Saturday, May 20, 2006

NYT: Carl Hulse provides the primer on advocacy journalism

The New York Times is noted for shifting the way newspapers did business. They popularized the 'balanced' approach. They steer away from 'advocacy journalism.' That's, of course, a myth. And it doesn't take a bird's nest outside the home of someone 'who matters' to suddenly front page an issue (on a national edition, no less) that's really not of national importance. But today's 'report' by Carl Hulse acts as a primer in how the paper does advocacy journalism.

It's entitled "Bipartisan Group Thwarts Foes of Immigration Bill." Big business supports the Senate plan which does nothing but place undocumented workers at the mercy of their employers and add an additional hoop, lengthy, that they must leap over to begin. Repeat, to begin -- the process of applying for citizenship. It does not guarantee citizenship, nor does it provide any real benefits to immigrants. If you park your car at the supermarket before going inside to purchase your groceries, it's the equivalent of adding on a new building you must pass through to reach the grocery store -- and passing through takes years.

So the Times supports the proposal because Wall St. saved their butts many a time going way back. And they've done their best to promote the proposal not just in the editorials but in what is supposed to be the straight reporting. Reports on immigration protests have usally contained cautionary tales such as people being fired for participating (without ever quoting those fired). Also absent from that coverage have been the voices explaining why the Senate proposal was unfair and how it did nothing to ease immigration (as it's portrayed as doing) but instead resulted in another obstacle in the path to applying for citizenship.

Today Carl Hulse tells you of the "foes" to the plan. Plural. But the "foes" are the usual "foes" the Times trots out for this proposal. They're the ones who can be seen as xenophobes and reactionary. (At last, a story where it's worth the paper noting John Cornyn of Texas!) But what of the foes who are against the proposal not because they see it as 'amnesty' (it's not amnesty) but because they think the proposal is harmful to immigrants?

Those 'foes' aren't mentioned. They don't exist. They can't. Noting them would spoil the advocacy journalism that the paper practices.

Whether it's Social Security, health care or whatever, the paper presents you with the reactionary view and then the one that's supposed to make readers jump on board, the one the paper endorses.

So readers of the Times, if that's the only place they go for their news, are unaware that many immigration advocates think the best thing that could happen was for the two houses of Congress to be unable to hammer out anything -- thereby allowing them to do what they do so well, session after session: nothing.

The paper can't tell you about those 'foes.' They aren't small in number. They aren't shy about expressing their opinions (as anyone who attended even one immigration rally could tell you). But they're invisible on the pages of the paper.

Here's the way the model works for the paper. Insist there is a problem that must be addressed NOW. Then present two sides, the most extreme and the extreme in sheep's clothing. Be sure to pile on the most extreme so that readers are disgusted and ready for their 'salvation' which you provide by explaining the 'answer.'

In a similar form, last Sunday's suck up to Hayden. There the point was to drag Dick Cheney into the story. Toss his name in the headline to be sure the point is made: Cheney, enemy of the people. Now true, it's a role he's cast himself in -- and one he plays quite well -- but Cheney wasn't the focus of the article. He wasn't even the second most important subtopic. But by contrasting Hayden with the most vile, suddenly we're all supposed to breathe a sigh of relief. "Thank God for Hayden!" The peeping Tom as the last guardian. It only plays if you can set him up against a nemesis the audience loves to boo and hiss.

So today, they offer yet another editorial passing as reporting while they hope that long term readers and newer ones aware of the paper's history (what they want emphasized, not the darker side) see the immigration coverage as part of the somewhat historical coverage the Times did on the civil rights movement. History, true history, would have to note how uncomfortable they got very quickly (consider it their own version of white flight) -- especially when MLK wanted to address things such as employment and the war. Whether that was the reason there was no need to explore the passing of Coretta Scott King on the op-ed pages or if it was just due to the fact that the paper thinks everyone's more interested when one of their friends passes, who knows? They dash off their badly written pieces on playwrights (someone really does think she's Carrie in Sex in the City, doesn't she? -- well, it's good to know she has an active fantasy life) "rememberance" and of course there's been the rush to weigh in on the vile A.M. Rosenthal more recently. (By contrast, when one of their leading "names" of an earlier period was trashed by Bully Boy in a 2004 debate, the only one to come to the dead woman's defense was Maureen Dowd by noting the reality as opposed to Bully Boy's smear/spin.)

After awhile, you may start to wonder if the support for MLK and others, originally, didn't result from the paper's hope that MLK or whomever would "whip those people" into line?

Along with 'balance,' the paper's been a leader in the goal of turning elections into A Day At The Races. If you can make it all about personality, you don't even have to address the issues. Addressing the the reality that the "bipartisan" plan only lengthens the citizenship process (actually postpones it by creating a new and lengthy hurdle) while leaving immigrants at the mercy of employers (whom the Times must believe are all well intentioned, right?) might provide too much information, surely too much for the paper to sway the public with their model. Better to make it about 'good' and 'bad' people -- you're either with the paper or your against it, huffs Bill Keller. Never going deeper than a Proctor & Gamble commerical, but insisting it's reporting, the only thing the supposedly brave Timid will ever 'clean up' is the image of shady politicians.

Case in point, John McCain. This entry was lost somewhere around the fourth paragraph and I'm not devoting my morning to the paper of no record. So no link to the story (and if the above seems disjointed, that's why -- I lost a hilarious, to a friend I was reading the draft too at least, analogy of Hulse as spear carrier) on the reaction to John McCain delivering his speech at The New School. To me, what's most offensive is that McCain's delivering the same speech. That really doesn't cut it. McCain's not a humorist (though he does provide many cheap laughs). To go college to college delivering the same speech (by rote) is really insulting. By rote -- at educations of higher learning. Some noted, in the audience, that they weren't a campaign stop. They're not. McCain either needs to find something worth saying (as opposed to reciting) or he needs to stop polluting the graduations.

The content? The students and the faculty objected (the paper tells you -- so did people in the audience who weren't students or faculty but the paper wants to play it as 'the academy v. McCain'). That's their right. McCain gave his pro-war speech. That's his right -- provided he doesn't simply go from town to town delivering the same speech. These aren't rubber chicken dinner luncheons. If he has so little to say (on any topic), he should stop giving speeches.

If our recent past isn't a distant memory, many may remember the attacks on many (including Chris Hedges) for daring to interject the world into their speeches. The right whined that graduations are the place for "inspiration" (because, apparently, in a few weeks inspiration would be in short supply for graduates dealing with the crushing economy). I think, personally, anything is fit for a graduation. You're covering two spheres (at the very least) -- the contained nature of the university and the world that awaits. I could care less that McCain gives a pro-war speech at any college (I do question his being invited to The New School and the lack of input the students were given into the decision). I do care that he gave the same speech. All the colleges on his "circuit" should pay him one fee and issue him only one honorary degree. He hasn't earned the right to fees from everyone or for multiple degrees. (The honory degree is at the heart of the true degree mill.)

His resorting to the same speech in stop after stop demonstrates that he doesn't see any individuality offered by any of the colleges he's droning on at. They're all the same, the students are all the same and, by God, let him get to the period already so he can take a breath!

It's nonsense and it shouldn't be allowed. Free speech allows him to say whatever he wants (and to get whatever response he gets -- I think those assembled gave him a fitting response) but quit kidding that he has anything to offer any college. He's turning commencements into a speaking tour. (He's far from the only one.) And that's not fair to the students or anyone else who has to suffer through bad speakers delivering dead speeches. He should return any fee and any honorary he was given for the speech and Bob Kerry should send out an apology to every student for forcing them to hear the same speech he'd give to any other school. If The New School is just the same as every other one, then possibly Kerry and the registrar should also look into offering refunds to students who chose The New School because they believed it had something to offer, something of value, that could only be found on that campus?

Brady notes Susan Haigh's "Democrats endorsed Sen." (Associated Press):

Joe Lieberman's bid for a fourth term Friday, but an anti-war challenger collected enough delegates to force the senator into his first primary fight as an incumbent. Ned Lamont, a wealthy Greenwich businessman who has sharply criticized the moderate senator for supporting the war in Iraq, will face Lieberman in the Aug. 8 primary.

Brady is strongly opposed to Lieberam (and has made that known here since January of last year) and sees Lamont's forcing Lieberman into a primary as a victory "regardless of what happens next."

Kat will be posting here today (much later today). Rebecca's "the ruth & elijah report" is must reading so must read it already. Elaine and Mike are posting this morning and Betty's posting this afternoon. Trina's planning to post. Be sure to check out Wally's "THIS JUST IN! NO BULLY BOY LEFT BEHIND!" If not today, but hopefully today, then tomorrow, I'll be noting something West will be happy about. (Music, Matthew Rothschild.) Right now, I just intend to post this and go back to sleep.

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