Monday, September 26, 2005

Crappy Blog Journamalism

Before a blogger decides to take on the mainstream media for not getting its facts straight, a blogger should make sure that she (or he) has gotten her (or his) facts straight.

Case in point:

Earlier today, Atrios at Eschaton wrote a blurb of a post entitled Journamalism, so short that I'm reprinting it in full:

"This story about a fake DHS television show is pretty interesting - a really elaborate scam which was helped out by press participation, something left out of the main press acount."

Misspelling "account" wasn't Atrios' only mistake.

Even though Atrios didn't write the article he linked to at Boing Boing, he should have fact-checked it, because it's just plain wrong.

Here's the relevant portion of Xeni Jardin's Boing Boing post, "DHS: The Series, the scandal, the website":

"* Yesterday's LA Times story on DHS: The Scandal called Medawar and co's claims that DHS: The Series was backed by high-ranking Bush administration staff "false." Funny, that's not what the press said six months ago. The "News" section on points to earlier press clips which present the administration support claims as fact."

- E! Online News: Bush Backs New Terrorism TV Series by Jeffrey Jolson-Colburn, Feb 26, 2004.

- US News and World Report: "Team Bush Lends a hand to a brand-new TV show." Link.

- Boston Globe: Homeland Security Meets Home Theater. "The [E! Online report] raised eyebrows because the Bush-Cheney campaign intends to make the president's 'war on terrorism' a central prong in his reelection strategy. Pushing a pseudoreality show on that subject as the campaign enters its final stretch would be unprecedented." Feb. 28, 2004.

- WaPo: "War President 'Loves' New TV Show."

"Fact-checking, anyone?..."


Did the press "present the administration support claims as fact" or fail at rudimentary fact-checking?

According to my fact-checking, the answer is a resounding no.

In order, here are the parts of three of the four articles linked to that - I presume - Boing Boing and Eschaton missed:

E! Online News:

"It is unclear what input or relation if any the President or the real DHS would have with the show in the future."


"No spokesperson for the White House who could comment on the show was available at press time; a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said he was aware of TV shows related to the department, but said nothing about this particular show."

Boston Globe:

"But spokesmen for the White House and Department of Homeland Security said they had no knowledge of the show, though they noted that the administration has called upon Hollywood to produce homeland security-related shows -- and has worked with the TV show "Threat Matrix" among others."


"But it's not entirely clear whether Bush actually contributed sound bites especially for the show, or whether the show's producers just spliced them in on their own."

"E!Online couldn't get the White House to comment. Could this just be an L.A. publicity stunt? We'll find out."

The Washington Whispers column from US News and World Report is indefensible but since it's more of a gossip column I'm not sure it really fits with the Boing Boing thesis.


Though there might not have been White House involvement, there was Republican Congressman involvement.

Too bad Boing Boing and Atrios didn't focus on this part of the Boston Globe article written by Charlie Savage and published on January 28th, 2004 ("Homeland security meets home theater"):

"Medawar, however, insisted that he has met with both Ridge and Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchison during recent trips by the officials to California. He also said US Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, has been a "great ally" who "started the introduction to President Bush." A spokesman for Rohrabacher confirmed he was helping out as a "friendly adviser," though he said that meant telling them how to get access more than actually making calls himself."

Now, there's a story.


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