Friday, April 22, 2005

Good journalism is not deceptive

I listened to this morning's CBS News World News Roundup on WBBM-AM 780 in Chicago.

One of the segments was the last part of a CBS series on Social Security. CBS chose to quote only the insurance industry and the extreme libertarian CATO Institute. The reporter claimed that the Social Security system would be "in the red" in 12 years. This is incorrect. In 12 years, the Social Security system will start using the interest from the trust fund as it was originally designed to do. This distortion and the one-sided interviews gave the impression that the Social Security system is in crisis. Factually, it is not. The system is solvent until at least 2042, and repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy would provide more than enough money to fix the system indefinitely.

I know that people should hear from both sides in the debate, but this doesn't mean that the press should be neutral on the facts. The fact is that the Social Security system is in good shape, but CATO and the Republicans oppose social security for ideological reasons. They can't stand to see a government program that works for the people.

CBS may have had good intentions for its series on social security. However, CBS aired a piece that sounded educational, but was ill-informed and harmful to responsible government.

This is a prime example of what has gone wrong with journalism. Journalists may prefer to quote others rather than inject their personal opinion, but it is both unethical and unprofessional to present an array of quotes which do not accurately reflect the facts in the case.

Fox News has a deliberate policy of reporting things that favor the Republicans, corporations and the ultra-rich. Unfortunately, other networks that may have weaker biases are hobbled by laziness and a lack of ethical concern.

4 comments:

rob said...

I don't mind a discussion of SS but since healthcare is so closely linked to the succes of the economy I find it curious they are wasting time with this non- priority.

Nevin ":-)" said...

If the press reported that "[The Republicans] can't stand to see a government program that works for the people.", I would consider that just as biased as their current reporting on Social Security. That just isn't a fact; it is only an opinion based upon their unstated value judgements.

This is a prime example of what has gone wrong with journalism. When was journalism "right"? I believe it is a romantic notion that has never been true. Was it better when Hearst was running things? I don't think Orson Welles would agree.

Doctor Logic said...

Nevin,

I agree with you. The press shouldn't spend the bulk of its time speculating on the reasons for Republican corruption.

My point is this. If the Republicans make a false claim, the press should be willing to quote fact sources directly. They shouldn't wait for a Democrat to issue a competing press release. As it stands, the press makes questions of fact look like "he said, she said." That's misleading and unethical reporting, and, literally, it happens every day.

The press were once the allies and defenders of the people. Today, they are pawns and sycophants.

Nevin ":-)" said...

I don't think the press was ever "the allies and defenders of the people." Where is the evidence?

All of it is really bad these days. Check out the LA Times article Sifting Clues to an Unsmiling Girl, where the "journalist" says "All but one of the offenders they have arrested in the last four years was a hard-core Trekkie," implying that being a Trekkie somehow predisposes one to exploiting children. Some cop said it, some hack wrote it down, some editor approved it. No thinking involved. Responsible journalism is dead (if it ever was alive).

Sadly, I get better information from The Daily Show than any outlet which has First Amendment protection.

Then again, I live in a country where "Accredited White House Correspondent" and "Male Prostitute" are indistinguishable, and the mainstream press doesn't think it is an important enough issue to report and investigate...