NPR’s new goal – be ‘fair to the truth’

A new ethics handbook released by National Public Radio seems to indicate the network is reacting in a positive way to persistent criticism of its “he said, she said” approach to the news. According to Jay Rosen of PressThink, the new handbook bluntly states that “a report characterized by false balance is a false report.” It calls for reportage that rejects false balance in favor of reportage that’s “fair to the truth.”

Rosen reprints two key passages from the new handbook:

In all our stories, especially matters of controversy, we strive to consider the strongest arguments we can find on all sides, seeking to deliver both nuance and clarity. Our goal is not to please those whom we report on or to produce stories that create the appearance of balance, but to seek the truth.


At all times, we report for our readers and listeners, not our sources. So our primary consideration when presenting the news is that we are fair to the truth. If our sources try to mislead us or put a false spin on the information they give us, we tell our audience. If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports. We strive to give our audience confidence that all sides have been considered and represented fairly.

Fair to the truth — what a concept! New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argued for the same approach to the news back in July while criticizing the corporate news media:

News reports portray the [major political] parties as equally intransigent; pundits fantasize about some kind of ‘centrist’ uprising as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides. Some of us have long complained about the cult of ‘balance,’ the insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.”

Is there a trend in progress? Will mainstream media outlets begin printing stories that are fair to the truth rather than constructed to present opposing sides of a story as equally true, regardless of what the facts indicate?

Probably not, but NPR is at least fighting for reporters who value accuracy over the “spin” that publicists and propagandists always prefer. Think how far the George W. Bush team would have gotten in pushing for a war in Iraq if the corporate news media had been fair to the truth. Imagine all the lives that might have been saved.

Krugman, to his credit, states the obvious

The NYT columnist ruffled George Will’s feathers on “This Week”:

“I have a structural hypothesis here,” [Paul] Krugman told ABC’s Christiane Amanpour Sunday. “You have a Republican ideology, which Mitt Romney obviously doesn’t believe in. He just oozes insincerity, that’s just so obvious. But all of the others are fools and clowns. And there is a question here, my hypothesis is that maybe this is an ideology that only fools and clowns can believe in. And that’s the Republican problem.” More here.

Even Forbes Magazine sees the light

Paul Krugman wrote Monday that we’re “on the cusp of an energy transformation, driven by the rapidly falling cost of solar power.” Then I happened to see this piece from Forbes, which actually surprised me:

When GE’s director of global research predicted today that in just five years solar-generated electricity will be cheaper than power from fossil fuels and nuclear power, he was repeating forecasts heard from many other sources over the last several months.

A study by Duke University researchers last year even claimed that solar has already reached grid parity with nuclear in some areas (although some critics questioned the report’s methodology).

The cost of solar power has already been reduced dramatically — because of technological innovations like “thin film” solar… and utility scale concentrated solar power that uses molten salt to store energy for hours after the sun sets.

And, as GE’s Mark Little said in his interview with Bloomberg, more innovations are in the pipeline and will help drive down the cost of solar power even more.

On lies and the lying liars quoted in the NYT

I was going to post a rant regarding an insipid New York Times story in which Wall Street types were asked to comment on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Thankfully, NYT columnist Paul Krugman beat me to it:

On Saturday The Times reported what people in the financial industry are saying privately about the protests. My favorite quote came from an unnamed money manager who declared, “Financial services are one of the last things we do in this country and do it well. Let’s embrace it.”

More here.

Media a big help to debt-limit loonies

Interesting blog yesterday by Paul Krugman, a bit edgier than his op-ed columns, sparked by his gloomy conclusion that “the cult of balance, of centrism” is hurting the country more than the cult of right-wing loonies pushing for default on the national debt:

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.

The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president…

You have to ask, what would it take for these news organizations and pundits to actually break with the convention that both sides are equally at fault? This is the clearest, starkest situation one can imagine short of civil war. If this won’t do it, nothing will.

I suspect Krugman, in denouncing faux centrism, was thinking of his colleague Thomas Friedman, a jack-ass of the first order whose latest pipe dream involves a Washington, D.C. “political start-up” called Americans Elect that wants to hold an “internet convention” to select a centrist third-party presidential candidate for 2012.

And how would this third-party force obtain the multimillions of dollars needed to develop an infrastructure that would get out the vote? Friedman doesn’t address this and many other questions, just as he never addressed the devastating downside of globalization in The World Is Flat, his wet dream about our glorious future in a world run by multinational corporations.