Reporting, Shoe Leather, and Press Releases

Back in the late ’60 (when I was in college) and the early ’70s (when I got back from Viet Nam), I earned my spending money by working in the broadcast business in Nashville. Yes, I was a disk jockey (I managed a number 2 rating in afternoon drive time one summer) and a technical geek (I was studying electrical engineering), but I worked in the news department at one station. I never became a “professional” journalist like Al Gore (who was working at The Tennessean); I was really a sort of apprentice.

One of the basic principles I was taught was that press releases were to be treated as every other advertising we received. It might offer a lead, but any “facts” cited had to be confirmed through a primary source. That often meant sending someone to get actual tape to use on air, and that meant pounding the pavement or at least spinning the dial on the phone. Of course, we used wire service and network material (UPI and CBS) which we acknowledged, but we never put raw PR on the air as our own work. A politician or a flack might say something in a live interview or be heard saying something in coverage of public event, but it would be made clear that the words were his and not the station’s.

Soledad O’Brien had not been born when I did my first newscast. Clearly, the news business in which she learned her trade must have been a very different place from the one where I worked. I’d have been fired for using some politico’s talking points the way Ms. O’Brien did in her interview with Barbara Comstock last month.

Fortunately, there are still a few old-time reporters around. One, Stacy McCain, has a post up that uses that interview as launching pad into a worked example of how to correctly handle a press release if you’re a skeptical, old-time journalist. If you’re not, the the temptation to use someone’s PR that fits The Narrative will bias your reporting.

Liberal bias is not a conspiracy, it’s a consensus.

That’s the important change from journalism as I knew it to journalism now. The consensus has changed from skepticism to liberal bias, and that is the real source of the problem with the Main Stream Media’s business model. In the end, people have to live in the real world of facts. Whether they like it or not, they need the truth in order to make informed decisions. So it will be The Truth rather than The Narrative that will prevail in the long run in the marketplace of ideas.

There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

Some folks are all atwitter over Soledad O’Brien using leftist talking points as the prep for an interview. There’s little new here—except for Ms. O’Brien being clumsy enough to get caught.

Bias in the newsroom is old hat. Barry Goldwater once said:

I won’t say that the papers misquote me, but I sometimes wonder where Christianity would be today if some of those reporters had been Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

SO’s SOS

Apparently, CNN is still on the air, and Soledad O’Brien is still one of their anchors. (Could be. I haven’t watched CNN for years, except when I’ve been stuck at an airport.) It seems she made some sort of major goof in an interview. Her audience has responded with tweets correcting her mistake. She is now asking that the tweets stop.

She must really be thin skinned. I mean, even if her whole audience tweeted at her, how many could that be. A couple of dozen?

A Lack Of Technical Difficulties

Before he died, Andrew Breitbart promised a vetting process for the President to replace the one the Main Stream Media failed to do in 2008. The first bit of tape has hit, and, as the blogosphere talks about it, the left is beginning to push back. It’s a bit strange that they would push back so hard if, as they say, the first tape is insignificant.

The main Breitbart site has a post up with a video of Soledad O’Brien shooting herself in the foot while interviewing Joel Pollack, Editor-in-Chief at brietbart.com. The post asks these questions:

[W]here was the media four years ago? Why didn’t PBS air the entire footage, uninterrupted, without overdubbing so as to actually hear the remarks? If the video was “nothing,” why did Olgetree hide it?

Good questions? I might have an answer to the one about PBS having to overdub commentary to hide the original audio. Unlike another president’s embarrassing  tape, this one didn’t have an 18 minute gap.