Blog | Page 2427 | Media Matters for America


  • WaPo leaves readers in the dark

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Today's Washington Post reports that "Barack Obama's campaign accused Sen. John McCain of running a 'disgraceful, dishonorable campaign'" and that Joe Biden "also joined in accusing McCain of shameful tactics" and that "Obama said the Republican had let 'lies and spin consume a campaign that should be about you, should be about the issues, the great challenges of our time.'"

    Those are serious allegations. But the Post article doesn't give readers any indication of what Obama and Biden were talking about, or whether their criticisms were based in reality. It gave readers no way to assess the validity of the descriptions of McCain. Has McCain been using "lies and spin" in his campaign? If so, that's the story - and if not, readers should know that Obama is lying about McCain lying.

    As it happens, pretty much every major news organization in the country, including the Washington Post itself, has recently pointed out that McCain and his campaign aren't telling the truth, so Obama's reference to McCain lying seems accurate. But either way, the Post has a responsibility to help readers assess the validity of the charge, not to simply quote it. Instead, the Post article gives the impression that Obama and Biden are simply hurling baseless insults at McCain. Coincidentally, that's exactly what John McCain wants people to think:

    Earlier in the day, after the Illinois senator made similar remarks at a stop in western Colorado, McCain pushed back. "Friends, Senator Obama's been saying some pretty nasty things about me and Governor Palin," McCain said. "That's okay; he can attack if he wants. All the insults in the world aren't going to bring change to Washington, and they're not going to change Senator Obama's record."

    So, Barack Obama says John McCain is lying; John McCain says Barack Obama is just offering "insults." By not exploring the factual basis for what Obama says, the Post is, in effect, taking McCain's side.

    Instead of including examples of what it knows are dishonest claims by McCain, which would help readers assess Obama's charges, the Post simply refers to "a string of tactical successes by McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, over the past two weeks."

    Those "tactical successes" include a series of claims that the Washington Post has previously concluded are false. Calling them "tactical successes" without any further explanation seems like a textbook case of putting lipstick on a pig.

  • Please leave Al Gore out of this

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    News orgs are all over a McCain adviser's contention that the Arizona senator, through his legislative leadership, helped create the Blackberry. But why does the media have to dig up the old Al Gore-invented-the-Internet tripe?

    From AP: "Move over, Al Gore. You may lay claim to the Internet, but John McCain helped create the BlackBerry."

    Al Gore did not "lay claim" to the Internet. That wasn't true in 1999 when the press, and the GOP, peddled it. And it's not true today.

  • Worst headline of the day

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Goes to Politico: "Cash-poor Obama says no to Reid."

    Article is about a little intramural jockeying for cash that's going on within the Democratic Party. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Read reportedly asked the Obama campaign to share some of its $77 million to help Democrats win more senate seats. According to Politico, the Obama camp declined.

    The problem is with the "cash-poor" part of the headline. Obama just raised $66 million last month, shattering the previous monthly fundraising record. His campaign now has $77 million to spend, while it continues to raise tens of millions more each month. How is Obama cash poor? That makes no sense. It's inaccurate and paints a false, unflattering picture of the Obama campaign.

    The term cash poor suggests the Obama campaign doesn't have enough readily available money on hand to run its campaign. Actually, it has $77 million on hand.

    A better headline would have been maybe, "Frugal Obama says no to Reid." But Politico can point to no evidence to suggest the Obama campaign is cash poor.

  • Dear Politico, please stop

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We always thought it was goofy when media insiders (i.e. Mark Halperin) announced which candidate won a given week of the campaign cycle, as if campaigns a) are sporting events, b) have clear winners and losers within a pre-determined time schedule, and c) need to be handicapped that way.

    By recently Politico, the Beltway daily, has been crowning the the winner of each campaign day. What's creepiest of all is that voters are virtually invisible to the calculations the Politico editors make as they pretend to decipher, in real time, the unfolding events and exactly how they're playing out across the country.

    Guys (and gals), why can't you just let the campaignunfold without constantly inserting yourself into the story by telling us what to think. In other words, please just get out of the way.

  • Froomkin on checking facts

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Nieman Watchdog's Dan Froomkin on the failings of the media's factchecking:

    Then there's the fact that most fact-checkers feel obliged to provide balance, citing both side for misstatements even if they aren't vaguely in the same league – and even if some didn't actually come from the campaign. This creates a bizarre incentive system: If you're going to lie, you may as well make it a real whopper. Similarly, after it's been said once, there's no incentive not to keep saying it. Chances are, you'll only get zinged for it at most once per news outlet – even if you repeat it over and over again, long after it's been firmly "rebutted." In fact, it may well sneak back into the coverage, the rebuttal entirely forgotten.

    So what's our alternative? Well, one alternative would be to fight back – for the press to create some sort of hugely negative consequence for making stuff up. For instance, to make it the lede of the main story every time a candidate repeats an obviously untrue statement, rather than a one-time-only sidebar deep inside the paper or newscast. But my ever-triangulating colleagues in the media are loathe to do something that makes it look like we're taking sides, even if that side is accuracy.

    Froomkin has ideas about how his colleagues should proceed; take a look.