Sunday, March 23, 2008

News Light

Good post at War in Context

Words in context
By Paul Woodward, War in Context, March 21, 2008

...Taken literally, that’s indisputable. We’re the ones who get to decide how we vote. Yet what Klein does — what everyone in the media does when their preeminent loyalty attaches to their paycheck — is to refuse to point a spotlight on the individuals who shape the news from the shadows.

In every single newsroom on every single day, commercial and political decisions are being made while cloaked under the pretense that events themselves are the overwhelming force that steers editorial judgment. But consider how little we actually know about the decision-making process that triggered what has become the most explosive story in the presidential campaign.

On Good Morning America on March 13, Brian Ross with the stealth of a terrorist who is just about to set off a bomb, uttered these seemingly innocent words: “… an ABC News review of more than a dozen sermons… ” — and we all know what followed.

What we don’t know, but what could be as illuminating as the DVDs themselves, is what led ABC News to be conducting a review of Rev Jeremiah Wright’s sermons in the first place...

...So, while every cable news channel has followed ABC News‘ lead and made Rev Wright campaign issue #1, no one has been pressing the ABC News investigative team to explain how exactly it came to set the political agenda.

Was the Good Morning America story the fruit of a tenacious piece of investigative journalism, or might it on the contrary have been an altogether lazy piece of journalism — a case of someone saying, “Here’s the ammo. All you need to do is load and fire”?

When news isn’t new then this issue of timing means that newsmaking is taking place inside the newsroom. The media has become manufacturer. Might we be allowed to become privy to the process?

For instance, it’s obvious why the ABC News editors would deem a line such as “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” as newsworthy. But how did they decide that most of what came immediately after that line was irrelevant. Would most Americans not have responded in a different way if they had then heard Wright say:

See clip

...Rev Wright was telling his congregation, pay attention to this white man, Edward Peck. It’s worth listening to what he has to say. It’s worth taking into consideration the opinion of a man who had been the Deputy Director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism under President Ronald Reagan, former Deputy Coordinator, Covert Intelligence Programs at the State Department, U.S. Ambassador and Chief of Mission to Iraq (1977-1980), and a 32-year veteran of the Foreign Service. At least, as far as Rev Wright was concerned, Edward Peck was worth listening to and that’s what he told his congregation.

On October 8, 2001, on CNN, Peck was asked: “Wouldn’t this war against terrorism be a mistake if we stop at Osama bin Laden and don’t take out Saddam Hussein as well?”

Peck said it would not be a mistake because, “when you take out Saddam Hussein, the key question you have to ask then is, what happens after that? And we don’t have a clue. Nobody knows, but it’s probably going to be bad. And a lot of people are going to be very upset about that, because that really is not written into our role in this world is to decide who rules Iraq.”

Rev Wright suggested that “in the wake of the American tragedy” of 9/11, in a process of self-examination, it would really be in America’s interests to listen to people such as Edward Peck. ABC News and much of the rest of the media would rather that we pay attention to a few ill-chosen phrases...

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