Time Weighs the News

FAIRPeter Hart over at the excellent Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) has an amazing catch. In the most recent Time magazine, Michael Scherer present a cover story that is supposed to get past the campaign lies, Blue Truth, Red Truth. But it is, of course, just another exceptional example of he said/she said reporting.

Hart notes that the article came just to the edge of calling out the lying Romney campaign—if in the most gentle words imaginable:

To find out who shaded the truth most, Time asked each campaign for a list of its rival’s worst deceptions. After examining those claims and consulting independent factchecking websites, we selected some of the most prominent falsehoods and prevarications of the 2012 campaign—at least so far. Compared with the Obama campaign’s, the Romney operation’s misstatements are frequently more brazen.

Not nearly as bad as we’ve come to expect. But (following last week’s CounterSpin), the paragraph continues:

But sometimes the most effective lie is the one that is closest to the truth, and Obama’s team has often outdone Romney’s in the dark art of subtle distortion.

Just to unpack this: Obama is a worse liar because he doesn’t lie as much as Romney. Balance!

Overall, the Time article blames the public for not “demanding” politicians be honest. But it does allow that it would be better if journalists were more aggressive in calling out politicians. Then it notes that the partisan news sources are more aggressive. Thus, all the public need do is go to Fox for information about Obama and MSNBC for information about Romney:

The pundits on MSNBC, the Huffington Post and the editorial page of the New York Times do a fine job of calling out the deceptions of Romney, but if you want to hear where Obama is going wrong, you might be better served on the Drudge Report, Fox News or the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

This is bad in so many ways. It is wrong to say that MSNBC is the liberal version of Fox. It’s true that MSNBC does go a little softer on Democrats than Republicans. But it is not at all the same. Fox News is rightly referred to as “GOP TV.” Fox isn’t so much conservative as Republican. It is explicitly partisan and can in no way be considered a traditional news source. MSNBC can.

Another problem I have with this is equating the New York Times editorial page with the Wall Street Journal’s. The New York Times is very slightly left of center. The Wall Street Journal is just loony.

Finally, the Drudge Report is shown to be wrong a few times each day. It would make more sense to tell people to go to the National Enquirer. Actually, the National Enquirer is a far more dependable news source. Really.

This Time article is an embarrassment. It is one thing if they want to publish articles filled with false equivalence. It is quite another to write a story that claims to get to the bottom of partisan claims but then weasels its way out of any real reporting. Time should be ashamed. But then, they should have been ashamed these last 90 years.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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