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Advocacy Reporting

Reporters are supposed to go to an event, and report on what occurs there. They can get quotes, do background, and remind us of history, but the concept is simple.  If done properly it would be as if the reporter doesn’t even exist and we consumers would feel as if we were there.  This would be without commentary, loaded questioning, unfair editing, and most importantly the reporter not becoming part of the story.

We had a couple of examples of not reporting, or biased reporting, over this past weekend.  The President had a news conference this weekend, and his 2nd question asked was by Dan Lothian from CNN. 

  • Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Last night at the Republican debate, some of the hopefuls — they hope to get your job — they defended the practice of waterboarding, which is a practice that you banned in 2009. Herman Cain said, “I don’t see that as torture.” Michelle Bachmann said that it’s “very effective.” So I’m wondering if you think that they’re uninformed, out of touch, or irresponsible? (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/14/news-conference-president-obama)

Mr. Lothian must have been so concerned that the President couldn’t properly handle the question.  This could be the only explanation for the fact that he asked a multiple choice question that would properly make Mr. Lothian’s point no matter which one he chose.  In his estimation the matter is not open for discussion.  I wonder if he knows that our military has a history of waterboarding our soldiers for training purposes?  I wonder if we were torturing our own soldiers?  Even if you throw out the facts about the issue it is difficult to find a better example of advocacy in a reporter than Mr. Lothian.

Dan Lothian is a small fish and he’s not a big time reporter even though he got the 2nd question to the President in his news conference.  How big time, however, is a news anchor for a major network?  Theoretically Scott Pelly (said anchor) is one of the top 3 reporters in the country.  In this weekend’s Republican Presidential Debate Mr. Pelley expressed his concern for the killing of terrorist al-Awlaki a little over a month ago.  The back and forth was as follows…

  • Scott Pelley: Speaker Gingrich, if I could just ask you the same question, as President of the United States, would you sign that death warrant for an American citizen overseas who you believe is a terrorist suspect?
  • Newt Gingrich: Well, he’s not a terrorist suspect. He’s a person who was found guilty under review of actively seeking the death of Americans.
  • Scott Pelley: Not– not found guilty by a court, sir.
  • Newt Gingrich: He was found guilty by a panel that looked at it and reported to the president.
  • Scott Pelley: Well, that’s ex-judicial. That’s– it’s not–
  • Newt Gingrich: Let me– let me– let me tell you a story– let me just tell you this.
  • Scott Pelley: –the rule of law.
  • Newt Gingrich: It is the rule of law. That is explicitly false. It is the rule of law.
  • Scott Pelley: No.
  • Newt Gingrich: If you engage in war against the United States, you are an enemy combatant. You have none of the civil liberties of the United States. You cannot go to court. Let me be– let me be very clear about this. There are two levels. There’s a huge gap here that– that frankly far too many people get confused over. Civil defense, criminal defense, is a function of being within the American law. Waging war on the United States is outside criminal law. It is an act of war and should be dealt with as an act of war. And the correct thing in an act of war is to kill people who are trying to kill you.
  • Male Voice: Well said. Well

For the video please go to
around the 42nd minute: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-full-cbs-newsnational-journal-gop-debate/2011/11/13/gIQAesw4HN_video.html

If you add to this question the smug look on the face of Mr. Pelley, as he was schooled on the law by the History PHD carrying former Speaker of the House, it is really remarkable that some think there is no bias at the highest levels of the media.  Just the lack of historical knowledge should be embarrassing enough to get rid of this knucklehead.  If you take the premise that Mr. Pelley posits, the US citizens who chose to fight against us in any war, did not receive their due process on the battlefield.  In fact, wasn’t the killing of Confederate soldiers by the Union without a trial an illegal act?

Journalists don’t have to be History PHD’s if they would just do their jobs. If the moderator of the debate is doing his job properly, we should not remember who the moderator was.  Scott Pelley should just blend into the background, instead he became part of the story.  Bias is not always this blatant, and we need to often seek out the stories not reported.  It would be refreshing if a reporter went to an event, and told us what happened there.

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