2006/06/12

WaPo reviews Lapdogs

The Washington Post's Michael Getler reviews Eric Boehlert's Lapdogs and makes a point I found rather bizarre:

One obvious failing is that a book by a journalist attacking the press ought to have included some responses from editors and reporters who disagree with Boehlert's conclusions. There is basically none of that here.

First off, blogger's criticism's have been made out in the open and most lefty blogs have comments. Right-wing blogs have email addresses for readers to contact writers with, so it's not like papers and magazines and TV studios hav been unable to respond. Being from a group with a smaller audience, bloggers would be happy to feature defenses by mainstream media people as to their rolling-over for Bush & company. Had the mainstream folks had any defense or excuse for their conduct, we readers of blogs would have read of their defenses a long time ago.

Laying this out, he writes, "makes the conclusion -- that the press rolled over for Bush -- inescapable." But there is no way to prove that this is "inescapable," which would mean knowing what was inside the heads of producers and editors at the time their news decisions were made.

"...knowing what was inside the heads of producers and editors" is what the advice columnist Miss Manners derisively refers to as "mind-reading," a feat that's generally impossible in any event and that's an activity best avoided by serious people. Usually, it's quite enough to observe the words and actions of a person, which normally tell one all that one needs to know.

So does that mean that the editors who made those calls were pro-Bush or cowed by the aftermath of Sept. 11, fiery right-wing bloggers, conservative broadcasters and a mean White House press strategy? Or did some editors simply exercise poor news judgment or lack the experience or determination to make sure that nothing was left unsaid, unchallenged or uncovered? Or were they convinced that a war with Iraq was coming and were too focused on getting ready to cover it?

Interesting questions all, but going into them would require getting the inside scoop on still-ongoing matters. It reminds me of the continual discussions about "Is torture justified if there's a ticking time bomb...?" Sure, you can torture the bad guy, but there's no way to confirm that the bad guy is telling you the truth. Just because he appears to break down and appears to desperately gasp out the location of the bomb doesn't mean you're finally getting the truth. Likewise, as long as media people have any motivation to not tell us the truth about why they write what they do, we the public will not get the truth.

Generally, it's a good review, but I think Getler misses the boat on these questions.

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