Thursday, August 31, 2006

The News In The News

With all the scrutiny on the media lately, triggered by the recent exposure of altered news photos and inaccurate captioning, there continue to be new issues brought to light. Examples of questionable ethics are pretty easy to find these days. I don't think that we can automatically assume that there are suddenly more offenses to journalistic integrity than there used to be, but there certainly are a lot more people actively looking for them, especially in the ultra-vigilant world of the blogosphere. I came across a blog post today that I thought was worth bringing to your attention. It doesn't expose any great fakery, or staging, and Photoshop is nowhere in the picture. It doesn't reveal blatant misrepresentation of facts, nor does it place journalists in bed with terrorist organizations. All it does is offer a comparison.

It compares a speech, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said it, to the way that the Associated Press reported it. The speech and the AP report differ greatly in tone. I don't think the AP misquotes Secretary Rumsfeld exactly, and I don't think that's what the author of the post at Q and O blog, McQ, is saying either. What the AP does is sum up what he said in such a way as to shade it to the black and white, taking out the nuance and historical context that Rumsfeld used to convey a broader message than the article conveyed.

I realise that news reports have to condense things for space and the convenience of their readers, otherwise they could just put in the whole written speech, or play the whole video, but within the realities of those space and time limits, it should be the goal of any media outlet to retain the essence of what was said. The article paints Rumsfeld's speech as accusatory and confrontational. Read it for yourself and see whether you agree with their interpretation. (Of note is the fact that after the post at Q and O came out--a couple of days ago--the AP changed some of the article's content, adjusting it in those areas that McQ specifically examined. Looks like they found some of his arguments persuasive.)