Sunday, March 06, 2005

Gore Vidal and Ed Cone on the Pravdization of American Media

In the old Soviet Union, various Russian friends were often surprisingly well informed about the world despite the fact that their view of it was largely shaped by their New York Times, Pravda. When asked how do you find out what's really going on, they would give secret smiles: "You must know how to read Pravda." -Gore Vidal, December 17, 2001, The Nation

The Soviets called their party newspaper Pravda -- "Truth." Americans used to laugh at that kind of phony journalism. But more and more, the joke is on us.
Ed Cone, March 6, 2005, News & Record

Gore Vidal is writing about how The New York Times buried the truth of the Consortium's analysis of the 2000 the 16th paragraph:

Finally, paragraph sixteen: "A New York Times investigation earlier this year showed that 680 of the late-arriving [overseas] ballots did not meet Florida's standards yet were still counted. The vast majority of those flawed ballots were accepted in counties that favored Mr. Bush after an aggressive effort by Bush strategists to pressure officials to accept them." I then got out this earlier story (July 15, 2001). It is somewhat less homogenized than the current account. "In an analysis of the 2,490 [overseas] ballots...the Times found 680 questionable votes," of which "four out of five were accepted in counties carried by Mr. Bush," making him victor by 537 votes. Yet on July 15 the Times felt "all [680 votes] would have been disqualified had the state's election laws been strictly enforced." I suggest that the editors, to show good faith, should have used paragraph sixteen as their lead paragraph: Start with the crime and then unravel it--or deep-six it if that's your plan. Putting it as the coda to a confusing story suggests a desire to obscure, not illuminate, what happened.

Welcome to BushWorld! Now learn how to read your Pravda. As Mister Cone says at the end of his column:

One big difference between the old Soviet Union and the land of the First Amendment is that the party-line press cannot exist here in a vacuum. Serious reporters, working for organizations or as independents, are able to expose scripted news and the agenda behind it. And with increased transparency into the news-making process a big promise of the new media, that process should only intensify. Over time, that ought to lessen the credibility of the scripters, but it won't stop them from trying to manipulate the news.
Eternal vigilance being the price of liberty, informed skepticism toward government-issue news is an ongoing obligation of Americans.