I promise, at some point I'll cease heralding the failures of the MSM in executing their gate keeping mission of ensuring the truth appears in their news reports. Believe it or not, even I'm growing bored with it. But their their recent follies and continuing arrogance have been too extravagant to ignore.
I'm now convinced you could spend all day, every day, documenting these errors which appear prominently in the paper and on TV. Once news consumers realize the level of unreliability delivered by the institutions of media, they might seek out better options and the monopolistic journalism trusts will be broken, for the benefit of us all. But, since not everyone is yet convinced of this unreliability, it's on with the show ...
First, let's recall one more time the warnings about blogs from the Pioneer Press and U of M Professor Larry Jacobs:
Along with partisanship, credibility is another problem for blogs. There's nothing in the First Amendment about the need for an editor. Bloggers can write anything they want; they can spout fact or fiction. Jacobs advises readers to beware: "There's no gatekeeping here."
And now a couple of breaking stories from the last 24 hours:
Baltimore Sun columnist resigns in scandal.
A longtime columnist for The Baltimore Sun resigned Tuesday amid allegations of plagiarism from other newspapers, The Sun said early Wednesday.
"I made mistakes," Olesker said as he cleaned out his desk in the newsroom, according to an article in The Sun's editions published Wednesday.
In addition to plagiarism, those "mistakes" included incidents like this:
The [Maryland governor's] staff had complained about a November 2004 column in which Olesker described a meeting that he did not attend. Olesker acknowledged that he did not attend the meeting and apologized.
Of course, this isn't the first time a rabble rousing, tenure-for-life columnist has gotten caught letting laziness or partisanship introduce fiction into his reporting. Every town has these self-styled community consciences lurking around, needing drama three times a week for their column to work. Forget blogs, of all the media voices out there, precedent suggests it's these guys the reader should beware most of all.
Also, yesterday we had the Dewey Defeats Truman moment for on-the-spot disaster reporting. This review of the coverage of the deceased miners, from Editor and Publisher, seems to have it about right:
In one of the most disturbing and disgraceful media performances of its kind in recent years, television and newspapers carried the tragically wrong news late Tuesday and early Wednesday that 12 of 13 trapped coal miners in West Virginia had been found alive and safe. Hours later they had to reverse course, often blaming the mix-up on "miscommunication."
Tim Blair has a good round up of links and the denials and finger-pointing among the gatekeepers who allowed these falsehoods to be spread worldwide. Excerpts:
Some editors blamed officials, including the governor, for misleading reporters.
Anderson Cooper, the CNN host, ripped the coal company at 3 a.m. for not correcting the wrong reports for so long, but did not explain why CNN went with the good news without strong confirmation.
It is unclear why the media carried the news without proper sourcing. Some reports claim the early reports spread via cell phones and when loved ones started celebrating most in the media simply joined in.
So, according to the media, their erroneous reports were the fault of government officials, the coal company, and/or the victims' families - take your pick. Now that's accountability. In their defense, with a conspiracy like this arrayed against them, it's no wonder they were forced to publish fiction in scream headlines on their front pages.
The Star Tribune also joined the screaming chorus, but they have a unique excuse for their front page falsehoods. The gatekeepers had fallen asleep, literally:
Star Tribune Managing Editor Scott Gillespie said senior editors didn't learn of the new developments until morning. "Senior editors weren't alerted. Had they been, we would have stopped the presses and remade the front page."
I guess all we Twin Cities news consumers can hope for is that the next breaking story happens during business hours.
UPDATE: At this hour, the editors may be lost in blissful slumber, but the academic apologists for the paper never rest. From the Star Tribune article on the tribulations and upcoming trials of MDE, this from U of M professor Jane Kirtley:
"Bloggers, by their very nature, are not expected to adhere to the same standards of accuracy that those in the mainstream media would be."
I think I'll take that as a compliment.