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Modern Media as the Gang Which Can't Shoot Straight?

A widely circulated story about non-Muslims forced to wear colored badges by the Iranian Parliament.

A widely-circulated story about an airline developing stand-up seats to cram more people in flights.

What do these stories have in common? Both were attention-getting pieces which got wide play on TV outlets such as NBC's today show and CNN's Situation Room. And they were dead wrong.

Unlike USA Today's phone records story -- which the newspaper has not yet retracted, despite protests from two telephone companies featured in the story -- these two stories have been admitted as false. But the impact of such blunders may be with us for far longer.

As NYT public editor Barney Calame noted Sunday, the bad airline seat story resulted from imprecise questions from a reporter writing for the Times' front page for the first time. Turns out, the aircraft maker, Airbus, had abandoned the idea of stand-up seats two years ago.

The Iranian parliament story originated Friday with a report from an Iranian-born columnist for the National Post, a Canadian newspaper. And though the newspaper published a story written by different authors Saturday backtracking from the report, there was no explanation why the columnist originally reported what he did and no correction provided on the newspaper's web site. The erroneous story even led the St. Petersburg Times to publish a pointed editorial Saturday.

These are the kinds of stories which stick in the public consciousness when they think of journalists and journalism. Forget the CIA priso stories or NSA spying stories, getting this stuff wrong betrays a basic ideal -- that every bit of journalism the audiences gets from us is as true as we know it to be at the time.

I think we're all gonig to have to be more skeptical of such reports before we pass them on. it's too easy these days to wind up on the wrong end of a badly researched blockbuster.

Tony Snow Tries Mightily to Debunk White House Fox News Fixation

I know, I'm a lefty columnist who is expected to write such things. Still, I can't help noting surprise that Elizabeth Bumiller's NYT piece on new press secretary Tony Snow noting that he watched CNN tiptoed around the central issue.

As Bumiller notes, Fox News Channel has long been a White House favorite -- Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld often combat their bad press by submitting to friendly interviews there. The press has already complained that administration officials from Cheney on down insist TVs in their airplanes and offices remain tuned to the channel wherever they go.

So why not probe the implications of that issue? Why might the White House insist on such fealty to Fox? What does it say about FNC's reporting?

Instead we got another inside the beltway media piece which hints at a truth all involved already know, but few will say explicitly. Perhaps it's because I'm now reading Eric Boehlert's book on the press' failue in the run up to the Iraq war, Lapdogs, but I'm tired of stories which seem too coy to sa what they really mean. Because that didn't work too well three years ago.

National Public Radio Ups the Podcasting

Cool to see NPR jumping farther onto the podcasting bandwagon by offering 11 new downloads daily -- upping their total to 52 podcasts of everything from science reports by former ABC correspondent Robert Krulwich to music from the World Cafe broadcasts.

Backward-thinking executives might assume such services would keep listeners from tuning in affiliate stations and thus threaten donations. What we all know is those listeners are out of the mix already anyway -- a podcast might be just the thing to reconnect them with the NPR brand.

Given that users have downloaded 25-million podcasts in nine months, they just might be onto something...

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]


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