Mixing it up with, and calling out the mainstream media...
By Brad Friedman on 3/26/2010, 2:10pm PT  

I had the pleasure to appear on San Francisco public radio's "Friday Media Roundtable" on their Your Call program today (heard on KALW in San Francisco and KUSP in Santa Cruz).

Along with the NYT's massive ACORN "Pimp" Hoax fail, we also discussed and critiqued media coverage of healthcare insurance reform, the latest in the U.S./Israel diplomacy theatrics, and even a bit on the guilty verdict for Kentucky election officials yesterday. Joining me on today's panel, along with host Sandip Roy, were Alex Wayne of Congressional Quarterly and Sherine Tadros of Al Jazeera English.

The audio is posted below, and I believe it's well-worth giving a listen to --- particularly in regard the direct disagreement that Wayne and I got into over the media's failure (as I see it, though he didn't), to have covered the substance of healthcare insurance legislation, while devoting an inordinate amount of coverage to the politics of that debate instead.

(Continue reading below for more on that, more on how the NYT's Public Editor Clark Hoyt illustrated the very crux of the media's failure on so many stories of importance to the public, and for the audio of the show itself)...

While I didn't get the time to express the point clearly on air, allow me to note here that I was not targeting Wayne's coverage of healthcare legislation at CQ specifically, since I didn't know, until just before airtime, that he would be on the panel and I'm not otherwise familiar with his specific work on that beat. My critique was aimed at the media as a whole, as opposed to Wayne's work specifically, though I appreciate he may have taken it that way. I didn't get the opportunity to express that point as clearly as I would have liked on air --- so hopefully this note makes up, at least in part, for that omission.

One point of note that came up as well was the idea of the phony "balance" --- the often absurd he-said-she-said-we-have-no-idea-who's-telling-the-truth coverage --- that corporate mainstream media feel necessary to offer, without pointing out which of those two (and only two!) sides is actually telling the truth and which one isn't.

By way of an example that I didn't get to bring it up on air, unfortunately, or in my previous coverage of NYT Public Editor Clark Hoyt's tepid admissions of his, and the paper's failures on the ACORN "Pimp" Hoax story in his weekend column, here is a perfect example of that failing. As he wrote in the conclusion to his Sunday column:

To conservatives, Acorn is virtually a criminal organization that was guilty of extensive voter registration fraud in 2008. To its supporters, Acorn is a community service organization that has helped millions of disadvantaged Americans by organizing to confront powerful institutions like banks and developers.

Times commenters appropriately excoriated Hoyt for that graf (and many others --- if you've not read their comments, please do, as they are very smart, and seem to run about 10 to 1 against Hoyt and the Times' continuing failures on this story). Here's the response from just one commenter, "H. Morre", who took Hoyt to task for the above graf in which Hoyt neatly illustrated so much of how our media is simply failing the public in its mission to inform us of the truth:

I'm confused - does The Times know which one of these statements is true? Or is this more of the faux fair and balanced nonsense? WHAT IS THE TRUTH? And why hasn't the raw video ever been released? This would never stand up in a court of law. What a joke - the media did exactly what they wanted, bankrupt Acorn.

As readers of The BRAD BLOG know, ACORN (which is an acronym standing for "Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now" and so should be spelled in all CAPS, but never is in the Times) has never been found to have been "guilty" of voter registration fraud, "extensively" or otherwise. In fact, the group has been more responsible for making public officials aware of those few workers who had defrauded them by turning in bogus registration forms than likely anybody else. The Times, and Hoyt, should have made that very clear. He didn't.

Rather, he offered a false equivalency of what "conservatives" believe versus what ACORN's "supporters" believe, and then left the reader to decide for themselves which is the truth, instead of informing readers as to which one was the truth, since only one of those two sentences is actually, demonstrably, true.

I hope you'll listen to the hour on Your Call's Media Roundtable today. It was a good one! Here it is. Download MP3, or listen online below...

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ADDENDUM... On a related note, I'm honored to be giving the keynote address at tomorrow's "Media Reform Summit" sponsored by CA Common Cause here in Los Angeles at Occidental College at 11am. I suspect several of the points discussed above will be be a part of my remarks, and of the conference as a whole. If you're in the hood, I hope you'll drop by! More details here...