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article imageOp-Ed: Reality And Perception In the Age of Digital Media Reporting

By Johnny Simpson     Apr 16, 2008 in Internet
There's no question that new media like DJ are revolutionary and powerful outlets for ordinary citizens like us. The question is, just how objective and accurate is our reporting? And do we steer our research in the directions we want the story to go?
RIGHT?
LEFT?
One of the biggest complaints against the major MSM media outlets is that they are mostly biased and partisan, primarily toward the Left. DNC News, as some have said. Or, as Rush Limbaugh calls them, the 'Drive-By Media.'
Seventy percent of Americans polled agree, and that may be the main reason organizations like the New York Times and Chicago Tribune are tanking. When people know what you're going to publish ahead of time, what's the point of buying a newspaper like the LA Times or a magazine like Time or Newsweek? I know exactly what I'm going to read when I pick up one of those, and it's not Bill Buckley's POV.
Shouldn't the objective of true journalism and news reporting be to give us the facts and let us make up our own minds? Not, as many complain, having opinions shoved our throats by those whose minds were made up long before they ever researched a story? Have you ever once read a story about illegal immigration in the LA Times that wasn't sympathetic to the plight of the fence-jumpers?
Or, could it be that the 'old media' are too fossilized in their style and approach to even begin to catch up with new media, from the Drudge Report to Digital Journal?
This complaint is also nothing new with ether-based reporting. Be it the perceived Vast Left Wing Conspiracy of the AP, AFP, Reuters, New York Times, Boston Globe, Media Matters, Democratic Underground and Daily Kos, or the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy of Michelle Malkin, Power Line, Little Green Footballs, or the dreaded Fox News (even Drudge, if you listen to some bloggers), everybody has an opinion.
But we here at Digital Journal are above all that, right? We do our research to the best of our abilities, scour Wikipedia, Google every possible link, sift through the detritus and carve out our little Pulitzer-worthy Michaelangelos for all to see and envy. And we take great pride in how honest and objective we are, unlike some people. But are we really?
If you wanted to draft a story on developments related to the the Iraq War, where would you go for your source material? Do you Google all the possible links and sift through the best material available? Do you really pick objective sources, or are you drawn in the direction your own biases and opinions take you? Do you research KOS, MYDD, and Media Matters? Or Blackfive, Fox News and Michael Yon?
How accurate are the Wikipedia entries you research? Do you check the links for articles across the spectrum, or just the end of the spectrum you're looking for? Would you even go the Pentagon or DoD websites? If not, why not? Don't you want all sides as an objective reporter? Throw the best information out there and let us, the readers, draw our own conclusions?
I do not believe most people, with certain exceptions, are purely liberal or purely conservative. There are extremists at both ends, of course, but mostly we are a mish-mosh of conflicting beliefs. We may believe in leniency and mercy for some criminals, but utter ruthlessness in delivering justice and divine retribution to others.
That is why it is not hypocritical to thoroughly enjoy watching vigilante films like Batman Begins and Death Wish, and then courtroom dramas like To Kill A Mockingbird or Twelve Angry Men. We may be against illegal immigration, as I am purely as a matter of law, yet may be close friends with some great hard-working people we know are here illegally, as I am with some.
We are the Yin and the Yang. The battering Hurricane and the calm eye. Separate yet one. We are all these things. Yet our perceptions and our passions on any given story are the flames that draw we moths to them. And we subconsciously go in the direction in which we choose to burn.
Example: there no less than 3,180 results on a DJ keyword search for 'Iraq War.' I will choose two extremes as examples. Here's the first:
In the OpEd 'Thanks To The Iraqi War Syria Has A Booming Sex Trade,' DJ reporter 'momentsintime' clearly blames the Bush Administration for this phenomenon, which she perceives as a direct result of the 'war criminal' President Bush's 'illegal invasion' of Iraq.
This all may be true, but as a journalist and news junkie I want to know a lot more. How wide is the sex trade in Syria? Is it condoned by the government? Are Syrian Islamic clerics involved, as was the case in Iran? How similar is it to the huge sex trade in Thailand, which is a nation at peace? How widespread is the problem around the world, or even here at home, where many underage illegals are brought in strictly for the underground sex trade? What do Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Have to say on the subject? Do they agree with momentsintime's take on the situation, or is it far more complex than that?
To me, this was a lost opportunity for 'momentsintime' to really bust the subject wide open into a popular and eye-opening report that could have gone far beyond the bounds of DJ, but it reads like just another Daily KOS blog entry. It could have been so much more. The only two sources used were Alternet.org and the Independent/UK. Not exactly Fox News.
Now, on to the other extreme
In Brant David McLaughlin's s OpEd 'Once Upon a Time, Liberals Knew What They Stood For,' the header reads as follows:
'Liberals” were much closer to what nowadays the prancing, preening politicians calling themselves “Liberals”—that means Democrats—call the wascally, wicked Wepublicans with thayw Vast Wight-Wing Conspiwacy.
Okay, I can see where this is going. He doesn't like liberals, Obama's 'The Black Guy' and Dennis Kucinich is a UFO-chasing nut job. I get it. But nowhere in this OpEd can I find what liberals once stood for. Was it Kennedy's 'aid any friend, oppose any foe' or 'ask not what your country can do for you' philosophies, which modern-day Democrats have apparently turned on their heads? Roosevelt's Lend-Lease program to Britain, which anti-war American Firsters opposed vehemently? And are there any distinctions between liberals and leftists now or then? I'll never know. Not from this article. The title was deceiving.
With all due respect to 'momentsintime' and Mr. McLaughlin, I'm no better at times. If something flares me up, objectivity is the first thing to get thrown out the window.
Look, I know OpEds are free rein. I've rambled like hell in mine. But I always try to stay to the central theme, as in the cases of the Fitna and LiveLeak OpEds I've done. I use all kinds of references and historical case studies to make my points, like the 20-year-old Fatwa of Death on Salman Rushdie, or the more recent butchery of director Theo van Gogh on the streets of Holland for his film 'Submission.' To me, the assault on our freedoms by radical jihadis is a very personal matter. They threaten us all, left, center and right alike. I'm not going to be very sympathetic to the jihadi point of view.
But it might make for a good article sometime.
Anyway, I think you all get the point, which is to look at all sides of a controversial issue, formulate the best report you can, and let us toss it back and forth in our minds. It is better to dazzle with brilliance than baffle with BS. Give us your best-informed shot. Show us your best stuff. Don't just blame Bush for the Syrian sex trade. Tell me how it works and who's involved. Bush isn't pimping them. Who is? Conversely, what do liberals stand for today? What did they stand for yesterday? And what are the differences and conflicts between past and present liberal ideologies? Inquiring minds want to know.
Get it? This is, of course, all me own humble opinions. But I did use both conservative and liberal sources for this story. Fox News doesn't bite. Neither does HuffPo. They are what they are. Put 'em in your Bass-O-Matic and see what comes out. Some readers like me might even drink it up. Or even better, Vote It Up.You never know when that extra dime you earn might come in handy!
Peace to All and Break a Leg! Regards, The Mad King (TMK).
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