Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Bob Koehler on Pseudo-Reporting

I don't say enough good things about the writing of Robert C. Koehler, syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. Visit www.commonwonders.com for an archive of his work on topics including, but not limited to, and in no particular order: PTSD, depleted uranium, homelessness, war and more importantly peace, Divine Strake, and many other lesser covered topics including election conditions in America.

I receive Koehler's columns via e-mail and today read his latest, "Pseudo-Reporting." Check his site (or countless newspapers, no doubt) sometime Thursday for Koehler's full commentary on the coverage of Benazir Bhutto's assassination. An excerpt:

While there was some good, or at least restrained, reporting by U.S. media as the tragedy unfolded, the main sources of news for most Americans maintain what I can only call a cocked trigger of jingoism, which often goes off before the screams subside and the blood and debris are hosed into the gutter.

"Weird, isn't it, how swiftly the narrative is laid down for us," Robert Fisk observed in the U.K's Independent. Yeah, I'd say so. I'd add: insulting, infuriating, dangerous - this media readiness to act as the propaganda arm of the party in power, to simplify evil as the sole domain of the enemy du jour, to "unite" the country in self-righteousness and hatred of that enemy.

Without such shamelessly bad reporting - perhaps a better term is "pseudo-reporting" - we couldn't have gone to war with Iraq in 2003 or, for that matter, Spain in 1898. Pseudo-reporting has, alas, a long tradition. It appeals to a docile, uninformed populace and demands the scrutiny of citizens capable of complex thought. Outing such reporting when it fizzles - when too much counter-evidence keeps it from gaining momentum and creating policy - is particularly useful. It's easier to sharpen our awareness of the forms of deception when the deception is not actively doing harm.
DAMN STRAIGHT! Read Bob Koehler everybody.

After reading this column in my e-mail today I wrote to Koehler. It was maybe the third or fourth time I had ever done that so it is not like we are in any kind of regular two-way contact. I told him I really appreciate columns like "Pseudo-Reporting" where he takes apart the performance of the media. I mentioned the false balance issue I've been raising here at WDNC, and I shared with him the as yet unpublished My Word opinion column I recently submitted to the Eureka Times-Standard. Koehler's response:
Thanks, Dave! Great article -- I applaud you for pushing the paper as hard as possible to do it's job and hope they have the guts, or sense of fairness, to publish it. Keep me posted.

Happy new year,
Bob
You're all posted now - not three hours later Times-Standard editor Rich Sommerville wrote me, tersely:
Dave: Your My Word column is to be published Thursday.
Regards,
(sig file)
The piece is a response to the December 24 article "As primary fast approaches, election offices are in turmoil." I'll post it in full here at WDNC tomorrow morning once it is on the T-S website.

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