When Media Spin Becomes Deception

The MSM has created its storyline regarding Eason Jordan. I suggest you read Powerline and Malkin, both providing excellent summaries and analysis of recent events. The storyline is that Jordan “slipped up” in making the unfounded allegations. His immediate retraction should have been sufficient to correct the slip, and now he is being unfairly victimized by bloodthirsty bloggers. The problem for the media is that the facts don’t support the story line. In fact they show the opposite. Regrettably for certain members of the media, it appears that they have crossed the line from “spin” or, to use milder terms, reporting from a particular “perspective,” to willful deception.

Every story falls somewhere along the continuum of “truth reporting”. One end of the spectrum is the ideal, which all reporters should strive to achieve. Its simplicity belies the practical ability (or willingness) to achieve it. It involves researching all possible angles and perspectives of a story and dutifully reporting to the public the all the material facts. All too often we encounter stories that don’t meet these simple criteria. Rather, facts are reported from a particular angle or perspective. While the core of the story may be “true,” particular perspectives or certain factual contexts are omitted, thereby creating a false impression of events. Opinion is often interchanged with facts. The story is laced with hypothetical situations or predictions. Experts assist with “future telling.” Using these non-factual methods of reporting increases the likelihood of bias, as each one of these methods are, to some extent, within the control of the reporter. The further one moves away from the ideal, the easier it is for the reporter to create a story rather than report it. At a certain point, even the core of the story no longer reflects the truth. In many cases the lack of truth is inadvertent or at least not specifically intentional. Occasionally the story is willfully deceptive, in which material facts are intentionally withheld, and facts used in the story are knowingly misrepresented.

In the instant case, Eason Jordan made a series of public allegations involving US troops targeting journalists. While Davos was the most recent incident, a number of other instances have since been uncovered by bloggers and have been made well known to the press. Those are the core facts. It’s that simple. The secondary “facts” – that bloggers unfairly victimized Jordan, fall by the wayside. It can’t be unfair if it’s true (presuming of course that the purpose of reporting is to uncover and report the truth). Further, the extent to which Jordan retracted his Davos statement also becomes irrelevant if what he said was part of a pattern. Indeed the retraction takes on the opposite meaning. Not a genuine recognition of error, but an attempt to mask the obvious.

At the core of the media’s story is that Jordan simply slipped up. The problem is that lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice. Once is a slip up. Twice is a pattern. In this case it happened more than twice. Not only has the media refrained from reporting Jordan’s previous similar statements, which absent more would have been terrible one-sided reporting, they took the next step and advanced a story which directly contradicted the deliberately withheld facts. Of course simply reporting the one incident wouldn’t be enough to exculpate him. He needed a defense – the inadvertent slip up. Welcome to the opposite end of the “truth reporting” spectrum.

What makes the media’s reporting of the Eason Jordan story so remarkable is how transparent this all is. The facts are simple. This is not a complex financial transaction with money trails going in different directions. This is about what Eason Jordan said, and when he said it. It is also about how easy the media had access to these facts, indeed how the facts were handed to them on a silver platter. This last part is particularly damning. In law it is often difficult to separate willful blindness or intention (both have the same level of culpability) with mere inadvertence or negligence. In this case, thanks to the blogosphere, inadvertence can be ruled out. Is there any doubt that the MSM is guilty?

UPDATE: Some members of the MSM are getting it.

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