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New study documents media's servitude to government - Glenn Greenwald - Salon.com

Once again, I'm sure I speak for everyone in thanking Bernice for finding and reporting this little gem.

Let's hope that this is a sign of the times. Harvard University finally criticizes the establishment to which it belongs.

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Someone PLEASE correct me if I am wrong. THe New York Times has discussed the Harvard study in the TImes Internet Blog, but the subject has not yet appeared in the PRINT EDITION?

Below you will read newspaper editors defending themselves. You will hear echoes of Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners, Ahumandah humundah....


Representatives for The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and USA Today said their newspapers declined to comment.

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said the newspaper had written so much about the issue of waterboarding that “I think this Kennedy School study — by focusing on whether we have embraced the politically correct term of art in our news stories — is somewhat misleading and tendentious.”

In an e-mail message on Thursday, Mr. Keller said defenders of the practice of waterboarding, “including senior officials of the Bush administration,” insisted that it did not constitute torture.

“When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves,” Mr. Keller wrote. “Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and human rights advocates as a form of torture. Nobody reading the Times’s coverage could be ignorant of the extent of the practice (much of that from information we broke) or mistake it for something benign (we usually use the word ‘brutal.’)”

The Times does not have an official, written rule on when or how to use the word “torture,” Phil Corbett, the newspaper’s standards editor, wrote in an e-mail message. “In general, when writing about disputed, contentious and politically loaded topics, we try to be precise, accurate and as neutral as possible; factual descriptions are often better than shorthand labels.”

Some critics, like Greg Sargent, a blogger for The Washington Post, asserted this week that The Times had indeed taken a side in a political dispute, and in a legal one as well.

“The decision to refrain from calling waterboarding ‘torture’ is tantamount to siding with the Bush administration’s claim that the act it acknowledged doing is not illegal under any statute,” Mr. Sargent wrote Thursday. “No one is saying The Times should have adopted the role of judge and jury and proclaimed the Bush administration officially guilty. Rather, the point is that by dropping use of the word ‘torture,’ it took the Bush position — against those who argued that the act Bush officials sanctioned is already agreed upon as illegal under the law.”

The Times and other newspapers have also written about the “is waterboarding torture” debate at length, and many columnists and editorial writers have called the practice a form of torture.

Although the study assessed only the four newspapers identified above, other major newspapers reached similar conclusions about the use of the word after waterboarding re-entered the national lexicon in 2004.

Asked for comment on Thursday, Cameron W. Barr, the national security editor for The Washington Post, wrote in an e-mail message, “After the use of the term ‘torture’ became contentious, we decided that we wouldn’t use it in our voice to describe waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush administration.

“But we often cited others describing waterboarding as torture in stories that mentioned the technique,” Mr. Barr wrote. “We gave prominence to stories reporting official determinations that waterboarding or other techniques constituted torture.”

The Harvard study made no claims about the reason for the change in depiction of waterboarding, but concluded that “the current debate cannot be so divorced from its historical roots.”

“The status quo ante was that waterboarding is torture, in American law, international law, and in the newspapers’ own words,” the students wrote. “Had the papers not changed their coverage, it would still have been called torture. By straying from that established norm, the newspapers imply disagreement with it, despite their claims to the contrary. In the context of their decades-long practice, the newspapers’ sudden equivocation on waterboarding can hardly be termed neutral.”



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I especially like comment No. 4 from Brian Harper in Chicago (my kind of town):

Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said the newspaper has written so much about the issue of water-boarding that “I think this Kennedy School study — by focusing on whether we have embraced the politically correct term of art in our news stories — is somewhat misleading and tendentious.”

With this astonishingly arrogant, morally reprehensible statement, Bill Keller just convinced me to cancel my 15 year+ New York Times subscription.

And reporters wonder why no one but themselves really care that newspapers are dying! When the Lippman Rules have been so comprehensively gamed that they can be used to whitewash war crimes and big time reporters still swat away criticism with this sort of dismissive contempt, I know that my time as a supporter of The Times has come to an end.

Keller's statement is appalling on many, many levels, but as of right now, his job and his paper are not my concern anymore.

--Brian Harper

Chicago, IL

If you are a NYT member (it's free) please click on RECOMMEND this comment(assuming you do). As of now, I am the 68th person to approve of Post Number 4.


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