Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The MSM is Following a Process, but not the one You'd Expect

...just not the process designed to deliver factual news stories.

By now some of you have read that the AP, Reuters and various other elements of the Mainstream Media (MSM) have been duped again, this time by a mythical story of mass beheadings in Iraq. Over at Pajamas Media, Bob Owens takes the story apart, piece by piece and provides a chronology of his own investigation. He has all the facts in front of him and hits the salient points, but there are two dots he doesn't connect.

First, the process of discovering the truth of the story as followed by the MSM runs counter to logic.
I’m not Associated Press reporter Sinan Salheddin, nor am I Kim Gamel, AP’s Baghdad news editor, but if I was investigating a story about a 20-corpse mass murder in—let’s say, Manhattan—then I’d try to find a local police officer at the scene to interview about the case.

I wouldn’t rely on a desk sergeant in Staten Island who merely heard reports of other officers being dispatched to check to see if there was such a crime, nor would I rely on a beat cop in Albany who is only reporting rumors of what he heard from friends of relatives in Queens.
Second, the great strength of the MSM, editorial review, was present, but still allowed this to slip by.
As the quality and accuracy of their stories shows a marked and consistent decline, we can only attribute this decline to a failure in editorial leadership, and wonder how much further the respective Boards of Directors for these agencies will allow their reputations to slip before they see a need to replace senior leadership and re-examine their management decisions, editorial standards, and field-level accountability.
Here is where Bob misses the point. The AP and Reuters are professionally mature organizations. That is, they have an established, vetted process for confirming stories and determining facts. Their editorial staffs consist of sophisticated, experienced professionals with decades of prior art to draw upon. And yet, they are regularly taken in by stories like this, supplied by rumor and innuendo.

Reporters on your local junior high school paper wouldn't print things on such flimsy evidence. Even they would know to corroborate stories better than this. It's not reasonable to claim that the editorial staff in Iraq is ignorant or incapable of learning from past mistakes. It just isn't believable to suggest that this is an honest error. The process followed by even semi-professional media outlets would not permit such a thing to pass into the public.

The only thing I'm left with is to conclude that either the MSM has been reduced to a propaganda arm of the enemy or they have become tabloid journalists or both. There's one reason in particular I lean towards the propaganda explanation. The stories of decapitation are sensational and fit into their theme of chaos and failure in Iraq.

Traditional tabloid media relies on stories of spectacular heroism as well as hideous depravity. The mother who rescues her children from drowning in a sinking car or the fireman who saves the toddler from the burning building are the stuff of such media outlets just as the mass murderer and the psychotic rapist. From Iraq, stories of heroism in the presence of danger such as those from Spirit of America have been almost completely blacked out. That doesn't match the traditional format of tabloid media at all.

Occam's Razor holds for this case as well as any other. The simplest explanation that fits the facts is probably the truth. It just doesn't make sense to think that the MSM, with it's sophisticated processes developed through generations of reporting has managed to blow so many similar stories time after time. It's far more likely that they're just reporting what fits their view of the world.

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