Monday, July 23, 2012
As an example of the kind of journalism one must wade through in an attempt to know something about the world we live in, the July 23, 2012 article on NBCNew’s web page is as good a specimen as one can find.
The headline reads: “Foreign leaders see ‘America in decline,’ Australian foreign minister tells Romney.” It sounds pretty ominous until one begins to unravel the details.
First, it is a case of Mr. Romney telling a group of supporters at a fund-raising event, that the foreign minister of Australia told him, at a private meeting, that other “foreign leaders” had (presumably) told him, in private meetings, no doubt, that they held the opinion that the U.S. is “in decline.”
What? Who’s on first? This is an anonymous quote of an anonymous quote of several anonymous quotes of unsubstantiated opinions, conveyed through an interested party to a group of partisan supporters, and then passed on to the “media”, for what purpose? To raise money for Mr. Romney’s campaign? To convince the nation that our “exceptionalism” is slipping under the current administration?
Why didn’t the honorable foreign minister simply send an Op-Ed piece to the Washington Post and say publicly, what he had to say – with statistics and reasoned discourse to back up his opinion? Or he could have accompanied Mr. Romney to the fund raiser and delivered the message on his own, and then help Mr. Romney pass the hat. Or he could have transmitted his concerns directly through an interview on NBCNews or Fox.
But further, we’re told the secretive foreign minister had suggested an instant fix for America’s decline; i.e. ". . . one budget deal" that helps balance the budget.” Presumably that would not be the budget deal worked out nearly a year ago which now Mr. Romney and his fellow Republicans reject, but rather one which Mr. Romney would gladly propose . . . with no details included. Details take time and talent to develop and they tend to addle the brains of some of his supporters who are struggling desperately to find reasons to continue their support for him.
Mr. Romney is starting a six-day campaign swing through several foreign countries, not the least of which is Israel. We can hope that he is making this unprecedented foreign campaign foray because he has tapped out the resources of his wealthy donors in the United States and is merely going abroad to withdraw a little extra cash from his tax-sheltered foreign accounts. We can be certain that his intense national loyalty would prevent him from encouraging foreign donors to influence our politics by injecting millions of their dollars into our campaign. He wouldn’t! Would he?
I realize that NBC (and all the others) have a 24/7 obligation to keep the “news” flowing. Their obligation is to the advertisers who support their broadcasts and flesh out their web pages, not to their viewers who are mere numbers presented to advertisers as proof of the network’s ability to deliver an audience for the advertiser’s wares. (Note, if you will, the amount of time [or space on the web page] allotted to advertising relative to content.)
Without those advertising dollars we would have less “news” no doubt. But is it too much to expect that our “news sources” will be what their name implies; sources of news, and not of propaganda hand fed from opportunistic candidates and their campaign managers.
Enough of the “he said that someone told him that others are saying” stuff. That isn’t news. It isn’t helpful. It is either a case of a downright attempt to obfuscate, or it is inexcusably inept reporting. Neither case is a compliment to the news industry.