2004-01-14 Entry: "Letter To The Press"
It has come to my attention that your news programme is attempting to cover the current presidential election. However, I note that your network/newspaper/radio programme have no interest in reporting the news, and instead are intending to play "Kingmaker."
We currently have the issue of Howard Dean being an angry, gaffe-prone candidate. This proposition is right up there with Al Gore being a liar who claimed to invent the internet (Gore never claimed this), and George Bush being a vindictive, dyslexic alcoholic (technically true, although you wouldn't notice this in news coverage). If your network/newspaper/radio programme were fairly covering this contest, then this characterisation wouldn't exist - it has no factual basis.
Let us take the "Dean is angry" meme that is currently being pushed. I have no problem with agreeing that Dean dislikes Bush; hell, I can't stand the moron - seeing him on screen makes my skin crawl; but to claim that Dean has an uncontrollable temper is factually vacuous. Dean has shown assertiveness on the campaign trail, and has confronted a Republican heckler (who would have been ushered away into a "Free Speech Zone" if he were a Democrat at a Bush rally and therefore wouldn't even have been able to confront Bush) forcefully, but not particularly angrily. He gave the guy three minutes to make his case, and then, when the heckler continued to heckle when Dean tried to give a response, responded in the same way anyone else would - with a firm insistence that the guy sit down and listen to a response before trying to continue the arguement.
Now, lets looks at the "gaffe-prone Dean" theory that is being pushed. Dean has made a number of statements that the media have then taken completely out of context, so that the out-of-context theory of what he said doesn't match what anyone with a brain cell (and a transcript) could quite easily determine the position he took to be. He was then required to come out and clarify his statements so that the morons in your press-room could actually get what he was saying, and you turn around and claim he has flip-flopped? The only times Dean has changed position in the years that you have records for are those where scientific evidence has come to his attention that refutes his current position. Let me repeat that: Dean is open to valid scientific evidence, and is willing to change his position if scientists prove him wrong.
This flies in the face of the George W Bush position. President Bush takes a position based on religion/morality/rewards to his contributors and it doesn't matter one whit what the scientific evidence says about his position. Regardless of the overwhelming evidence that global warming is a problem, or that there aren't enough stem-cell lines to do any serious research into cures for Alzheimers, George Bush sticks to his unfounded premise. You then claim this as "moral clarity" - moral clarity?! This is someone who is incapable of reasoning clearly and forming conclusions. Lack of reading comprehesion is not a quality to be admired. In fact it shows the failures of the US education system. The options are George Bush is singularly uninformed (backed up by reports that he doesn't read newspapers and gets all his news from his advisors) or someone so incurious and isolated that he doesn't care what anyone other than the authors of the Bible have to say. Neither is a position to be celebrated. Being able to research, gather evidence, and come to conclusions based on this research is a fundamental skill that university should teach you. I presume that George Bush's inability to gain this skill is the main reason for his poor university showing.
So I return, finally, to your network/newspaper/radio programme. You, and your editors appear to be holding Democratic candidates to a vastly higher standard then the Republican candidate. This flies in the face of media impartiality, and returns to my original point that you intent to play "Kingmaker." Playing kingmaker is fundamentally against your remit as an impartial reporter of the news. Your job is to report the news, without editorialising. That's what editorials are for. I have no problem with editorial columns from taking a stand to the left or right, but they should be clearly marked as such. News articles should be free of bias in either direction - trying to turn a contest that is a forgone conclusion into a close-run fight shows bias. If a contest that's over after the first exchange of blows causes you problems, then you're not really reporting the news. Hint: There's plenty of news without you having to invent it.
I understand that the pressures of management, advertisers, and shareholders, make providing an unbiased, news-worthy source of information difficult. But in the same way that management tries to make my software development position difficult, ITS YOUR DAMNED JOB! So get your act together.