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Is this credible Journalism?

How can a journalist refer to some views as facts when the source is an anonymous bloger that she has never met?
For your information

The other day I read a comment in the Canadian Globe and Mail by the columnist Margret Wente (1). She was writing sort of response to a resent article by Naomi Kline (2) that was reporting from Iraq and how things where there.

Margaret Wente in her article to make her point what Iraqis think refers to some Iraqi blogers. How can a journalist refer to some views as facts when the source is an anonymous bloger that she has never met? What sort of credible journalism is that?

On one Iraqi bloger when I asked if he was Iraqi I had my IP address published ( http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com). Another bloger refused to answer ( http://messopotamian.blogspot.com). And the third ( http://iraqataglance.blogspot.com ) welcomed me the next day on his comment sections with "Banned by webmaster. Your comments will not be added". The day before this I had asked him this "And AYS can you please tell me what you did to convince some of your regular readers that you are an Iraqi IN Iraq reporting truthful news?
Some here seem to have a lot of difficulties even trusting CNN and BBC. When a news reports from CNN includes a viewed reporter, interviews with viewed Iraqis and a huge media company to back it's a true media outlet. And they still say they do not believe it but somehow they believe an anonymous bloger? So how did you make them think you unknown person are telling them the truth that CNN and other western news are lying about?"

So when I saw the article by M.Wente referring to these blogs I thought it was time to tell what happened to me otherwise I would have just let it slip away as any other bad media reporting that I see everyday.

Some of you might already have read this but for you who have not here is part of an article about the "Bush Loyalists Pack Iraq Press Office"

"Bob Boorstin of the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan political think-tank in Washington.

``You know they're in trouble if they shipped Rich Galen over there,'' said Boorstin, who worked on four presidential campaigns, all Democratic.

``They're desperate to control the story over there. It's a very smart thing on their part. He knows what he's doing.''

Still, Boorstin said the shaping of the American message out of Iraq should come as no surprise. The rigors of election year politics demand the best possible portrayal of key policies, and Bush has staked his presidency on the notion that he's a war president.

``There's some deep questions about whether (the U.S. invasion) was a good idea. Wherever and whenever they can, Bush's political people are manipulating whatever they can,'' he said.

``Is that a surprise? No. Would Democrats do it? Yes. But it's particularly noxious because people's lives are on the line."

1) http://www.globeandmail.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20040325/COWENT25//?query=Naomi+Klein

2) http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,5673,1176483,00.html
Sinking in their own spin 06.Apr.2004 10:01


Just found this/
Fri, April 2, 2004

Sinking in their own spin


According to a new book by Paul Rutherford, Weapons of Mass Persuasion, there are 20,000 more public relations experts in the United States doctoring the news than there are journalists trying to write it.

Information straight out of the spin dryer is bad news for democracy. When citizens get their take on reality from fiendishly choreographed news conferences, press releases, slick videos, and other one-sided tools of mass-marketing, truth is usually the first casualty. The measure of success is not whether the spin conveys good information, but whether it makes a sale, a convert, a self-interested point.

As Hemingway liked to say, it would be pretty to think that journalists are at least something of an antidote to the Gospel according to Madison Avenue -- whether it is trying to sell hydrogen cars or a world-view in a presidential speech. And to be sure, some are. But the truth is, journalism, or should I say the new norms of the business, particularly in the dead zones of television, has become a big part of the problem.

In his book, just released by University of Toronto Press, Rutherford notes that up to 40% of what appears in American newspapers consists of items produced by press agents and public relations firms, which is then regurgitated by the "objective" news organs. News conferences which were once a mere clue to the real story are the story.

Events are dutifully reported verbatim even when the party giving the press conference refuses to take questions -- as President Bush did this week when he portrayed himself as a person anxious to have his national security adviser testify before the 9/11 commission. The man who had spent months stonewalling his own commission came off as a leader with a deep commitment to a public search for the truth about that awful September day. The new objectivity.

Quite a word, "objective." The Oxford English Dictionary is filled with the biographies of individual words that have changed their meanings over centuries of use. Objectivity used to mean an unbiased and independent search for the facts -- the touchstone of a free press. The new "objectivity" of the mass media is a mantra of equal time and no reality check, a free ride for those who would spin the news legitimized by the dubious proposition that insiders in a field like politics know best.

In Canada, the typical network television political panel now looks something like this: One talking head from each of the political parties given more or less equal time by a mellowed out moderator who rarely does more than start and click a stop-watch and buddy up to his guests.

That type of panel, (and that type of info-spin) is duplicated by the political insider panel, in which moderators defer to party hacks for their sense of what is really happening. In fact, these hosts often act as if they have the cultural memory of a fruit fly. We have moved from a profession where the handmaidens and spin doctors of politicians were the last people we turned to for our insights into public affairs to one in which we have made them the new stars.

George Stephanopolous stepped straight out of his role as a political adviser to Bill Clinton into a network public affairs show. George may have been connected in Washington, but it's a long way from Woodward and Bernstein. Nor is he alone. The television networks are awash with administration or former administration figures telling the public exactly what their former political masters want to hear. Their views are rarely challenged with independent facts.

Though it is the most shameless culprit of promoting partisan cant as the inside scoop, television is by no means the only "news" organ that has started sleeping with the enemy. The National Post recently handed over its front page to New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord to explain the historic watershed that the Conservative party was about to reach at its leadership convention.

The Globe and Mail gave a column to Brian Tobin, a man who managed the media while in politics the way promoter Don King handles boxers. And the Toronto Star features Rick Anderson, Rasputin to former Reform leader Preston Manning and political adviser to a slew of conservative politicians. Newspapers used to know what was happening inside political parties from their own sources; now the party mouthpieces are not only the sources, they are the employees.

Could that be one of the reasons that the United States, for example, has become the Gridlock Nation, a populace so bombarded with partisan perversions of the facts they just can't decide which spin doctor, if any, is telling the truth? Journalists used to play, with varying degrees of success, the honest broker in that dilemma. But now that so much political journalism has either become entertainment (the mouse ears don't become Peter Jennings) or political agendas disguised as news, it's not a question of the guy with the best case winning the day, but the one with the best ad agency or kept network.

Instead of making the case, politicians these days largely make it up -- with a very expensive and sophisticated technology that will probably put a $200 million pricetag on running for president. And all those polls? They are not so much to allow politicians to find out what the public is thinking but how that thinking might be shaped. Again, not good for democracy.

But there is a hint at least that the public may be fed up. According to the latest Nielsen ratings, CNN has lost 52% of its viewing audience for the first quarter of 2004. In fact, only one of CNN's news shows made the Top 12 cable broadcasts in the U.S. Over the same period, viewership of the Fox News Channel fell by 36%.

Since these networks are the Big Daddies of passing off spin as news, of allowing their stations to be used as the informational sinks of the White House, it might be that Americans are ready to ask a lot more of their journalists.

After all, it's not about face-time, right?

insider 07.Apr.2004 07:34


The George Seldes reader
by Holhut, Randolph T.
Barricade Books, c1994.
Call #: 070.9 S464h