Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Journalism vs. Infotainment

James Fallows compares the stories run on the front pages of the NY Times and the Washington Post about the "climate gate" emails, and he writes:
I won't belabor all the contrasts and implications but will make this point: A very frequent criticism of the mainstream press is that reporters are hesitant to say, "This is true, and that is false." Instead, they usually feel safest in the "critics contend" zone, "neutrally" reporting what each side says. Eg, "Critics contend that the health-care reform bill will require the elderly to face 'death panels'; Administration officials disagree."

In this case one big-time paper, the Post, sticks with "critics contend," while the other presents a contrast between "decades of peer-reviewed science" and politically-motivated opposition. Moreover, the NYT presents the controversy as something that might get in the way of deliberations in Copenhagen; while the Post presents it as a scandal in which "wonky" emails may not constitute "proof" that climate change is a "lie or a swindle" but still justify introducing "lie" and "swindle" as possibilities.
I like the Post less and less these days. Their editorial writers are way too fond of war and torture, they have handed over the Op-Ed page to politicians and celebrities, and their news operation is getting sloppy.

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