Saturday, February 03, 2007

Simon says...

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting features an interesting article (see examining top network news approaches to political push-topics and in this case...the 2007 Iran controversy.

The article parallels our class discussion last we determine whether to cover the story, send a live truck or even put include a story in the run down simply because it's what every other station will/won't do? We all know that for most local news shows....stories are reported with similar news angles and similar camera positions. How often is it when you don't see interviews without the same NBC, ABC, CBS and sometimes CLTV microphones in view. The same goes for cable. The idea of the herd mentality isn't something new and isn't something that is likely to change in a world governed by competitive ratings. But telling the story in a different way...or challenging the angle that everyone else is reporting isn't something so common. Which brings me back to the article...

If the President says there are weapons of mass destruction, what does the media do? Well, it depends...when the President first said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq...the media joined him in his search....None were found and Bush later rescinds his allegations. Now, Bush has pitched a similar package for Iran by claiming that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and that Iran is a state sponsor (Iraqi friend and ally) of "terrorism". The media's response--most networks followed suit with what the President said and looked for ways to validate his claims.

Last week's mainstream evening news coverage...."January 29, CBS Evening News aired a report about Iran's alleged support for Shiite militias in Iraq. The following night (1/30/07), ABC World News With Charles Gibson correspondent Jonathan Karl warned that "U.S. officials say the mounting evidence against Iran includes photographs of Iranian training camps on Iraqi soil."NBC Nightly News (1/30/07) pursued alleged Iranian involvement in the ambush of U.S. soldiers in Karbala. Its Pentagon reporter said "secret U.S. military reports have concluded now that the attack against the American soldiers in Karbala was definitely an inside job and that it may have involved Iranian agents."

So all mainstream TV network followed the leader--Bush said something and they all set out to see if it was true...and on what grounds? Based on the Bush track record, someone would think...lets not listen to Simon this time and do/seek what he says, but look for all that he didn't say!

Cable television is also to blame for following a loopy leader (to a certain degree...MSNBC has taken a maybe, maybe not approach regarding Bush's claims against Iran)......but the article provides a string of hope for the reader and for the reputation of the media.

Page 2 of the article: "On January 23, the Los Angeles Times took a more inquisitive look at the U.S. government charges of Iranian meddling in Iraq ("Scant Evidence Found of Iran-Iraq Arms Link"--A1). The paper found little to support the array of accusations from U.S. officials, noting that reporters in Iraq with U.S. troops have not seen "extensive signs of Iranian involvement." The Times also noted that military officers from the U.S. and Britain have not seen evidence at the Iraq-Iran border to support allegations of arms smuggling, and that "U.S. officials have declined to provide documentation of seized Iranian ordnance despite repeated requests."

On January 31, NBC provided a counter report to its 1/30 claims against Iran where it challenged the notion that Iran was in any way supporting Iraq or affiliated with Sunni insurgent groups.

It might be a little comforting to know NBC and the LA Times have tried to find the other side but other stations/media outlets seem selective with when they will and won't challenge or provide skepticism and support for a given issue. We're held to the standard of trying to always present both sides and to challenge/research on our own what we are presented with as truth or as the full, complete story...shouldn't the big guys be held to that same standard?



At Sunday, February 04, 2007, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

ER, if what you're saying is that there's a possibility that Iran has no intrest in Iraq, then I think you're wrong. It's been reported for months that 70 percent of the weapons found in Iraq battles are from Iran. US generals have always mentioned Iran sending in forces helping the Shiite cause. And why else would Iraq officially close the border with Iran?

And there is no question that Iran has nuclear programs. The rogue country says it wants to develop nuclear energy. But when the entire United Natons is on board to pass sanctions and stop Iran's nuclear proliferation, you know this country is dangerous.

The security of the flegling democracy in Iraq is paramount. If we fail in Iraq, Iran will move in even more and we will have even bigger problems. Hello WWIII.

The news organizations that are trying to look for the other side is OK. But I think there's an agenda behind the search.


At Sunday, February 04, 2007, Blogger Medill Media Watch said...

woops, forgot the "d" in fledgling.



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