Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hell Freezes Over!!! 
In other news, Media Matters has adopted the CounterColumn party line!

Foer makes the point about how nobody at TNR knew anything about the military in general or the Army in specific over and over, though he does not apparently know that he is doing so. He goes on talking about how hard it is to fact-check in Iraq, how they felt they had to give the writer anonymity so he could write "the truth" (maybe if they had not assigned Beauchamp's wife to be his fact-checker...?), how their own investigation was so difficult ... oh, bull.

Essentially, what unnerved me is that a magazine like TNR was so completely divorced from the military that they did not even have one person on staff -- one single person -- who was personally connected to a career professional in the military (and Elspeth Reeve, an intern at TNR who is now married to Beauchamp -- himself not a career professional in the military -- doesn't count), who could have a) helped them screen what was being sent in the first place, and b) helped them figure out how to fact-check the guy (let alone, after the fact, help them figure out what was really going on). I mean, seriously, how is it that at this point the best de facto depictions of life in-country come ... in Doonesbury?! (The very liberal cartoonist Gary Trudeau is, in a strange twist of journalism, apparently far better wired in to real soldiers on the ground than is the editor of a major magazine? How did this happen?)

Folks, we are six freaking years into a war now. Regardless of how you or I or Eric or anybody feels about the causality of these wars, the fact of these wars remain important for all of us to understand. We are six years into a period in which the military and issues of war have been, like, you know, sort of central. How could TNR remain so divorced from anyone in the military for so long that they eventually fell for this?

Long time readers will remember that I've harped on this incessantly, both here and on Jay Rosen's PressThink.

The problem is cultural. Too many media outlets - especially coastal elite outlets - make zero attempt to recruit from among military veterans. And military veterans are in extremely short supply in NYC, America's media center, since seven of the worst ten zip codes for military recruiting per capita are concentrated there.

The Washington, D.C.-based TNR, however, has no such excuse. They've never developed a relationship with a Pentagon or Walter Reed employee or their families? Fort Eustis? Fort Lee? Newport News? Annapolis? Hello? Is this thing on?

Instead, they look for college internships at newspapers, and recruit journalists largely from that pool - with predictably disastrous results, as they simply replicate their intellectually inbred culture.

ROTC students, for example, can rarely do summer internships. Nor can reserve component soldiers.

But you can recruit veterans at VA job fairs, etc. But I've never seen a media outlet at one. They don't even try.

And then they wonder why they can't do a competent job of covering military affairs.

No, scratch that. It doesn't even occur to them how pathetically incompetent they are. And the massive diversity campaigns - campaigns to recruit from among all manner of minority groups, inner city residents, gays and lesbians, the handicapped, and every other disadvantaged group you can think of - do contribute to the quality of coverage. Our news coverage is richer for their inclusion, and newspaper editors know this, and sing the praises of their diversity programs.

But recruiting from among veterans doesn't count.

For some reason.

Splash, out


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It doesn't even occur to them how pathetically incompetent they are.

And that incompetence doesn't just stop with the military. It applies to everything they cover where they don't have personal experience. Be it global warming, computer technology, Gaelic music, or the Police Blotter if the given reporter isn't experienced with it, they're likely to get parts, if not whole articles, of it wrong.

And they're supposed to be informing us?
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