Bad Media

December 28th, 2011 at 10:37 am

Two examples of good media gone bad…real bad.

First, while out running yesterday (I saw this in person!), I heard one of those segments on NPR where they simply play a few minutes of a candidate’s stump speech, with no commentary.  OK—a little lazy, but I get it—unvarnished campaign-speak.   And, full disclosure, I’m generally a fan of NPR and a contributor.

But this one featured Gov Rick Perry and it ended with the Gov asserting the Social Security was a Ponzi scheme…not just asserting but using language like “everyone knows it’s a Ponzi scheme.”  (I can’t find the link—just as well…)

That absolutely deserves…requires!…some commentary.  To leave that blatantly false claim hanging out there isn’t “balanced” or “fair” journalism.  It’s irresponsible journalism.  Suppose the Gov had said something blatantly racist, asserting “everyone knows” it to be true?  What if he had asserted a known falsehood, like the birthers did for so long?  Would NPR let that stand in the interest of impartiality?

Calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme is simply no different…it’s equally false.  It’s calling a window a sofa, and if journalists lets such statements stand, then why do we need journalism?

Second, this article from the morning’s WaPo makes some good points, but is also misleadingly incomplete.

It talks about our challenging deficit and debt forecasts and our failure to do anything much to lower their trajectory in 2011, despite the pledge of tea partiers to drastically cut spending.

But how can you write an article about deficits in 2011 and never mention the words “recession,” “unemployment,” or “jobs?”  Many of us have argued that if anything, our short-term deficit is too small (and it’s falling) to temporarily offset the ongoing contraction in private sector demand.  That contraction is loosening, for sure, but it’s not over by a longshot.  The economy still needs fiscal support, and the failure to recognize this has been our most serious policy mistake, consigning millions to unnecessary, avoidable economic pain.

The article cited every budget hawk circling the Capitol, but somehow managed not to talk to one person with an opposing viewpoint—nowhere is the truth about this issue: we absolutely need an elevated budget deficit right now; we also need a credible plan to reduce it once the economy recovers.  (BTW, the President has proposed one that stabilizes the debt in the near term.  This somehow didn’t show up either in the Post piece.)

Like I said, the piece makes some good, important points, like this one from Rep Steny Hoyer on gridlock:

Hoyer acknowledged, however, that Obama and the Democrats are not likely to risk campaigning on a return to the higher middle-class tax rates of the 1990s. Instead, Obama has been implying that the debt problem can be solved by raising taxes on the tiny fraction of people earning more than $1 million a year. Republican presidential contenders, meanwhile, are proposing to tame the debt by spending cuts alone, perhaps by eliminating a few federal agencies.

But it was terribly one-sided and missed an opportunity to present the real story about a critical issue.  The WaPo editorial page has a long tradition of getting this wrong.  But the journalists usually do better.


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6 comments in reply to "Bad Media"

  1. Fred Donaldson says:

    The Washington Post has an agreement to use news from Fiscal Times on economic issues.

    As Wikipedia notes:

    “Initially funded by Peter G. Peterson, a billionaire who has long advocated for deficit reduction, The Fiscal Times has been accused by some liberal advocacy groups of having a political agenda. The first controversy occurred when the Washington Post published its initial Fiscal Times authored article on December 31, 2009, the Post recognizing the immediate “uproar” from bloggers and progressives over its partnership with the organization.”

    You can fool most of the people some of the time, and buy some of the Press all of the time.

  2. James says:

    Well, no, actually. The journos at the Washington Post haven’t “done better” in a few years now. The “new management” either bought out or lost their best journos to the New York Times years ago. The people left there, I hate to say, are neck deep in mediocrity. Not a single journo worth reading is left at the Washington Post.

    And the same can be said for NPR.

    Maybe you are praising in hopes of improving performance. It will do no good, I can assure you.

  3. Mike says:

    Yeah, I’m not sure which journalists have done better recently. TV and radio news isn’t about delivering facts to the population. It’s just like any other TV or radio program; the intent is to attract viewers or listeners so they can sell more ad time at a higher price.

  4. Auros Harman says:

    The WaPo, sadly, has sunk to only a few rungs above Faux News on the journalistic ladder. Their editorial page already sounds like the WSJ ed page did before the Murdoch takeover. It makes me sad; I grew up in MD, WaPo is one of my two home-town papers. At least the Baltimore Sun still exists, which is more than one can say for many local news sources… 🙁

  5. Michael says:

    Neither NPR nor the WaPo are “good” media. NPR fires people who participate in #occupy protests while retaining Bush staffers. The WaPo is a well-known fishpaper, better known as the Kaplan Test Prep Daily, which is kept afloat despite losing money in order to serve its corporate masters’ propaganda needs.

  6. Petronius Arbiter says:

    You don’t read the WaPo very often, do you? Dean Baker at blasts them nearly every day for putting their editorials in the news section, even (especially?) on the front page. He usually refers to them as “Fox on Fifteenth Street.” Sadly, the New York times is not much better, as Baker often points out. And even Krugman notices sometimes.