Bias? What Media Bias

Rick Moran
This exchange between CNN's Howard Kurtz on the show Reliable Sources and reporters Robin Wright of the Washington Post and Barbara Starr of CNN is profoundly disturbing on a variety of levels. It calls into question the journalistic ethics of the two reporters as well as their ability to recognize their own bias.

Kurtz asks the journalists about the news that civilian casualties in Iraq dropped significantly in August and why that story didn't receive more prominence in the media.

The transcript comes to us courtesy of the excellent media site Newsbusters:

Kurtz: Robin Wright, should that decline in Iraq casualties have gotten more media attention?

Wright: Not necessarily. The fact is we're at the beginning of a trend -- and it's not even sure that it is a trend yet. There is also an enormous dispute over how to count the numbers. There are different kinds of deaths in Iraq. There are combat deaths. There are sectarian deaths. And there are the deaths of criminal -- from criminal acts. There are also a lot of numbers that the U.S. frankly is not counting. For example, in southern Iraq, there is Shiite upon Shiite violence, which is not sectarian in the Shiite versus Sunni. And the U.S. also doesn't have much of a capability in the south.

So the numbers themselves are tricky.
Ah yes! "Tricky" numbers. As you will see, there are some numbers that are "tricky" and some that tell a story. Here's Starr's response to the same question:
But that's the problem, we don't know whether it is a trend about specifically the decline in the number of U.S. troops being killed in Iraq. This is not enduring progress. This is a very positive step on that potential road to progress.
Starr's response begs the question whether that "positive step" is in and of itself newsworthy? Not in media La-La land. Even Kurtz can't quite believe what he's hearing:
KURTZ: But let's say that the figures had shown that casualties were going up for U.S. soldiers and going up for Iraqi civilians. I think that would have made some front pages.

STARR: Oh, I think inevitably it would have. I mean, that's certainly -- that, by any definition, is news. Look, nobody more than a Pentagon correspondent would like to stop reporting the number of deaths, interviewing grieving families, talking to soldiers who have lost their arms and their legs in the war. But, is this really enduring progress? We've had five years of the Pentagon telling us there is progress, there is progress. Forgive me for being skeptical, I need to see a little bit more than one month before I get too excited about all of this.
So in the media cocoon created by major news outlets, reporting an increase in casualities is a "certainty" and is "by any definition" news. Evidently not by "any definition" because the fall off in casualties isn't news. Starr can't quite seem to grasp her own blatant, outrageous bias because obviously, there is one definition of news regarding casualties if they go up and quite another when they go down.

This kind of cluelessness points up the reason why Americans know the media is biased and the media keeps denying it. The fact is, reporters like Wright (who is an award winning National Security Correspondent) and Starr simply can't wrap their heads around the notion that their bias is so ingrained that they are incapable of recognizing it within themselves.

Even when it is staring them in the face, they refuse to acknowledge it. You almost want to feel sorry for them. They really don't have a clue.

No wonder the news coverage from Iraq stinks.
This exchange between CNN's Howard Kurtz on the show Reliable Sources and reporters Robin Wright of the Washington Post and Barbara Starr of CNN is profoundly disturbing on a variety of levels. It calls into question the journalistic ethics of the two reporters as well as their ability to recognize their own bias.

Kurtz asks the journalists about the news that civilian casualties in Iraq dropped significantly in August and why that story didn't receive more prominence in the media.

The transcript comes to us courtesy of the excellent media site Newsbusters:

Kurtz: Robin Wright, should that decline in Iraq casualties have gotten more media attention?

Wright: Not necessarily. The fact is we're at the beginning of a trend -- and it's not even sure that it is a trend yet. There is also an enormous dispute over how to count the numbers. There are different kinds of deaths in Iraq. There are combat deaths. There are sectarian deaths. And there are the deaths of criminal -- from criminal acts. There are also a lot of numbers that the U.S. frankly is not counting. For example, in southern Iraq, there is Shiite upon Shiite violence, which is not sectarian in the Shiite versus Sunni. And the U.S. also doesn't have much of a capability in the south.

So the numbers themselves are tricky.
Ah yes! "Tricky" numbers. As you will see, there are some numbers that are "tricky" and some that tell a story. Here's Starr's response to the same question:
But that's the problem, we don't know whether it is a trend about specifically the decline in the number of U.S. troops being killed in Iraq. This is not enduring progress. This is a very positive step on that potential road to progress.
Starr's response begs the question whether that "positive step" is in and of itself newsworthy? Not in media La-La land. Even Kurtz can't quite believe what he's hearing:
KURTZ: But let's say that the figures had shown that casualties were going up for U.S. soldiers and going up for Iraqi civilians. I think that would have made some front pages.

STARR: Oh, I think inevitably it would have. I mean, that's certainly -- that, by any definition, is news. Look, nobody more than a Pentagon correspondent would like to stop reporting the number of deaths, interviewing grieving families, talking to soldiers who have lost their arms and their legs in the war. But, is this really enduring progress? We've had five years of the Pentagon telling us there is progress, there is progress. Forgive me for being skeptical, I need to see a little bit more than one month before I get too excited about all of this.
So in the media cocoon created by major news outlets, reporting an increase in casualities is a "certainty" and is "by any definition" news. Evidently not by "any definition" because the fall off in casualties isn't news. Starr can't quite seem to grasp her own blatant, outrageous bias because obviously, there is one definition of news regarding casualties if they go up and quite another when they go down.

This kind of cluelessness points up the reason why Americans know the media is biased and the media keeps denying it. The fact is, reporters like Wright (who is an award winning National Security Correspondent) and Starr simply can't wrap their heads around the notion that their bias is so ingrained that they are incapable of recognizing it within themselves.

Even when it is staring them in the face, they refuse to acknowledge it. You almost want to feel sorry for them. They really don't have a clue.

No wonder the news coverage from Iraq stinks.