Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Defining What is Fit to Print

LaShawn Barber has been taking some heat over her comments on the NEWSWEEK story. Here's what she said:
Whether Americans flushed the Koran down the toilet is irrelevant. Newsweek should not have reported it, even if true. It’s common sense, people. Those journalists knew how Muslims would react! Why would you hurt your own country and risk more deaths just to report this “fact?” To what end???

America-hating morons media!

Other than her last sentence, which is reflects poorly on her skills as a writer and undercuts the point she's trying to make, we don't think what she said was so outlandish. There's a difference, after all, in someone (say, the government) telling a media outlet (or blogger, for that matter) what it can and cannot print, and that same media outlet exercising its judgment in deciding those things for itself.

After all, isn't the slogan of our favorite newspaper (the New York Times) "All the news that's fit to print"? That seems to imply that some news is fit to print and some is not. It doesn't say "All the news that's true," (it probably couldn't get away with saying that after Jayson Blair anyway), so the veracity of a story shouldn't enter into the equation of whether it ought to be printed.

So what is used to determine what makes the Times? The judgment of its editors. (What pressure they must be under everyday to ensure that they don't miss any news that's fit to print!) How, one might ask, do they and other editors (like, say, those at NEWSWEEK) make those decisions?

Might they weigh, among other things, the impact this news might have on America's image abroad, or the efforts of those currently fighting in a war under its flag? Would it be proper to consider whether a detail as insignificant to most Americans as whether a copy of the Koran was torn or flushed in a toilet during interrogations aimed at gaining information that could lead to the capture of the man who masterminded the killings of 3,000 innocent Americans (well, innocent unless you're a student of Ward Churchill), ought to be printed in their magazine? Was the unsubstantiated report so vital (on the level of, say, the Pentagon Papers) that, after reading NEWSWEEK, that the American people rose up in droves to protest the alleged desecration of a Muslim holy text? I don't remember seeing that revolt reported on CBS (though that doesn't mean it didn't happen).

For that matter, I don't remember reading about these Koran allegations in the New York Times after NEWSWEEK "revealed/confirmed" them. And if the fine journalists at the New York Times didn't find the story fit to print, why should anyone be upset that LaShawn Barber doesn't?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The media reported the story about the Koran because it was the truth. The TRUTH! What the hell kind of world do you live in where the US military does something so inflammatory as flush the Koran down the toilet and nobody reports it because it might make the US military and by extension the US look bad. We already look bad, folks. That can happen when one takes it upon themselves to police the world and occupy a country that didn't ask for your help. But, oh, don't blame the military or the Administration. No, no! It makes much more sense to blame the Media.... Please! The media should have reported what's doing on with the war. They should expose the TRUTH and anyone who says otherwise should take a look at the Constitution.

6:20 PM  
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10:23 PM  

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