Salon Opinion Pieces and Aggravating “Journalism”

Salon recently published an opinion piece on recent happenings in the Pentagon Office of Special Plans (OSP). The author is a newly retired USAF lieutenant colonel, who worked in the OSP from May 2002 to February 2003

Salon is making the article free to viewers, because they “thought this story was just too important.” Indeed, the article is particularly damning of the administration, and well-known officials in the OSP.

Unfortunately, the article is published on Salon – and not as a news story, but as an opinion piece. I’d guess this is because no editor worth his salt (or, for that matter, integrity) would be willing to publish the article as genuine news. This is not to say that the story is not accurate, it may very well be. Unfortunately, it is the point of view of one person who is clearly biased, and published on a site with a similar bias (the article starts with an “editor’s note” that welcomes members).

There was an article in The New Yorker recently that mentioned that one of the problems with journalism today is that journalists are less likely to seek out independent confirmation of their sources, and would likely publish a story based on a single source of information (The allegation is actually from Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff – in an article entitled “Fortress Bush,” from 19 January 2004).

If anything fits the title of ill-researched, this Salon article does – nothing the author says is verified via a third party. I find that a little annoying. Granted, the article is an opinion piece (and is labelled as such), but it’s not presented as one.

This isn’t the only article that smacks of this however. Media coverage of Haiti was similarly bad. News coverage continually repeated the same thing over and over again: “Aristide was a democratically elected leader who the administration allowed to be ousted” (with the clear subtext that Aristide was therefore popular). Not being familiar with Haiti’s history, I had to do a fair bit of hunting around to find more information than that: For instance, Aristide was a catholic priest. He was forced to resign, in part, because he was an outspoken advocate of class warfare in Haiti. He has also been accused of corruption (either allowing it, or outright supporting it).

This is not to say that Aristide was a complete bastard – an interview on NPR noted that he was apparently extremely popular with the poor. My complaint is that none of these nuances are being presented in the media. We’re given a one dimensional view of an issue (sometimes, if it’s a hot topic, 2) and left to digest that. This is insulting – either the reader doesn’t have the mental acuity to process multiple streams of information, or the journalists are too lazy to seek them out. Neither is good.

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