The caged bird, truth and freedom of the press in the US

No, not only discriminating birds. All surveys have reached the same conclusion. But before we get to that conclusion, a slight but necessary detour.

One thing for certain, if he does not earn the Nobel Prize in Economics for illustrating to readers the questionable or misleading analysis of the likes of WaPo and NYT, he does indeed deserve it for sparing his readers the anguish of having to read such; allowing them to avoid the unbearable torture – a word both have studiously avoided where the US is involved.

And, to continue with Dean Baker, co-director of the US CEPR, we find he had to suffer through its news and crime reporting, in this case, on the demonstrations and unrest in Baltimore. Baker demonstrates remarkable self-restraint in avoiding the use of the sometimes necessary, strong language, in his post. Washington Post’s Front Page Nonsense on Freddie Gray.

I usually confine my comments to economic reporting, but I can’t let my blog sit idle when the Washington Post commits major journalistic malpractice on a story of national importance. The Post ran a major front page story with the headline, “Prisoner in van said Freddie Gray was ‘trying to injure himself’ document says.” As the article indicates, the basis for the story is a document which includes the statement by another prisoner, presumably someone still in police custody.

His rebuke,

Making this statement the basis of a front page story and not indicating to readers the need for skepticism, given the source, is incredibly irresponsible.

On the same Washington Post and its deficient quality of reporting, Jim Naureckas of the blog, fair (fairness and accuracy in reporting), uses the title of his post for a concise summary of WaPo’s journalistic standards, ‘Why So Much Anger?’: If You Don’t Know, Washington Post Won’t Tell You. From his more detailed review we get,

But the Post can’t refer to him as a symbol of police violence, because as far as the paper is concerned, there’s no way to tell whether any police violence occurred at all; in the next section—”How did he die?”—his death is presented as a complete mystery. Which is not surprising when you look at the sourcing for this section:

The officers said…. Officials say…. police officials said…. Officials said…. Baltimore police have acknowledged…. Police have said…. Those involved in the arrest…. City officials have promised…. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said….

This is a good example of what Adam Johnson calls “a friendly local media whose default position is to simply repeat ‘official’ accounts, no matter how illogical they may be.”  The only independent source of information offered on Gray’s death comes from “video shot by a civilian bystander,” which “shows officers dragging Gray, who appeared limp, after he was handcuffed.”  But the Post follows this up with “officials say he was able to climb into the back of a police van.”

[bold added for emphasis]

To expose the corporate ‘newspaper’s’ zealous or cynical avoidance of journalistic responsibility, we call on Bill Quigley who is not 45 miles away from Baltimore. Indeed, as Quigley shows, any curious person in any part of the world, say, Yemen, could have provided WaPo with the data and analysis to show why those ‘thugs’, those ‘criminals’ would protest with cases of violence and destruction of property. Quigley’s post is entitled,The “Shocking” Statistics of Racial Disparity in Baltimore.

And to make one wonder about such media and their continuation in existence, just these three points,

Seven. There is a twenty year difference in life expectancy between those who live in the most affluent neighborhood in Baltimore versus those who live six miles away in the most impoverished.

Eight. 148,000 people, or 23.8 percent of the people in Baltimore, live below the official poverty level.

Nine. 56.4 percent of Baltimore students graduate from high school.  The national rate is about 80 percent.

As if ever more evidence were needed – the same conclusion all birds, the happily fewer still caged, not just discriminating birds, had reached: The likes of WaPo and NYT are good neither for reading nor even for their droppings. Any wonder the blogs, alternate media and non-doctrinaire MSM like The Guardian are in such rapid ascendance?


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