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The Evolution of Journalism, the Assimilation of Blogging
Posted by: Jon Henke on Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jennifer Loven's "Bush Using Straw-Man Arguments in Speeches" story for the Associated Press has garnered a lot of attention in recent days, both positive and negative. Editor and Publisher asks..
Did a recent Associated Press story examining President George Bush's alleged tendency to use a "straw man" approach in his speeches cross the line from news to biased opinion? Or was it just a long-overdue, in-depth review of the president's public speaking approach?
A few observations.
done well, stories like these can be a valuable addition to our news atmosphere
The Merits
  • Some of her criticisms were accurate: exactly which Democrats are arguing that "if you're Muslim you can't be free"?

  • Some were just egregiously inaccurate: yes, "some" do say that the war is "lost".

Propriety
  • Analysis of News: Good

  • Analysis as News: Bad

Response: At a minimum, the Associated Press should do two things here:
  • Issue corrections for the blatantly inaccurate ("some" do say Iraq is "lost") and/or misleading ("hardly anyone" is not different than "some") claims made by Loven.

  • Label further such stories "analysis" or "opinion", rather than straight news.

I'm actually of the opinion that, done well, stories like these can be a valuable addition to our news atmosphere. I'd like to see the media become much more skeptical of government in general, and political rhetoric in particular. I'd like to see politicians forced to reckon with a press that does more than mere he said/she said stenography. I'd even like to see reporters fact-check blatantly incorrect factual claims in news stories.

But it's very important that these "analysis" pieces are kept distinct from the straight news. News analysis may be journalism, but it's much more akin to blogging than to reporting.

And perhaps that is exactly how the burgeoning intersection of blogging and journalism will evolve: with news organizations turning to blogs and/or bloggers to provide the more punchy, attention-getting news analysis, while reporters churn out the actual news stories, the lifeblood on which bloggers and news analyzers survive.
 
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Comments
Good post.
 
Written By: Shaun Kenney
URL: http://www.shaunkenney.com
My main problem is the fact that she’s assigned these sorts of stories at all, given the conflict of interest that is her husband...
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
So when Bush says something blatantly false - such as "Some Democrats don’t want to listen to terrorists," what is the responsible reporter supposed to do? Simply report what he said without comment? Is that responsible journalism?

What you see in the AP report is kind of a tipping point. We’ve reached this tipping point because of the nature of the Bush administration’s PR machine. The Bush administration has time and again taken advantage of the fact that responsible journalists are simply supposed to report what it says, without comment. I think many journalists have grown tired of being used as conduits for false information and are reacting. Wouldn’t you if you were in their shoes?

And by calling it "Analysis," does that really solve the problem of the press being used to peddle lies? What about a middle ground? What if every story about what the President said began with a disclaimer: "Warning: The following factual assertions by President Bush may or may not be true." Or something like that.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
So when Bush says something blatantly false - such as "Some Democrats don’t want to listen to terrorists," what is the responsible reporter supposed to do?
I believe I already answered that, writing "I’d even like to see reporters fact-check blatantly incorrect factual claims in news stories."

What I don’t want is reporters making subjective judgements, or evaluating the merits of an argument. That is for the reader to do. Reporting a statement, and reporting facts about that statement are fine, though.
I think many journalists have grown tired of being used as conduits for false information and are reacting. Wouldn’t you if you were in their shoes?
I think I’ve been fairly clear on that point.
What if every story about what the President said began with a disclaimer: "Warning: The following factual assertions by President Bush may or may not be true." Or something like that.
That might be a useful thing to attach to every statement from every politician in general.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Of course, if journalists and pundits have been misidentifying what occurs in the NSA program, then how the President characterizes it may be closer to the truth then not. And the journalists and pundits would be the ones using the straw-man argument.

Anyway,
The straw man fallacy is a rhetorical technique (also classified as a logical fallacy) based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position; deriving from the use of straw men in combat training
Considering that nearly ALL POLITICANS use this in their own rhetoric (at one time or another,) it is hard to say that we should be more wary of the President then any other politician.

Journalists and pundits ought to be doing "due diligence" with regards to all subject matters they write about, not just those subjects that they disagree with.

And I agree, analysis like this is usefull, but not when limited to one person. Let’s see a comparison of all the major Presidential candidates in the last 10 years, and see how often they do this. Of course, that would require time, effort, and an impartiality which the author of this particular piece doesn’t have.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
Case in point...

http://www.qando.net/details.aspx?Entry=3612


I have no clue what her actual objections are, except that Republicans are evil for proposing whatever they proposed (which is also not clear from the article.)
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
So when Bush says something blatantly false - such as "Some Democrats don’t want to listen to terrorists," what is the responsible reporter supposed to do?

I’m sorry, but the fact is this is NOT a false statement. Oh sure, Bush is using it to mislead, but the fact is there are definitely some moonbats in the Dem party- and congressional caucus- who don’t want to listen to terrorists (except to listen to their list of demands so they can make "peace").

Blatantly false? Nope...
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
What if every story about what the President said began with a disclaimer: "Warning: The following factual assertions by President Bush may or may not be true." Or something like that

Too bad they don’t put this at the beginning of ALL news stories....*cough* Katrina coverage...*cough* Koran-urine story...*cough* Bush TANG story...*cough* most any of CNN’s coverage nowadays...
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Some of her criticisms were accurate: exactly which Democrats are arguing that "if you’re Muslim you can’t be free"?
Maybe you should be a little more careful yourself; the quote from the article is:
Another time he said, "Some say that if you’re Muslim you can’t be free."
Funny. I don’t see "democrats" with a small "d", much less "Democrats" with a large "D" (which looks to me like a party official, or an Congresscritter) anywhere in the actual quote. If you want to see that sort of verbiage, I’d recommend a quick jog through Little Green Footballs and comments there.

That particular quote looked to me like he was trying to reign in the more extreme elements of his own support, rather than attacking Dems, but I guess you see what you want to.

email is human readable- aloud
 
Written By: bud
URL: http://
Some would suggest that journalist’s must be mindless, soulless, heartless robots. I strongly disagree.

Think about it. ALL reporting is “analysis” to some degree or another. The reporter’s job is to observe or consume information and regurgitate it in a comprehensive summary that accurately reflects the subject events.

Reporters produce a product just like any other industry. Either the consumer trusts the product or the consumer does not. It’s free market, baby. And if the consumer grows distasteful of the product, the enterprise will fail.

I concede,
• Label further such stories "analysis" or "opinion", rather than straight news.
Is a fair criticism. However,
Are we that picky? Can’t one read the piece and decide that the summary is more opinion than fact? Furthermore, you wish the story to be labeled as “analysis” or “opinion”, rather than straight news…, well, I didn’t see any label on the site that read, “straight news”. Did you? ;)
Should we expect all Associated Press reporters (it’s AP “writers”, FWIMC … does that matter???) to placidly report just the facts? I hope not, how dull. If I wanted to hear just what the president says …, I got CSPAN.
Again,
The reporter’s job is to observe or consume information and regurgitate it in a comprehensive summary that accurately reflects the subject events.
I’ve grown to trust the AP. Personally, I think Ms. Loven’s assessment was pretty fair. Sure, there are “some” who say the war is lost; but there are “some” who say the earth is flat. Big deal. :)

I dunno, maybe I’m not as concerned as I should be.
There are “some” who say the media isn’t accurate. I strongly disagree.

And apparently, I’m in the majority.

So eat it, O’Reilly.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
You’ll excuse me Pogue, if I find your "poll" - by CBS News and the NYT for chrissakes- to be less than persuasive.

As for this comment:

"I’ve grown to trust the AP"

Well, no wonder you trust that CBS/NYT poll.

Good luck with that.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
I believe I already answered that, writing "I’d even like to see reporters fact-check blatantly incorrect factual claims in news stories."

What I don’t want is reporters making subjective judgements, or evaluating the merits of an argument. That is for the reader to do. Reporting a statement, and reporting facts about that statement are fine, though.
Ah, yes. The problem is that the Bush administration and those on the right more generally will cry out that there are not "facts." Only opinions. Therefore, any attempt to fact check the Bush administration will always run into howls of bias from the right, no matter how obviously incorrect the "fact" is. It’s been a Rovian tactic since Day One.
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
That particular quote looked to me like he was trying to reign in the more extreme elements of his own support, rather than attacking Dems, but I guess you see what you want to.
That quote was from a presidential debate with Kerry in reference to a question about "ending major U.S. military involvement in Iraq." In context, Bush was trying to mislabel the opposing party (Democrats). Kerry obviously saw it as an attack since his rebuttal began with him stating, "I couldn’t agree more that the Iraqis want to be free and that they could be free."
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
I’d like to see politicians forced to reckon with a press that does more than mere he said/she said stenography. I’d even like to see reporters fact-check blatantly incorrect factual claims in news stories.
Some in the MSM do do this... The problem is, in sum, the MSM is of one political persuasion, and is therefore less concerned with brutal fact checking if they agree with the overall position. Case in point, how often do you hear the MSM report that Congress is considering a reduction in the rate of increase of ___ program? Seems to me they rely upon the standard, and incorrect euphemism "Congress wants to CUT spending."

Yeah, it’d be nice if the press were much more brutal in their fact-checking of all politicians... And I’d like it if my farts always smelled like popcorn or lilacs...

 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
You’ll excuse me Pogue, if I find your "poll" - by CBS News and the NYT for chrissakes- to be less than persuasive.
Sorry Shark. I’m sorry that you find my poll by CBS and NYT to be less than persuasive, but I doubt that my actual poll conducted among family and friends would convince you either.
Perhaps I can drum up something else more to your liking. How about something from the EIB Network?
Do you think that Our President, the greatest President in history, is the true second coming of Christ?
Yes: 95%
No: N/A
Think that Rush Limbaugh is the second coming: 5%
Or something from Sean Hannity?
Do you think that the media, excluding FoxNews of course, is actively trying to destroy your mother, her apple pie, and Toby Keith?
Yes: 85%
No: N/A
Too Hannitized to get off the toilet and answer the phone: 15%
Better?

I do understand how “some” find the reports from the media to be inaccurate. Especially with reports like this one from liberal/leftists entities.
Former regime elements, local and foreign fighters, and terrorists waged guerrilla warfare and a terrorist campaign of violence impacting every aspect of life. Killings, kidnappings, torture, and intimidation were fueled by political grievances and ethnic and religious tensions and were supported by parts of the population.


Which one you ask. The NYTimes? The Washington Post?
Bombings, executions, killings, kidnappings, shootings, and intimidation were a daily occurrence throughout all regions and sectors of society. An illustrative list of these attacks, even a highly selective one, could scarcely reflect the broad dimension of the violence.
The BBC? Mother Jones Magazine, perhaps?

Try the U.S. State Department.

So you’ll forgive me, Shark, if I find the majority of media reports to be accurate.
Good luck with that.
Right back atcha, chief.


 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
JWG:
That quote was from a presidential debate with Kerry in reference to a question about "ending major U.S. military involvement in Iraq." In context, Bush was trying to mislabel the opposing party (Democrats). Kerry obviously saw it as an attack since his rebuttal began with him stating, "I couldn’t agree more that the Iraqis want to be free and that they could be free."
You’re much more of a political junky than I am; I was simply reading the quote in the context of the story - I had no idea where it came from.

That was the stroke, here’s the brickbat :-)

I went to your link (thanks!) and found the whole quote, which she truncated.
Here’s the part she (and you) left off:
I’m not suggesting that my opponent says it, but I reject the notion that some say that if you’re Muslim you can’t be free, you don’t desire freedom. I disagree, strongly disagree with that.

I still don’t see "Democrat" in there. As a matter of fact, he specifically said that he wasn’t referring to Kerry. Is it ambiguous? Of course. It’s normal stumpspeech. Was it an example of the logical error of "strawman"? Only if you edit it right.

 
Written By: bud
URL: http://

 
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