News Analysis and Truth in Media

Kevin Glass
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Posted: Jun 11, 2010 4:18 PM
The media business is undergoing a massive recalculation. So-called "gold standard" newspapers and magazines are closing as the internet completely removes any value they have on immediacy. As this happens, some cheer, some boo, some shrug.

Think Progress' Matt Yglesias sees an opportunity for old-school news outlets to evolve and provide something that readers may want: analysis and fact-checking in 'straight news' stories in addition to reportage.

This is fine and good, and he holds up Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo as an example that the MSM could learn from. Beutler covers news from an explicitly progressive perspective, injecting his own analysis into something as mundane as a John Boehner presser.

The fight over the stimulus, he said, “was all about more government spending, not more about allowing American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn, because when it’s all said and done they’re the ones who are gonna have to get the economy going again,” Boehner said, ignoring that about one-third of the stimulus bill’s cost came from tax cuts.

Watch as I re-write that last sentence with my own "news analysis."

"...to get the economy going again," Boehner said, without mentioning the obvious fact that there was no "fight" regarding the broad legislative consensus over the need for tax cuts.

[# More #] Or, later in the piece, this:

[Boehner] "And if you look at the revenue growth over those 30 years, you’ve got a prime example of what we’ve been talking about.”

This is practically the reverse of the truth. In the years after the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush tax cuts, economic growth and employment were significantly lower than they were after Bill Clinton’s 1993 tax increases. According to Michael Ettlinger and John Irons of the Center for American Progress, “Over the seven-year periods after each legislative action, average annual growth was 3.9 percent following [Clinton's 1993 tax increase], 3.5 percent following [Reagan's 1981 tax cut], and 2.5 percent following [Bush's 2001 tax cut].”

Not added in the piece, another hypothetical reporter's "news analysis",

Of course, this is a silly comparison due to the massive discrepancy in magnitude of tax cuts, types of tax cuts, wisdom of certain provisions, while not actually accounting for economic activities that have a relationship to tax cuts.

It's nice to see some on the Left rejecting old-media standards and accepting the place of journalism that does not pretend to be gold standard while injecting news analysis. However, I suspect that this is confined, on the part of Yglesias and Beutler, strictly to those outlets that inject analysis from a progressive point of view.

Because as I've just shown, analysis can take many forms. Yglesias would no doubt say that my injection of my opinion into Beutler's piece above is misleading, untruthful and disingenuous. So in the end, they are still searching for a new kind of "gold standard" journalism in which there is an objective truth to every news story. And in this new standard, that objective truth will always conform to a liberal narrative. Places like Fox, Breitbart and (dare I say!) Townhall have no place in this imagined new world.