Putting our trust in bogus alternatives can be dangerous for our bodies. And for the body politic.
Recent developments, however, add weight to evidence that it would be unwise to have faith in news coverage from NPR or the New York Times.
Consider a key aspect of the research:
* The findings on news coverage debunk the persistent claims that NPR is a liberal network. “Despite the commonness of such claims, little evidence has ever been presented for a left bias at NPR, and FAIR’s latest study gives it no support. Looking at partisan sources — including government officials, party officials, campaign workers and consultants — Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than 3 to 2 (61 percent to 38 percent).”
Every day, millions of Americans listen to NPR News — and many presumably trust it as a balanced source of information and analysis. Likewise, millions of people are in the habit of relying on the New York Times each day, whether they’re reading the newspaper itself or Times news service articles that appear in daily papers around the country.
The Times semi-apology is more self-justifying than self-critical. Assessing a page-one December 2001 article that promulgated a bogus tale about biological, chemical and nuclear weapons facilities in Iraq, the editors’ note says that “in this case it looks as if we, along with the administration, were taken in.” The same tone echoes through an internal memo to the Times newsroom from the paper’s executive editor, Bill Keller, on May 26: “The purpose of the [published] note is to acknowledge that we, like many of our competitors and many officials in Washington, were misled on a number of stories by Iraqi informants dealing in misinformation.”
Keller’s internal memo explains that the editors’ public article “is not an attempt to find a scapegoat or to blame reporters for not knowing then what we know now.” The phrasing was seriously evasive. A comment from FAIR, posted in the “Media Views” section of its website, pointed out: “If Keller thinks the problem with Judith Miller’s reporting was her lack of clairvoyance rather than her failure to exercise basic journalistic skepticism, then it’s clear that he didn’t learn much from this fiasco. He describes the publication of the editor’s note as ‘a point of journalistic pride’ — as if a publication should be proud of acknowledging egregious errors that other people have been pointing out for more than a year.”
Tardy by more than a year, the semi-mea-culpa article by the Times editors — while failing to provide any forthright explanation of Chalabi’s role as a chronic source for Miller’s prewar stories — appeared a week after the U.S. government turned definitively and publicly against its exile ally Chalabi. Only then were the top New York Times editors willing to turn definitively and publicly against key Times stories spun by the Chalabi-Miller duo.
While the May 26 article “From the Editors” took a step toward setting the record straight, it did so while sidestepping responsibility. There’s some symbolism in the fact that — unlike the indefensible front-page Times stories it belatedly critiqued — the editors’ note appeared back on page A-10.
Norman Solomon is co-author, with foreign correspondent Reese Erlich, of “Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn’t Tell You.”
FAIR’s new study, “How Public is Public Radio?”: http://www.fair.org/extra/0405/npr-study.html