It should come as no shock to most people that one reason the print version of the corporate media is failing so spectacularly is that journalistic integrity has been sorely lacking for the better part of a generation. I make it a point to write about the corporate media a couple of times a week to point out the most blatant examples of the sorry state of “professional journalism”.
Once you know what to look for, it’s easy to pick out examples of when writers had someone do their job for them. Today’s case in point: Michael Riley of the Denver Post in an article this past Thursday about Colorado Representative Betsy Markey’s vote for the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. Despite the foreknowledge that if she voted for the bill, some of the right-wing’s craziest crazies would do their darndest to smear her for the next year and a half, Rep. Markey voted for the bill.
Riley does a fairly decent job of describing the right-wing’s plans to target Rep. Markey, based on an NRCC spokeswoman’s quote. What followed is a sickening example of journalistic stenography.
The telephone ads blast the so-called cap-and-trade provision of the bill as “the largest tax in American history” because of some studies that suggest it could cost the average family several thousand dollars a year.
Because of “some studies”, Riley?!?! Are you freaking serious? What studies would those be? Does he even know what they were? I seriously doubt he does, because if he read the studies, or even knew about their general findings, he wouldn’t have included this thoroughly debunked right-wing talking point from his “news article”.
In reality, the study that Riley’s dictators are referring to was done by the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change back in 2007. It examined a number of different cap-and-trade proposals. Cons, being the duplicitous, immoral actors they are, intentionally misrepresented one of the results of the study – fitting the study’s findings around their talking points, as they often do.
One of the authors spoke with a representative of a senior Con legislators, John Boehner, on March 20 of this year. He did so to make clear that they were misrepresenting MIT’s work and to stop doing so immediately. Needless to say, this has not happened. The Cons were claiming that the cap-and-trade proposal would cost families up to $3,100 per year in additional energy costs. The MIT study actually found that MIT’s correct estimate was closer to $340 per year. It seems the Cons tacked on an extra zero to prop up their talking point. More than that, however, the author – John Reilly – publicly made the point that lower- and middle-income households could almost certainly have those costs completely offset by returing allowance revenue to those households. In other words, most American families have the potential to pay nothing more for energy as a result of implementing a cap-and-trade proposal than they do without it today.
The role of the media is to inform the American citizenry of pertinent information they need to help make decisions. By acting as a stenographer instead of a journalist, that role has been compromised. The best thing to have done was to not include this ridiculous talking point in the article. The next best thing would have been to inform the public that the NRCC’s use of this figure was incorrect, as the study’s author has vehemently argued for months.
Indeed, the article presents the reader in the very next paragraph a figure from the CBO – a nonpartisan group – of costs being less than $200 per year, less than what the MIT study estimated. Oh, that $200 per year wouldn’t kick in until after 2020 – a far cry from the Con’s claim. The NRCC’s political motivation of using several thousand dollars per year is directly contradicted by the unmotivated CBO’s figure, yet both are presented to the reader as being equal. That is immoral.
I don’t wonder why the print media is failing. The evidence pointing to that failure is in front of us every day.