We are the 99%

June 26, 2006

Ruth Ann Dailey's mea culpa - kind of

This morning's P-G contains a column by our good friend Ruth Ann Dailey. In it there's this paragraph:
After Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death two weeks ago, I wrote about noticing that previously loud anti-war Web sites and correspondents that kept up a constant barrage of e-mails were suddenly silent when an opportunity to praise American troops was at hand. Were the ones I'd been hearing from a representative of this mostly left-wing movement? I went looking online, but because I used the name "al-Zarqawi" to search, rather than just "Zarqawi," my results on one Web site were skewed. I had to at least consider whether I had missed a relevant stream of commentary because I wanted to.
Ok, I guess that's a mea culpa.

We've already pointed out the P-G's correction here and her initial column here and here.

So I guess that settles that. Or does it?

In today's column, Ruth Ann accuses ABC news of misrepresenting the truth. As the column is about how ideology should not be allowed to skew the honest reporting of the facts, the implication here is that ABC News was skewing the news to fit its own ideology. She compares something CBS reported:
One significant sentence was aired in full on the CBS Evening News: "Tom has gained a much larger family through this ordeal than he had when he left home to go help to free the Iraqi people and protect his country from the threat of terrorism." The sentence straightforwardly expresses the Tucker family's view of the war's purpose and, therefore, the noble meaning of their son's death.
With something ABC reported:
ABC, however, aired a story on how the two soldiers' deaths might affect public opinion on the war. "Even here in this military town"-- Ft. Campbell, Ky. -- "you can hear doubts now about the sacrifice," the reporter said, "and it is that heartfelt concern that prompted Private Tucker's grieving family to say in a statement today that they realize, 'Tom has gained a much larger family through this ordeal than he had when he left home.'"

The rest of the sentence was missing -- the part that stated this particular military family's lack of doubt about their very real sacrifice. It's hard to miss the fact that including it would have refuted the very point the story aimed to make. This misrepresentation of the truth might reasonably cause one to question how trustworthy the rest of the story is and whether, for that matter, its central premise stands up to scrutiny: Are expressions of "heartfelt concern" truly the same as "doubts about the sacrifice"?
Actually Ruth Ann is misstating the case just a wee bit, doncha think? Take a closer look. The reporter (unidentified by Ruth Ann, by the way) says that in that military town "you can hear doubts about the sacrifice" and then what follows?
...and it is that heartfelt concern that prompted Private Tucker's grieving family to say in a statement today that they realize, 'Tom has gained a much larger family through this ordeal than he had when he left home.'"
How would the addition of "...to go help to free the Iraqi people and protect his country from the threat of terrorism." refute (Ruth Ann's word) the point of the story - how the news of the death might effect public opinion of the war?

This is unclear.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to track down the transcript of the report Ruth Ann is writing about. So I can't actually check with the unidentified ABC reporter actually said. For instance, is the "doubt about the sacrifice" really "that heartfelt concern" or is there something else in that sentence there? If anyone has a transcript or a link, please sent it in.

Ruth Ann really should do some more homework, however. I have found this on the ABCNews website. Granted, it's an AP wire story, but the fifth and sixth paragraphs read:
Tucker's family grieved in private, saying in a statement they were devastated by the news, but were heartened by the community support.

"Tom has gained a much larger family through this ordeal than he had when he left home to go help to free the Iraqi people and protect his country from the threat of terrorism," the family said. [emphasis added]
The question is, if Ruth Ann Dailey is correct and ABCNews is willing to erase half a sentence to make its news skew closer to its ideology, then why allow the AP news piece on its website?

I'll end with Ruth Ann's own words:
When a news consumer's critical examination of a story leads too often to such negative assessment, he's likely to conclude that a reporter went looking for evidence to fit his theory -- an utter failure of the job's primary challenge.
Ok, then.

1 comment:

EdHeath said...

When I saw that title, I was quite startled. The column, of course, is vintage Ruth Ann, but seems a bit disconnected with the title. The target of her accusations of wrong-thinkingness (this time) is the "liberal" broadcast media, after all, and the title should be “Reporters can’t let ideology” etc, or “Journalists can’t let” etc. I have to wonder whether it is one editor or the whole staff that decided to take such an obvious shot at her (I mean, come on). Maybe she is being punished for forcing the PG to print a correction, or maybe something else is going on. Surely with Sally Kalson and Tony Norman around the PG feels it has counter-balances to Jack Kelly and Ruth Ann. Still, with a cheap shot like that, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ruth Ann move towards either the Trib or some radio show.

Meanwhile, is it my imagination or has Shribman actually tried to make his last two Sunday peices almost relevant. It’s like when the comic Nancy (picked up new writers and) suddenly got funny back in the eighties. Like a bizzaro world.

Ed