Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Is No News Good News These Days?

This week, Newsweek Magazine retracted an explosive story which alleged that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay’s U.S.detention center desecrated the Qur’an. This report is said to have ignited riots, killing several. In what some are calling a response to White House pressure, Newsweek stated that the “senior U.S. official” is no longer sure of the information on which the story was based. By making this retraction, Newsweek implied there was actually no news here after all, and thus debate has ensued.

Let’s explore the two possibilities that lie within this:

Possibility number one:
This was simply shoddy reporting. One government representative made a claim, and based solely on that the article drew conclusions. This is akin to a scenario such as this:
Reporter: So think there are any steroids in badminton?
Badminton Representative: Well, I don’t know.
Reporter: But it’s possible right?
Badminton Rep: Well----I suppose anything is possible.
Reporter: Ok, so it’s possible. And if it’s possible, it might be minimal or it might be rampant, right?
Badminton Rep: I suppose either is theoretically possible.

Ensuing Headline: “Badminton Insider Reveals Possible Rampant Steroid Use in Sport!”

Is this a real story?
How many times does the reporter state “A late night call to the offices of the administration were not immediately returned by press time.” Well—what did you expect? But in the hurry to publish the story---or, rather, the half-story---the publication or news program is willing to entirely ignore one side of the story to get it out. Sort of like not sticking around to the end of the race, only to report “Hare wins. Tortoise nowhere in sight.” An incomplete report becomes a biased report, and consequently a false report. That must be why it’s called a “story.” NEWSBREAKERS has even been the subject of such missing-piece stories—a simple and easy check of the facts would have made a story more accurate and frankly more interesting. The fact that the Tortoise actually wins is what makes the story so interesting.

Possibility number two:
This is even scarier.
Suggestions have been made that The White House has pressured Newsweek to retract the story in the interest of safety and national and international interest. Of course safety of people is a critical matter. If our government is silencing a report of misdoings to protect it’s red white and blue behind, and that magazine is caving, we’ve got even bigger problems than I thought. We’d be in the full throes of government control of the press---not the apple pie America that’s on a national billboard to the world, that’s for sure. It’s the stuff horror films are made of---“what we read and see on the news may or may not be true, but it is probably part of a government plan of information flow. “ Please, oh, please let it not be true.

So what’s worse—not reporting the whole truth, and consequently not the actual truth----or reporting a government sterilized semi-truth? Is the mere attempt to reach someone---if you don’t actually obtain additional information from them---sufficiently pursuing the other side of the story and offering balance? Even in this digital drive-thru multi-tasking gotta-have-it-now age, are we really in such a desperate hurry for every scrap of instant news that we are not interested in what is truly news?


Post a Comment

<< Home