Selective stenography

Glenn Greenwald really rips into NY Times’ public editor over yesterday’s column in which he asked if reporters should note in their stories that the people they’re interviewing are lying.

That most reporters faithfully follow the stenographer model — uncritically writing down what people say and then leaving it at that — is so obvious that it’s hardly worth the effort to demonstrate it. There are important exceptions to this practice even at the most establishment media outlets, where diligent and intrepid investigative journalismexposes the secret corruption of the most powerful. But by and large, most establishment news coverage consists of announcing that someone or other has made some claim, then (at most) adding that someone else has made a conflicting claim, and then walking away. This isn’t merely the practice of journalists; rather, as Rosen points out, it’s virtually their religion. They simply do not believe that reporting facts is what they should be doing. Recall David Gregory’s impassioned defense of the media’s behavior in the lead-up to the Iraq War, when he rejected complaints that journalists failed to document falsehoods from Bush officials because “it’s not our role“ and then sneered that only an ideologue would want them to do so (shortly thereafter, NBC named Gregory the new host of Meet the Press).

Literally every day, one finds major news stories that consist of little more than the uncritical conveying of official claims, often protected by journalists not only from critical scrutiny but — thanks to the shield of anonymity they subserviently extend — from all forms of accountability. Just to take one highly illustrative example from last week, theNYT published an article by Eric Schmitt based almost entirely on the assertions of anonymous officials, announcing that “a nearly two-month lull in American drone strikes in Pakistan has helped embolden Al Qaeda and several Pakistani militant factions to regroup, increase attacks against Pakistani security forces and threaten intensified strikes against allied forces in Afghanistan.” No criticisms of drone attacks were included. Three days later, the U.S. resumed drone attacks, after which the same Eric Schmitt immediately ran to inform us, citing Reuters, that the drone strike killed “at least three militants” (as always, “militant” in American media discourse means: any person who dies when an American missile shot from a drone detonates).

2 thoughts on “Selective stenography

  1. The failure of the NYTimes is the major reason I decided to no longer subscribe. Why bother to pay for lies being delivered to the end of my driveway? I can get them for less on TV and the internet.

    If the NYTimes were providing actual factual based reporting and facts, not just repeating lies of misleading statements of the Powers That Be, then that newspaper would be worth its weight in gold. While I could no longer afford it, it would still be invaluable.

    Now? Meh. The cutesy stenography from many (most?) of its op-ed writers still is just stenography. Albeit I miss Krugman…and I don’t read himas frequently as I would were I getting the print edition.

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