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The Stunning Ineptitude of our Dying Media

Posted by Rokke , 12 May 2008 · 1,514 views

Posted Image EYE ON THE NEWS

There was a time when a subscription to Time or Newsweek magazine was considered as essential to gaining insight on world events as watching network news or reading the local newspaper. The content of news magazine reports wasn't questioned. It was studied. As the third leg of a media triad, news magazines added depth and an almost academic flavor to the brief coverage of complex news events offered by nightly network news and daily papers. The three mediums complimented each other by reporting essentially the same viewpoint of the same story in three different ways. Daily newspapers introduced the story, nightly network news added a video commentary and the news magazines provided depth and analysis. Their accuracy wasn't questioned, because the story didn't change. Each time, it was simply reported using a different media technique.

The introduction of the internet and the new media is knocking the legs out of the old media triad. Given immediate access to multiple media sources, average Americans no longer have to rely on the reporting of the big three. And news magazines like Time and Newsweek are seeing their relevance decline as quickly as their ad revenues and their journalistic credibility.

Yet, like any dying empire, old media giants like Time are not going to go down without a fight. Within Time Inc. are true believers in the old way. "Journalists" groomed by obsolete mentors to believe that average people still rely on mainstream media sources to gain insight on world events. "Journalists" so committed to their own understanding of this evolving world that they actually believe what they write despite all evidence to the contrary.

Fortunately, such "journalists" are a dying breed, but they do still exist. It is useful to study their gross ineptitude to remember what once was, and why it is so important to put those days behind us.

Mark Kukis of Time magazine is a classic example of one of those old school, obsolete and inept journalists. As a regular contributor to Time magazine, his record of accuracy is very consistent. Consistently poor. In one typical example ironically titled: Has the Surge Reached Its Limits?(30 Oct 2007) Kukis not only proves his poor prognostication skills, but manages to incorrectly quote an American Army general (noted as an appended correction to the article) and report a supposed massacre of Iraqi citizens that never happened. All in one single, short article.

Kukis perhaps sensed a chance for redemption when Iraqi Army troops moved into Basrah to rid the city once and for all of its Mahdi Militia tormentors. Joining a gaggle of Time correspondents all trumpeting the same wholly disproven story line in a series of articles with titles like; How Moqtada al-Sadr Won in Basra, Sadr Offers to End Basra Fighting, In Iraq, al-Sadr Threatens 'Open War', Al-Sadr Tightens the Screws, and his latest effort...Al-Sadr Wins Another Round, Kukis continues a nearly perfect record of misrepresenting reality.

I've copied his latest disaster below. Given that al-Sadr hasn't been seen in Iraq for months, has repeatedly asked his Mahdi army to surrender and cooperate with the Iraqi Army, has cowered in a hole while his army has absorbed thousands of casualties throughout Iraq, lost control of all its strongholds in Iraq, lost the popular support of the Iraqi people and most recently been disowned by its Iranian enablers, the title of his latest piece of..."journalism"...should give you some idea of its value as a representation of why the old media is dying a long overdue, but well deserved death.

Al-Sadr Wins Another Round
Sunday, May. 11, 2008
By MARK KUKIS/BAGHDAD

For the first time in weeks Sadr City saw no fighting Sunday, day one of yet another hastily brokered cease-fire between U.S.-backed Iraqi forces and the Shi'ite Mahdi Army militia.

Word of the pact emerged Saturday night, when an aide to Mahdi Army leader Muqtada al-Sadr said a deal had been reached to end roughly two months of street fighting in eastern Baghdad. [url="http://www.aswataliraq.info/look/english/article.tpl?IdLanguage=1&IdPublication=4&NrArticle=78823&NrIssue=2&NrSection=1""]Soon afterward, U.S. and Iraqi officials endorsed the agreement[/url], which came as Iraqi forces working with U.S. troops were signaling plans for a new push to break from areas where they had remained stuck for weeks. Details of the cease-fire remain largely unclear beyond an immediate end to the battles that have displaced thousands of residents from the Mahdi Army stronghold of Sadr City, a vast slum home to more than 2 million people.

In announcing the deal, al-Sadr aide Sheik Salah al-Obeidi said the agreement, "stipulates that the Mahdi Army will stop fighting in Sadr City and will stop displaying arms in public. In return, the government will stop random raids against al-Sadr followers and open all closed roads that lead to Sadr City."

Al-Obeidi, who issued a statement from the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, added: "This document does not call for disbanding al-Mahdi Army or laying down their arms."

The fact that a leading figure in al-Sadr's ranks announced the deal and pointedly rejected the Iraqi government's key demand to disarm suggests that the cleric is still controlling the agenda tactically and politically despite the most serious challenge his power the Iraqi government could muster. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki set out to break the back of the Mahdi Army in March, when he launched an offensive against areas the militia controls in the southern city of Basra. The Mahdi Army fought Iraqi forces to a standstill there while unleashing a daily hail of rockets and mortars on the Green Zone that left al-Maliki's government effectively the ones under siege.And when U.S. and Iraqi troops tried to press into Sadr City to chase the militia's mortar men and rocketeers, they barely managed to establish a foothold on the southern edge of the neighborhood before the situation stalemated.

How long this new cease-fire will last is uncertain. Al-Sadr declared a cease-fire unilaterally last year only to see al-Maliki ignore it with the initial strike in Basra. But one thing is clear: the latest pause in the running fight between al-Sadr and the U.S.-backed Iraqi government offers no visible solutions to the problems at the root of the conflict. Al-Maliki wants to disband the Mahdi Army, or at least de-fang it, before provincial elections in the fall. The bloody nose the Mahdi Army gave al-Maliki in the latest crisis shows how unlikely that is. Above all, al-Sadr still wants the Americans to go. But the inability of Iraqi forces to operate independently during the recent fighting shows how unlikely that is - unless a new White House decides to reduce military support for an Iraqi government still unable to face down its toughest foe.


I'll give Kukis the journalistic freedom to make wrong analysis and assumptions. I will not ignore his failure to accurately report facts. For each point I highlighted in bold print, I linked a supporting document that factually refutes Kukis' statements. I've relied heavily on the well referenced and resourced reporting of new media journalist Bill Roggio and his team at The Long War Journal. However, all of the sources I link are obviously open source, and none of them describe information that was revealed after the publishing date of Kukis' piece. In other words, I'm not using any information that he didn't also have access to while preparing his article.

Take a look at the article again. It isn't very long. It is written for one of the world's premier news magazines by one of its leading correspondents. And it is so riddled with factual error that when those portions are removed, the remainder could fill a single paragraph.

This is the media Americans are finally starting to abandon. But this is the media that has influenced American opinion for decades. What a disgrace. Stunning ineptitude indeed.




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EternalHope
May 12 2008 08:37 AM
Well done.

You have accused the man, and his employer, of ineptitude. You have documented the case admirably.

Personally, however, I think you went easy on them. The extraordinary number of factual errors raises the question: Was this deliberate? Indeed, I doubt you can be that far off by accident.

Logic says you have made the case for something far worse than mere ineptitude.
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Well done.

You have accused the man, and his employer, of ineptitude. You have documented the case admirably.

Personally, however, I think you went easy on them. The extraordinary number of factual errors raises the question: Was this deliberate? Indeed, I doubt you can be that far off by accident.

Logic says you have made the case for something far worse than mere ineptitude.


If it is deliberate (and it may well be) it just further underscores his ineptitude. Being successfully deceitful requires an element of clever deception. You don't want your targets to know they are being duped. But even his title is beyond belief. He is Baghdad Bob for Time magazine. I honestly think the man is simply clueless to reality. He's decided on an outcome he (and his magazine) wants, and he will continue to support that fantasy until Time replaces him with yet another inept journalist.
James Carville is a clever liar. Reporters like Kukis are just buffoons.
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pollyannaish
May 12 2008 07:08 PM
This is an excellent piece, the sourcing fantastic. I'm impressed.

As far as answering the question ineptitude or intentionasl: I believe that it is actually the juxtapositon of laziness and the speed with which the news cycle moves. Both of those qualities inhibit much depth in any article. Combine them with preconceived notions to get this kind of thing.
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Rokke, I finally got around to reading this more thoroughly.
Reads really well in this format.

Wow.
This is really well written. I assume the sourcing to be accurate because you wrote it.
Do journalists have a Code of Honor, like the military?
(rheo torical question) ;)
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