Ed Driscoll

Talking Points Memo

Red State and James Taranto both link to a blog post by Philadelphia Daily News reporter Will Bunch, who writes:

Even if the report [was] wrong, and I’m not convinced that it is, it was in the context of horrific–and demonstrably true–escalating violence in Baghdad. . . .

In fact, it’s almost not worth swatting at these gnats from the 101st Fighting Keyboard Commandos. I’d rather just concede, and let them have as their main talking points on the Middle East: The fact that smoke was added to a picture of a real Israeli bombing of Lebanon, that the AP printed an incorrect story about one of the hundreds of deadly acts of sectarian violence in Iraq, and even the allegation–totally unproven and not resulting in any actual charges–that one Iraqi photographer who has worked with the AP has ties to the insurgents.

For our main talking points that the Iraq war is immoral and that U.S. involvement needs to end, we’ll take the lies about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam’s ties to al-Qaeda that didn’t exist, and the unrelentingly sad fact that more than 2,900 Americans and tens upon tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have now died in an unnnecessary [sic] civil war, all for this mistake.

Note the media groupthink implied by “our main talking points”. In a post titled, “When Media Bias Slaps You In The Face”, Red State’s “Adam C” writes:

And people wonder why most of the public does not trust journalists to be impartial. When reporters have “talking points” and liberals are overrepresented by large margins, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that there is a credibility problem. Hopefully new media will help level the playing field, but until then we should be putting pressure on news rooms to stick to the facts and leave talking points to the activists and politicians.

I’m not sure if bias is really the issue here. Given that Philadelphia is a fairly liberal city, it’s possible that Bunch is simply telling the majority of his readers what they want to hear–and there’s nothing at all wrong with that, as the New York Times’ then-ombudsman conceded a couple of years ago. And it’s safe to assume that were he or she honest, a person in a similar capacity at the Daily News would make an identical admission. (And maybe already has. It’s been almost a decade since I left the Philly area.)

But perhaps most significantly, James Taranto highlighted Bunch’s concession that Reuters and AP both cooked the books in their Middle Eastern reporting. The Daily News relies heavily on AP for coverage of events outside of Philly; and to a lesser extent on Reuters. It’s not every day that one of their reporters writes that both wire services relied on stringers who, to put it charitably, invented reportage, or to put it more plainly–lied.