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November 30, 2006

Media: "We no longer know what is going on, but we are pretending we do."

It's not just bias anymore. It's a flawed methodology, reporting on the cheap from far away from the actual incidents, relying on often biased and ethically-challenged local stringers to do the actual "reporting" which Western reporters merely type up from the comfort of their rooms at the Hotel Intercontinental.

Confederate Yankee quotes a good piece by embedded real reporter Michael Fumento, and adds his own commentary:

Vietnam was the first war to give us reporting in virtually real time. Iraq is the first to give us virtual reporting. That doesn’t necessarily make it biased against the war; it does make it biased against the truth.

Virtual reporting. A meme is born.

Confederate Yankee notes:

The overwhelming majority of international journalists "reporting" from Iraq have never ventured out of their hotels in the Green Zone, a small area in Baghdad, and yet try to convince us they are reporting facts from around the entire nation. Based upon what, precisely? They are only reporting what stringers—local Iraqi and other Arab reporters, with sectarian, regional, and in some cases suspected insurgency-related biases—tell them.

These Baghdad reporters have no way of knowing if these stringers are reporting facts or are relaying propaganda, if the witnesses quoted are reliable or coached, or if the photos submitted to them are an accurate visual account of the events discussed in a story.

Fumento again:

The London Independent's Robert Fisk has written of "hotel journalism," while former Washington Post Bureau Chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran has called it "journalism by remote control." More damningly, Maggie O’Kane of the British newspaper The Guardian said: "We no longer know what is going on, but we are pretending we do." Ultimately, they can’t even cover Baghdad yet they pretend they can cover Ramadi.

Kathleen Carroll gave the game away in her defense of AP's reporting. She denigrated the importance of whether the Sunni-men-set-on-fire story was actually true; the bigger story, she said, is that things are getting worse and worse. That's the story, and AP's story-- true or not -- fits in with that narrative.

Well, it may fit in, but if it's not true, it has no business being reported as such.

But reporters simply aren't reporting anymore, by and large. They have nothing except such "big picture," "gestalt" sort of impressions. They have impressions, attitude, and an overarching narrative, and such things come to them easily; actual facts are hard to get, and so thus are denigrated in importance.

It's of a piece with NBCNew's much-hyped decision to start referring to Iraq as in a state of "civil war." They may not have many on-the-ground, near-the-action reportial assets to get at the facts of Iraq. But what they can do, very easily, is give you the "Big Picture" decision made by New York City liberals in air-conditioned offices. And without real news reportage from Iraq, they're forced to elevate such silliness into "major news."

What else have they got?

Almost nothing.

Basically, reporters are becoming bloggers, passing over the difficult, expensive, time-consuming, and often-dangerous collection of actual news in favor of glib "impressions" and commentary on the news.

Except, with reporters having decided by and large to no longer do any actual reportage, such news is harder and harder to come by.

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posted by Ace at 06:18 PM

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