Dennis Campbell
July 12, 2004
Be skeptical about today's "journalism"
By Dennis Campbell

If you lived in my small community in Northwest New Mexico and were familiar with the Sunday opinion section in our little downtown daily, you probably would have noticed that its cover page is a virtual reprint of the New York Times. Is that cause for concern? Only if you value truth, since the Times without dispute is the country's biggest, most prestigious house organ for leftist politics and is on a mission to win the hearts and minds of Americans — and does not always permit honesty to hinder its efforts.

An example is the twice-weekly column by economist Paul Krugman. When you see his byline you would do well to find something else to read. His writings are considered so misleading that a Krugman Truth Squad has been formed to monitor, and correct, what flows from his word processor (the ramrod behind this is Donald L. Luskin, whose thoughts can be found at his weblog, poorandstupid.com).

Krugman wrote that "Victory in Iraq won't end the world's distrust of the United States because the Bush administration has made it clear, over and over again, that it doesn't play by the rules. Remember: this administration told Europe to take a hike on global warming, told Russia to take a hike on missile defense, told developing countries to take a hike on trade in lifesaving pharmaceuticals, told Mexico to take a hike on immigration, mortally insulted the Turks and pulled out of the International Criminal Court — all in just two years."

Truth Squad member Matthew Hoy, whose weblog is HoyStory.com, was quick to respond. He noted:

U.S. repudiation of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming occurred in 1997, when Bill Clinton was president. The Senate voted against it 95-0 (in sports lingo, that is called a crushing defeat).

The Russians in fact expressed little concern over our missile defense.

The Bush Administration has committed $15 billion to fight AIDS (the most easily avoided fatal disease in history) in Africa.

Immigration? Oh, stop it. Illegal immigrants — oops, politically incorrect term; try undocumented felons — are pouring unchecked across our southern border.

The Turks? They remain our allies.

And regarding the International Criminal Court, Clinton signed a treaty he admitted was flawed and never sent it to the Senate.

On another occasion, Krugman wrote that "an exasperated Clinton administration considered a bombing campaign in 1998" against Iraq.

Considered? I guess that cruise missiles technically do not count as "bombs," even though Clinton launched some 400 against Iraq.

So, why would any local daily newspaper, especially one in a blue collar, heavily churched, predominantly conservative community such as mine, carry a columnist who merits his own truth squad to correct his consistent inaccuracies? Well, it is an effort to achieve a big-city look, certainly.

But beyond that, you who read newspapers, and watch network television news and CNN, should remember that truth has become victim to the "advocacy journalism" that emerged after the Watergate scandal in the early 1970's.

Certainly American journalism has had an often-sordid past, but in those years between the "yellow journalism" of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, and post-Watergate advocacy journalism, students in training for a news career had certain values relentlessly instilled in them: Keep your personal opinions out of your news stories and confine them to the editorial page, and always report the truth — those pesky and often elusive things called facts. Objectivity — scorned by modern "journalists" who believe it to be unattainable — was prized and fairness paramount.

But today, the goal of too many in the news business is to be an advocate, not a journalist, and as we have jettisoned our belief in objective truth, the word truth becomes meaningless.

To counter the leftist, pro-homosexual, anti-American editorial position of our local newspaper, a group of conservative-thinking individuals has arranged to publish a full page of conservative commentary in a competing weekly publication — clearly portrayed as opinion, not as hard news. We make no pretense otherwise. Unfortunately, in today's journalism the same disclaimer ought to be displayed in news pages and during television newscasts. Equally unfortunate, even what is clearly labeled as opinion often goes beyond the partisan to dishonesty.

The popular science fiction series The X Files ended each show with the words, "The Truth is Out There." Yes, it is, but these days you must work harder to find it, and news sources — gatekeepers with the power to influence public opinion and policy — all too often must be taken with a heavy dose of skepticism.

© Dennis Campbell

 

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