Category Archives: Media Criticism


Matt Welch has a nice little rant about the disgusting practice of journalists letting their subjects edit their own stories. Fair enough.

But something that I’ve never understood is most journalists’ unwillingness to even allow their subjects to review and comment on the stories prior to publication. If they would do this, there would be many fewer boneheaded articles being written (particularly on matters scientific, but also matters simply factual) by journalists who don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m not saying that they should have to make changes, or accept editing–just that they should be willing to accept suggestions and use their own judgment as to whether or not to make the changes.

If I were writing an article, I would certainly want to get as much input as possible before finalizing it and avoid making myself look like a fool. I don’t understand why journalists don’t have that attitude. Is it something in the water in J School?

This problem extends, by the way, to movie directors. I see many stupid, incredible scientific blunders in many movies that are simply pointless. They don’t make for a better story, they don’t advance the plot, the movie would be dramatically just as good if they get the science right instead of wrong. And it wouldn’t make people like me think that they’re fools.

And it’s not even a matter of not having the expertise available–I’ve seen really stupid films made, supposedly with consulting by NASA. One suspects that they listen to the advice, shrug their shoulders, and then do it the way they want anyway. They’re, after all, the artists–what do those science geeks know?

Unfortunately, there probably aren’t enough people (like me) who care for the market to work and punish them sufficiently to get them to change. But the problem is, even if most people don’t mind (or notice) that things don’t make sense, it simply continues to reinforce scientific ignorance and innumeracy on the part of the populace.


Tim Blair bludgeons poor Margo Kingston today (though, unfortunately, probably not into submission).

Margo is truly a national Ozzie wonder, like Ayers Rock, or the Barrier Reef, or vegemite, and he’s lucky among all of us anglospherians to have her. We have our Ralls, our Salters, and they have Heather Mallick Up North, and Fisk across The Pond, but somehow, you just can’t beat the non-stop, vacuous platitudes of Margo.

However, while I realize that she’s a rich ore to mine, he should have broken it up into installments–one can only take so much unprecedented idiocy at a single sitting. One has the frightening thought that he could probably do this every day for a month and never run out of material.

Distaff (And Distressed) Whistleblowers

Will Vehrs says:

…look for any number of follow-up articles on the relative honesty of women versus men, profiles and interviews with the distaff whistleblowers, and maybe even a comparison with the women of the Clinton years, such as Susan McDougal.

Of course, Susan was practicing omerta. But, actually, of course, there were female whistleblowers galore during the Clinton years, most notably Linda Tripp, who, while most well known for her involvement in l’affaire Lewinsky, revealed lots of unrelated unseemly and probably even illegal activities. There was also Jean Lewis, RTC investigator in Whitewater (they went after her private emails). And the doctor who was practically drummed out of the military because she questioned the Ron Brown autopsy. Not to mention Gennifer Flowers, Dolly Kyle Browning, Kathleen Willey, etc.

Of course, in contrast to the brave souls exposing Enron improprieties and illegalities, whistleblowers (particularly female whistleblowers) on the Clinton Administration were not heralded by the media–they were vilified, via the “nuts ‘n sluts” whispers emanating from the White House and parroted by an adoring press.

I continually found it ironic that the feminist movement was so eager to defend a president who not only eviscerated their hard-fought legislative victory in workplace sexual harassment, but used women, both figuratively and literally, as toilet paper…

More Krugman Bashing

Mark Steyn has started going after Krugman today.

While I agree that Andrew Sullivan has been ODing on the story, that’s probably out of frustration at the fact that no one in the “mainstream media” seems to think that it is a story…

And to Matt Welch and Jeff Jarvis–I don’t “scream about media bias until blue in the face.” My face remains a healthy fleshy color. I simply calmly point it out as a fact…

More Media Bias Confusion

In his failed attempt to debunk the notion of media bias, Jeff Jarvis misses the point entirely. He does, however, unwittingly make the point of Goldberg, and those of us who do claim bias:

…journalistic integrity — or bias — is the product of the consciences of individuals far more than of the conspiracies of institutions.

Exactly. Media bias exists, but it isn’t caused by editorial pressure, or some kind of conspiracy, so most of what Jeff says is utterly irrelevant. It is caused by the intrinsic staff composition of the major media organs. Most reporters and editors are liberal, both by their nature (many go into journalism to “change the world”) and training (most journalism professors, like most humanities professors, are liberals to one degree or another of extremity). Also, if you’re not a liberal, in the social circles that journalists hang out in, you will not get invited to the right parties, or get access to the best sources. How else to explain that 89% of the Washington press corps voted for Bill Clinton in 1992?

It’s not a conspiracy–it’s just an emergent trait of the profession. Jeff doesn’t see it because he is immersed in it. Fish are similarly unaware of water.

Why Are Funerals News?

I’m listening, with half an ear as I work, to the funeral of the guy killed in hostile fire in Afghanistan, on Fox News. It seems to have turned into a lengthy sermon. It sounds like I’m listening to something on Sunday morning on some double-digit VHF or UHF channel, instead of Friday afternoon on FNC.

I have no objection to such a thing at the funeral, if the family want it, but do the non-Christians among us really have to be subjected to it (yeah, I know, I can switch the channel)?

I just think that funerals are not news, at least not any more. I thought that Barbara Olson’s service was beautiful, but I still questioned its being telecast live. We’re only making a big deal about this one because there have been so few casualties, and none due to hostile fire, until this one. But if this were a real war, we wouldn’t have enough television bandwidth to broadcast all the funerals. The fact that he died is news. I’m sorry for his family, but his funeral isn’t.

Quagmire Is Back In Vogue

Time to resurrect the Quagmire Watch. Murkiness is out, after a brief rein, and quagmire is back in. The only catch is that even a journalist isn’t dumb enough to apply it to Afghanistan anymore. So they simply change the venue, to Iraq where, according to the handwringers at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the mother of all quagmires awaits us. (And while we’re at it, hats off to Saddam, the father of the mother of all cliches…).

Camelot Finally Over?

I haven’t been watching the news today. Has anyone mentioned that today is the 38th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination? Certainly pre-911, it would have been a lead. Perhaps we finally have a day that eclipses November 22. If so, it’s another beneficial side effect of a devastating event…

Shake and Shake The Catsup Bottle

OK, I give up, American media. Which is it? First you’re frustrated because we’re in a “quagmire” (oh, we know, you’d never say such a thing–it’s just that some unnamed “others” are starting to use the word). And besides, those horrible Northern Alliance types (who just a couple of days ago you sagely informed us were undisciplined, and still using actual (gasp!) horses for cavalry) were incapable of mounting a serious offensive against the battle-toughened, death-seeking, fanatical, unbeatable Taliban. And our bombing was having little effect.

But wait! Now, somehow, those incompetent NA types seem to have those supermen Taliban invincible warriors on the, well… run. And now you’re not happy about that, because as I type this, you’re complaining because we haven’t yet put together a “broad-based government” to replace them, and of course, it would be worse to let the NA take Kabul, when we could let those humanitarian souls, the Taliban, continue to hold it.

Let’s face a few facts here. First of all, no, the Northern Alliance are not a bunch of Sunday School teachers. When it comes to enlightened democracy and western values, they leave much to be desired, as they’ve demonstrated in their past behavior. But is anyone really going to argue that they’re worse than the Taliban? A general in (I think, WW II) once said crudely, but accurately, that “war is a set of shitty choices.” No, it’s not ideal to let the Northern Alliance take Kabul, but it’s preferable to allowing the Taliban to keep it, particularly if its falling maintains the momentum of deteriorating morale of their fighters, and that of those idiots who would go to Afghanistan to fight beside them. We have time, eternity even, to fix whatever problems are incurred by a takeover by the NA.

Second, wars are not smooth, predictable affairs. They are chaotic, and catastrophic, in the mathematical sense. One can pound a position for days, or even weeks, and think it impregnable, when it suddenly, inexplicably crumbles. So it is not surprising to anyone familiar with military history (which lets out most of the modern press corps) that a military campaign can seem bogged down–even in a “quagmire”–and suddenly see the tide turn. To bring it down to a level that even a journalist can understand, having experienced it in some soda shop or diner, there was an old and simple poem that I remember from childhood (perhaps by Ogden Nash?).

Shake and shake the catsup bottle

None will come, and then a lot’ll

Apparently, we’ve finally shaken the catsup bottle enough in Afghanistan.