Thursday, September 20, 2007

Journalistic ethics

On my desktop newsfeed today, from CNN, was this headline:

Bush: MoveOn's Petraeus 'disgusting'

This headline puzzled me, as I thought Petraeus was on Bush's side, and did not "belong" to MoveOn...and why would Bush think Petraeus was disgusting...had Petraeus "betrayed" Bush and gone over to MoveOn???

So I clicked on the link, and was brought to CNN's article, where the headline said: Bush: ad on Petraeus 'disgusting'

That little word, that key little word, "ad" had been left out of the desktop headline - the headline that everyone would see - not just those who took the time to look further.

Now, somebody with not a lot of time, looks at that headline but doesn't bother to read it, is only going to see that "Bush thinks Petraeus is disgusting" and that's going to prejudice their minds against either Petraeus, Bush or both.

Now, was this a legitimate oversight on somebody's part, or was it done deliberately?

I must say that I am pretty much in despair about the political climate in the good ol' US, anyway. I've always maintained that all politicians - Republican or Democrat - are crooks, and that's pretty much being proved day after day. From the Republicans who say they stand for family values and then turn around and have gay sex with people in bathroom Democrats who take campaign contributions from felons... they're all the same.

(And as an aside, I have no problem with gays getting married, for example, - there's so much hatred in this world that if two people want to commit to each other formally, more power to them! And I'd hope that their marriage is more successful than the majority of straight marriages.)

If you study the history of journalism, it's really rather sad, as the myth about journalistic ethics, journalistic fairness is pretty much stripped away from the get go. And it's only getting worse... you can't really trust any newspaper - paper or online... to tell you the truth about anything. Each one has its own agenda, it's own political party it supports, and its reporting style is biased in that direction.

And I don't think people realize this. Otherwise it wouldn't still be going on, surely! Surely people, if they'd cared, would have revolted before now and said, "Hey, stop with the biased reporting already. Fair and balanced, that's what we want."

Another example, something that always gets my knickers in a twist, is when the news media reports poll results. "A majority of Americans say they want to impeach So and So." or "Americans think So and So is the sexist person on earth." Then you go to the small print at the very bottom of the article, and this "majority" or these "Americans" turn out to be a grand total of 1,000 people that the media talked to.

What the media will tell you is that the opinions of one person can be extrapolated to be the opinions of 1,000, but that's not really the case. I think it's more accurate to say that 1,000 people read that "A majority of Americans think that So and So should be impeached," and believe the headline and decide that that's what they'll think, too. Subtle difference.

Anyway, end of rant. I've got to go read some books.

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