Saturday, March 02, 2013

Worst practices in journalism

Increasingly convinced Big Media is a greater threat to the Republic than Republicans. The failure to inform verges on criminal negligence. Take for instance, this process piece glaringly titled, "Obama blames Republicans for failing to stop sequester." It's not that it's wrong. Obama is blaming the GOPers but that's because, it's the Republican's damn fault. Yet this is how The Hill describes the situation.
Democrats are pressing for offsetting the spending cuts through a combination of increased taxes and replacement spending cuts.
This dutifully transcribes the daily Republican talking point but it's not true. Democrats aren't trying to raise tax rates, they're trying to close tax loopholes only useful to the wealthy as a avenue to avoid fair tax contribution to the national treasury. The Hill buries this well down into the piece.
Obama called the spending cuts unnecessary, adding that they are only happening because "Republicans in Congress chose this outcome over closing a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit."
And then there's the endless stenography that slavishly repeats the entirely false GOP refrain accusing Obama (and Dems) of failing to compromise. As Greg Sargent has been pointing out seemingly forever, any honest reporting would make clear that nothing could be farther from the truth.
The GOP position is explicitly that there is nothing Democrats can offer that will get them to agree to new revenues. Nothing. Therefore, any offer from Dems — no matter how much in serious spending cuts it contains — is automatically a nonstarter for Republicans if it closes any tax loopholes to generate new revenue. There is no scenario under which Republicans can be induced to compromise — if we take Republicans themselves at their word. The only option for avoiding the sequester is for Democrats to propose only cuts to replace it — cuts that Republicans themselves won’t even propose. No “leadership” can avert the sequester. Only giving Republicans 100% of what they want can.
But somehow we never see headlines that scream, "Republicans refuse to compromise." Instead, from nearly every major news organization, we get some milquetoast version of "Republicans warn Obama has ‘poisoned’ relations with campaign-style attacks."

What we have here is an abject failure to inform. As Greg notes in his thought experiment, if Democrats took the position they would only accept revenue and absolutely no spending cuts in a deal, you can be certain the headlines would be shouting Dems refuse to compromise in eleventy point type. This isn't journalism. It's very nearly GOP advocacy.

[Big thanks to Jon Perr from Perrspectives for linking it at Mike's Blog Round-up.]

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Blogger Unknown said...

Exactly! Last week (I think!) Jonathan Bernstein asked if liberals would rather have a functional Republican Party or one that was easily defeated. To me, the answer is obvious: we want a Republican Party that makes some sense, because the major media outlets will always report as though the Republican Party is reasonable.

Also, as I wrote in Major Media Have Sequester All Wrong, loopholes are government spending. But I don't suppose it makes much sense to even talk about this. Republicans are not against raising taxes on the poor, nor are they for spending cuts that affect the rich.

You are completely right that the media are the big problem. In fact, I argue that with a better media we never would have gotten the modern Republican Party. They allowed it. It is shameful. These outlets want to be taken seriously for their constitutional role, but all they are, as you note, are stenographers.

12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

I think BigMedia started losing it's relevance when the industry was consolidated under huge corporations. Changed journalism from a profession to a business. Which is sadly true of many professions, for instance the law and medicine.

12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

Having a GOP that made at least some sense might help keep the opposition -- us a bit less extreme and orthodox, but I don't see that happening and I'll keep praying to Zog to keep them stupid and crooked.

10:34:00 AM  

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