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October 27, 2011

James O'Keefe Scores Another Hit

On the New York Times, Jay Rosen, and Clay Shirky.

Rosen and Shirkey are professors of journalism at New York University. O'Keefe made what appears to be an undercover video of a classroom setting. Rosen and Shirky are openly discussing the New York Times strategy to legitimize President Obama during the 2008 campaign, their strategy to help Occupy Wall Street, tax loopholes for NPR, their unwillingness to cover Michelle Bachmann, and a strategy to generate revenue for the Times that involves disparaging conservatives.

The most striking thing about this is the lack of any ethical consideration whatsoever. And the hubris.

Lot of Good Stuff In Here... [ace]: Clay Shirky discusses the issue of bias in coverage, and how it's done.

Regarding Obama in 2006 and 2007, he notes -- at this point in time, at least -- there really was no very credible reason to cover Obama seriously. He was a little-known very inexperienced freshman Senator. And black. The odds of him becoming President were less than 100:1.

And yet the Times realized (correctly) that he could be a viable candidate. But that itself is not supposed to be news; that is, the Times can't "create the news" with a headline like:

Thirty Out of Thirty-Two New York Times Editors Agree: Obama Would Be A Good Democratic Candidate

Now that's actually what they want to say. That is, in fact, the news: that a major influence-leading liberal news organization is impressed by a liberal politician (and so of course will be giving him favorable coverage in the future).

But they can't say that, because supposedly they're not liberal (wink) and because they are supposed to report the news made by others, not report the "news" of their own beliefs and opinions.

So what do they do? They begin covering stuff like Obama Girl, noting the cultural phenomenon of Barack Obama (which wasn't really a phenomenon when they began treating it as such). Without expressly running a story with the headline, Reliably Left-Liberal News Organization Has Decided To Give Barack Obama Favorable Coverage Because They Like Him, that was in fact what was going on, as evidenced by their choice to elevate a little-known freshman Senator into Someone You The Reader Should Be Taking Seriously Because All These Smart People (Not Us!) Are Taking Him Seriously.

It's an interesting observation by Shirky, and undoubtedly true.

Later in the video he discusses the opposite of that -- the Times' decision to not bless Michele Bachmann with Serious Candidate Coverage.

I can't say I disagree with their opinion on that, but then, I'm an opinion writer. I can say "She's not serious." The NYT is supposed to not show that sort of editorial bias in its straight news stories.

At 7:27 begins the most damning stuff. Among the statements (admissions contrary to evidence) Shirky makes are:

1. Most people can't tell their hometown newspaper is super liberal because 95% of the country has only one hometown newspaper and ergo have no basis for comparison. (He seems about 50 years behind the Times on this -- most people have FoxNews now.)

2. The media's business model relies upon the deception that they are unbiased. So while they freely admit their liberal biases among "other elites," they will not admit this to the public. Because (per admission 1), I think he means that the sales pitch of the media -- we give it to you straight and unbiased -- is in fact still fairly effective, due to the prevalence of one-newspaper towns, and thus media liberals would be diminishing their influence and their business reach by confessing this.

He goes on to crow how everyone in the room are all "elites," to which NYU professor of "journalism" Jay Rosen jokes, "We are the one percent!"

But that's a joke like many things are jokes -- a difficult, tendentious admission is confessed to in a jokey format, to lessen the impact.

Good video. Shirky adds a little something to my understanding of bias with his explanation of how the NYT communicated what shied away from communicating expressly (i.e., "We at the NYT are gay for Obama!!!").

Although Shirky is himself a liberal, and a big NYT booster, he's adept at explaining how media bias is actually practiced.

And, as they say in the law, this is admissible in court as Statements Against Interest.

(They actually sit around and refer to themselves and their readers as elites. Good grief. Bask in the warm rays of glorious self-regard, dude.)

Thanks to guest blogger Jammie Wearing Fool for the tip.

Follow me on Twitter.

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posted by rdbrewer at 03:06 PM

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