bias, one would assume, would have led to television coverage tilted in favor of anti-war points of view.

As you can imagine, this immediately bothered me. According to the P-B way of thinking, to be liberal automatically means you're anti-war. WTF? Excuse me, but you could be liberal to the point of Communism and still support war.

In fact, just the opposite occurred, according to a recently released study by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, a non-partisan media watchdog group.

Non-partisan my ass. Any group that advocates "greater diversity in the press that scrutinizes media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints" is pretty liberal in my book. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing bad about any of that, but tell it like it is: it's partisan as hell.

The study found a decided pro-war bias in coverage provided by programs on the six major news networks. For the first three weeks of the war, from March 20 through April 9, FAIR researchers looked at 1,617 on-camera sources for ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, Fox's Special Report with Brit Hume, and PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer.

The study found that only 10 percent of all sources were anti-war, and most of them were Iraqi. Of American sources interviewed or shown on the programs, only 3 percent were anti-war.

So, the P-B gripe, which they took so long getting to, is that they feel that anti-war reporting should have had equal time alongside pro-war reporting. Under that logic, the KKK should be allowed equal time alongside civil rights issues. Let's get something straight here. Just because some people take a contrary side to popular opinion, that doesn't automatically entitle them to equal time on anything. When it comes right down to it, the anti-war crowd was given a tremendous amount of ink when you consider that their opinion reflected roughly 35 percent of the American population at the time. They just squandered their media face-time by looking ridiculous (note to protesters: don't wear cardboard missiles as penises in front of cameras. They make you look dumb as a rock).

By comparison, the programs routinely turned to official voices, including former military officers, for information and comment.

Soooo, news programs turned to former military officers for information and comment on a war? How crazy is that?! Who should they have turned to instead? Alec Baldwin?

Again, the tilt was heavily in favor of supporters of the war. "Of a total of 840 U.S. sources who are current or former government or military officials," the FAIR report said, "only four were identified as holding anti-war opinions."

Huh. Fascinating. Who would have thought it would have been so hard to find government or military officials who disagreed with their employer?

American news shows also turned to British sources for information and content. But despite widespread opposition within Great Britain to the war, not even one British anti-war voice was heard on the six news shows during the three weeks of the survey.

Even allowing that a rare anti-war voice found its way into the networks' coverage, there was nothing approaching proportional air time. "Not a single show in the study conducted a sit-down interview with a person identified as being against the war," the study found.

As you can probably tell, this whole concept of "proportional air time" really chaps my ass. It's getting to the point that every dissenting opinion on everything from the war in Iraq to the pros and cons of booger picking are demanding equal time. The push to give proportional time to those who oppose a viewpoint, in fact, has gotten so ridiculous, there are actually those who support requiring Web sites, blogs included, to offer up a "right of reply" for those who don't like your opinion or who may have been maligned by an offhand rant. Just imagine if, every time you waggle a finger a someone you dislike, you have to give them equal time to respond and post their nonsense alongside your carefully thought out diatribe. I'd go nuts. NUTS I tell you. But, I digress.

Reflecting American disdain for the viewpoints of others, the networks also generally neglected to tap sources from countries other than the United States, Great Britain or Iraq. "Citizens from those nations that most vocally opposed the U.S. war effort -- France, Germany and Russia -- accounted for just 16 appearances, constituting just 1 percent of all guests," the report said.

Oh, well, France, Germany and Russia sure proved themselves to be valuable voices in the anti-war movement, what with how they were protecting their financial investment in propping up Saddam and his murderous regime. I still roll my eyes every time I see footage of fleeing Ba'athists driving away in BMWs or when I hear of the sneaky oil deals France-based ELF had with Saddam. These are the anti-war folks the people at the Fairness and Accuracy and Reporting want to give equal time to? Why not ask Mike Tyson to explain why raping women and biting off ears are actually positive expressions of the soul?

All of it adds up to a pathetic performance by the major television news operations. News officials failed to provide fair, proportional coverage of all viewpoints. They neglected to do their own digging on stories, preferring instead to accept the unchallenged word of official sources.

This coming from a newspaper that just accepted, without question, the findings of the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting organization. Pot, please meet kettle. Kettle, pot.

There was no liberal slant to television's coverage of the war. Nor was there anything approaching fair and balanced coverage.

Again, to the P-B, "liberal slant" means anti-war, which is such an asshat assumption it requires its own special department of monumentally stupid.

As a result the American people were poorly served by the broadcast media at a time of national crisis.

Yeah, some crisis. During a war when you could flip channels to American Idol, I would hardly call it a national crisis. Sheesh.

Posted by Ryan at June 20, 2003 11:37 AM
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