Sunday, April 17, 2005

How much does the MSM just make up?

There are two stories that caught my eye today. Both have to do with reporters for Mainstream media outlets reporting on events that did not take place. Providing details of things that did not happen. In other words, writing fiction and presenting it as fact. Both being in the print media: One in the Boston Globe, the other in the Detroit Free Press.

The first story comes to us via Posse Incitatius, and actually happened April 3, or so, when we were all busy with other media stories. Mitch Albom wrote a column for the Detroit Free Press. Nothing surprising here, but he wrote the column on Friday describing things that happened on Saturday for the Sunday paper. Except they didn't happen. Albom wrote about a meeting of 2 ex-college basketball stars, and although he did talk to them to get quotes, he describes a meeting - in much detail - that never took place. They intended to meet, but were in the end unable to do so. The piece reported in the Detroit Free Press was fiction.

Via Emperor Darth Misha we find the story of a Boston Globe "reporter" also writing fiction. In this case we are treated to a description of the yearly baby harp seal hunt in Canada this past Tuesday. The only problem is the hunt did not start on Tuesday, it started on Friday - delayed due to weather. Furthermore, Barbara Stewart, the "reporter" (aspiring novelist, no doubt), gave first-hand details of an event that didn't take place in Nova Scotia, when she herself was anywhere but the frigid north.

Two "reputable" mainstream media outlets report two pieces of fiction as if they were fact. If the two athletes in Albom's story had met, the report would still be fiction, since it would still have been imagined on Friday, not witnessed on Saturday. Would we have found out it was fiction? Would the words "fake but accurate" apply? The Canadian government is waging a PR battle over the seal hunt. Their position is that it is more humane to allow the hunt to continue, than it would be to permit large numbers of the seal herd to die of starvation - as was happening before the hunt was reinstated. Would we have found out this report was fiction, if not for the Canadian government. If the hunt had begun on Tuesday as planned, would we have found out Stewart's story was fiction? If schedules hadn't changed, would these two stories have been exposed as lies?

How often did Albom and Stewart write stories about events that had yet to take place? How much fiction was printed in the Detroit Free Press, as if was fact? How much was printed in the Boston Globe? Jayson Blair at the New York Times went on for some time writing fiction. Janet Cooke quit the Washington Post and gave back a Pulitzer Prize over a fabrication. Stephan Glass - formerly of The New Republic - made stuff up. Patricia Smith also made things up for the Boston Globe. Jay Forman of Slate got caught "embellishing" the truth.

How much fiction occurs in the mainstream press, and never gets exposed? How many Rathergate-style memos where published, but never refuted? How can anyone take the mainstream media seriously anymore?

No comments: