Columnists

Not the news that’s fit to print

As I wrote in my year-ender column, the risible pretense of an unbiased, fair and balanced, objective media all but collapsed in 2008.  Some mainstream liberal media editors and publishers openly dropped their pretense of objective journalism, actually admitting to at least some of their bias-related failures in frank editorials or columns, as was the case of the New York Times, when they admitted they shouldn’t have given an advertising subsidy to the far-left extremist group MoveOn.org for an “ad” which personally assailed U.S. General David Petraeus, the very General who was leading America’s Iraq war effort, right in the middle of that war, and by association assailed America and the Bush administration, in one of their full-page anti-American claptrap ads last year. 

But that ad helped get the like-minded New York Times’ own message out, which is obviously why they subsidized it.  The New York Times wanted to help get the anti-winning-in-Iraq message out, and hoped to be able to use the far-left extremists and their ad message to do so, and they got caught red-handed.  And now, particularly after the last election campaign and how they covered it, anybody who still thinks the New York Times isn’t left-wing campaign headquarters —is simply out to lunch or in abject denial. 

The liberals’ Washington Post was also among the media feigning repent in some manner.  Deborah Howell, the Post’s ombudsman, wrote in a year-end admission,

“The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts.

“My assistant, Jean Hwang, and I have been examining Post coverage since Nov. 11 of last year on issues, voters, fundraising, the candidates’ backgrounds and horse-race stories on tactics, strategy and consultants. We also have looked at photos and Page 1 stories since Obama captured the nomination June 4.  … The op-ed page ran far more laudatory opinion pieces on Obama, 32, than on Sen. John McCain, 13. There were far more negative pieces (58) about McCain than there were about Obama (32), and Obama got the editorial board’s endorsement.  … Stories and photos about Obama in the news pages outnumbered those devoted to McCain. …  Obama deserved tougher scrutiny than he got, especially of his undergraduate years, his start in Chicago and his relationship with Antoin “Tony” Rezko, who was convicted this year of influence-peddling in Chicago. The Post did nothing on Obama’s acknowledged drug use as a teenager.

“One gaping hole in coverage involved Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate. When Gov. Sarah Palin was nominated for vice president, reporters were booking the next flight to Alaska. Some readers thought The Post went over Palin with a fine-tooth comb and neglected Biden. They are right; it was a serious omission…”

And so on. 

Other media similarly struggled to come out of the closet, but some stridently try to maintain their cover and are really just embarrassing themselves.  They’re failing, at least among the astute. 

imagePhotos on newspaper pages can themselves be politically tendentious, and speak volumes, as we saw with the recent pictures of the Hawaii-vacationing “glistening pectorals” of Barack Obama over Christmas adorning many newspapers. 

Obama was shown in what the astute among us know were photos purposely “allowed”—though disguised as mere sneaky paparazzi photos which would simply be impossible under his strict security president-elect regimen.  They were staged by Obama and his handlers, and made available for the suck-up and idiot media editors and what they think are their idiot readers.  There he was on vacation in Hawaii, and his shirtless image—front and rear—appeared in newspapers all over the world, including the likes of none other than, hey!— the The Washington Post

“…he was photographed looking like the paradigm of a new kind of presidential fitness, one geared less toward preventing heart attacks than winning swimsuit competitions. The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games…”

By Eli Saslow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 25, 2008; Page A01

This “news” is of course nothing but an exercise in building the cult of personality.  It’s how Obama won the election with the help of the media.  And the Obama team was propagating the cult of personality once again with these pictures, through a very willing, suck-up media which has given up all pretense of objectivity and seriousness.  They want you to join the cult.

Liberal media hypocrisy, and their lip service to the erstwhile noble goals of rectifying their supposed accidental lapses of “balance” and “objectivity”, and their renewed, faux promises of presenting news more properly, don’t stop at the Washington Post of course.  Just look at the front page of the Vancouver Sun for the past week or so.  Each one features an editorial column as the biggest feature—or even the entire text—of their front page.  Their opinion about the news replaced the news as the most important thing they want you to know.  News editors increasingly seem to think that what they and their opinionated hired hands — their columnists (and as we’ve seen, the opinions of their “reporters” too) — have to say about the news is more important than the news itself.  Driving their agenda is taking over their role of purveyors of the daily news.

This morning I trudged through a few pages at Toronto Star’s online morass (emphasis on the ass), and found further confirmation. 

Kathy English is the Star’s public editor. The public editor position “encompasses the roles of reader advocate and guarantor of accuracy, serving as a liaison between the Star and its many readers, both print and online”, according to the Star.

On May 3, 2008, Kathy English wrote in an editorial column called “Clearly, this column is my opinion”:

“But sound journalistic practice still demands a clear distinction between news and opinion so that readers understand what is opinion and what is reporting in the newspaper. Articles that contain opinion or personal interpretation should always be clearly identified.

“While the Star strives for this in the use of various design elements (such as a columnist’s “logo”) intended to denote opinion, my communications with readers tell me these devices are often inadequate for readers unschooled in our design shorthand. That’s why the clearest way to tell readers that an article includes a writer’s views is to label it as opinion.

“In recent weeks, there has been some blurring of news and opinion in articles that have not been clearly labelled…”

Kathy English writes later in that same column that the Tor-Star’s editor-in-chief, Fred Kuntz, recently wrote a memo to senior editors like her, saying, ”[W]e have to be upfront with opinion and label it as such. This is a matter of being transparent with readers, which speaks to our credibility as a newspaper.”

Well that was so May of 2008. 

imageToday, I was a little confused—and I’m arguably good at dissecting news and analyzing the media’s presentation of it.  On their front online page, they present—as news (see picture at right)—this story, as written by a “Staff Reporter”, under the heading of “NEWS”:

When Playboy ruled the world
Playboy, like its founder, is getting rickety. A lament for a heyday more glorious than we knew

Jan 04, 2009 04:30 AM

Brett Popplewell
Staff Reporter

I’m not a fan of cheap porn and I don’t have a fetish for bountiful airbrushed women. But I am an admirer of Playboy.

Not so much the magazine found at the newsstand but in the basement of BMV, a book store on Bloor St. W. where you can buy back issues from 30, 40, 50 years ago. What attracts me? I read it for the articles…

imageThat doesn’t read like “news” to me.  Or look like “news”.  Of course I’m only talking about “the article” and not the sexy photo which is attached to that “news” story of the barely clad Playboy Playmate complete with Hefner’s dinosaur-aged great-grandfatherly hand on her maybe 25-year-old butt. 

The “staff reporter”—a 25-year-old kid—goes on to inform us Canadians the “news” about the “neo-cons” and the “news” about how he’s woefully lost in that “neo-con” generation’s “innocuous grip”  (I’d like to know where that “neo-con” “grip” is coming from because although I’d love to, I’ve yet to find it anywhere—particularly amongst all the porn and gay pride displays and abortions and the lewd and lascivious media which increasingly dominates our liberal or “progressive” media and culture generally, today, but I’m sure glad he finds it “innocuous”). 

He writes:

So where does that leave people like me? I am 25, and part of a generation that is characterized by the rise of the neo-cons. For which hard-core pornography became an uncensored commodity online; for which the old lad magazines were replaced by sexually explicit raunchy rags, devoid of journalistic aspirations. A generation that has no Gore Vidal, no Norman Mailer or Gay Talese.

I am lost in this era’s innocuous grip.

And so I cling to the past, and quench my appetites with the classic writing, journalistic glory and the odd, tenderly unwrapped female body in the pages of a vintage Playboy.

Clearly not news, but rather another opinion disguised as “news”—this time to promote one person’s vision of “journalistic glory”, as found in Playboy magazine!  Values such as these also happen to be near and dear to the hearts and minds—and other important organs—of the liberal-left. 

But even from a technical standpoint, there’s no separation from the Toronto Star’s “news”, and commentary or opinion.  The computer (HTML) coding of the internet page on which that article appears is: <title>TheStar.com | News | When Playboy ruled the world</title>,  making it appears on Web browsers like yours as a news story —it says it right there in your browser:  “NEWS”.  This image is taken from my own computer screen:
image

By contrast the coding for the commentary by Kathy English and her “Clearly, this column is my opinion” piece presents like this:
image

Why it’s a technological miracle that we “unschooled” are so confused with these confounded labels and media articles!  Ironically, though not intentionally ironic, on January 3, 2009, Kathy English wrote an editorial column:

Readers, now you be the editor

Journalism is a job of many judgments. It is the art of selection in which, every day, hundreds of decisions must be made by the writers, editors, photographers, designers and others who create this “daily miracle.”

That cliché, which suggests some divine intervention in the production of your daily newspaper, is one I’ve long been fond of. But, in fact, there is little godliness in the way a newspaper is produced each day. Creating a newspaper and its website (“history in a hurry”) is a wholly human endeavour…

Yes it is largely human.  God is very much into freedom for humans—he’s a bit of a “neo-con” that way.  He allows us all to make our own judgments and engage in the art of selection.  It’s up to us to “make decisions” and use our “judgment” and decide how we behave, and there is obviously no God intervening and guiding the Toronto Star staff into new heights of objectivity and professionalism.  No “divine intervention” prevents them and their editors and journalists and photographers and designers from being horrible at their jobs and presenting opinions—and their agenda—as “news”. 

Reader comments are welcome in the shortened “J-Log” version of this article

 

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Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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