The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

News coverage of WMD: new study looks like essential reading

I say looks like because I've only just started reading the 100 page study (PDF) by Susan Moeller of the University of Maryland.

The study takes three fortnights - in 1998, 2002 and 2003 - and looks at the WMD coverage in 11 news outlets, mostly American usual suspects.

The conclusions, without being in any way hysterical. are pretty damning. In particular (p5),
the paper notes that established operating principles of the American media make it easier for the incumbent President, whoever that might be, to dominate news coverage by setting the terms of public discussion. Journalistic standards that are meant to ensure objectivity and guard against political bias had the effect of insulating the president from informed critical scrutiny. That effect was compounded during the latter periods under review by the media's inclination to amplify what was considered to be patriotic sentiment. As a result, the American media did not play the role of checking and balancing the exercise of power that the standard theory of democracy requires.

I'm rather hoping the body of the paper supports the conclusion. (No objective journalism round here, I'm glad to say. No journalism at all, to be frank...)

Also worth noting is the locus classicus of recent pieces on the Bush White House and journalism, Ken Auletta's article in the New Yorker of January 19.

I had thought that the piece wasn't put online. Some mags - perhaps, the New Yorker among them, operate a time-delay (the reverse of, say, the LA Times system), such that material from an issue of the mag is not put online until the next issue comes out.

Anyhoo, the Auletta piece is there - and well worth a read, natch. (You read it here last!)

Finally, there is correspondence in the NYROB in response to Michael Massing's piece on Judith Miller's WMD work. (Pick it up from my February 13 piece). When I've read the latest stuff I may, like MacArthur, return.

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