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We Regret the Errors ...

Media Corrections We’d Like to See

by NORMAN SOLOMON

Former readers of Mad Magazine can remember a regular feature called "Scenes We’d Like to See." It showed what might happen if candor replaced customary euphemisms and evasions. These days, what media scenes would we like to see?

One aspect of news media that needs a different paradigm is the correction ritual. Newspapers are sometimes willing to acknowledge faulty reporting, but the "correction box" is routinely inadequate — the journalistic equivalent of self-flagellation for jaywalking in the course of serving as an accessory to deadly crimes.

Some daily papers are scrupulous about correcting the smallest factual errors that have made it into print. So, we learn that a first name was misspelled or a date was wrong or a person was misidentified in a photo caption. However, we rarely encounter a correction that addresses a fundamental flaw in what passes for ongoing journalism.

Here are some of the basic corrections that we’d really like to see:

* "Yesterday’s paper included a business section but failed to also include a labor section. Yet the vast majority of Americans work without investing for a living. They are employees rather than entrepreneurs. The failure to recognize such realities when using newsroom resources is not journalistically defensible. The Daily Bugle regrets the error."

* "On Thursday, in a lengthy story about the economy, this newspaper quoted three corporate executives, two Wall Street business analysts and someone from a corporate-funded think task. But the article did not quote a single low-income person or a single advocate for those mired in poverty. The Daily Bugle regrets the error."

* "On Sunday, in a front-page article about the mayor’s proposals for a sweeping new urban-renewal program, The Daily Bugle devoted 27 paragraphs to the potential impacts on real estate interests, store owners and investors. Yet the story devoted scant attention to the foreseeable effects of the project on poor people, many of whom have been living in the affected neighborhoods for generations."

* "Last week, The Daily Bugle reported on the history of human rights violations in Latin America without noting the pivotal roles played by the U.S. government in supporting despotic regimes during the 20th century. Such selective reporting had the effect of airbrushing significant aspects of the historical record."

* "Yesterday, when The Daily Bugle printed a correction about an obituary, it supplied the proper spelling of the first name of the deceased’s daughter. However, the correction failed to correct the obituary’s evasive summary of his lethal Machiavellian activities as a top official of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Daily Bugle regrets the error."

* "For nearly five years, The Daily Bugle has frequently printed the headline ‘Deaths in Iraq’ over the latest listing of confirmed American deaths in Iraq. This headline has been insidiously misleading because it propagates the attitude that the only ‘deaths in Iraq’ worth reporting by name are the deaths of Americans. Such tacit jingoism and nationalistic narcissism have no place in quality news reporting. The Daily Bugle regrets its participation in this repetition compulsion disorder of American journalism."

* "The Daily Bugle’s reporting has often referred to Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) as ‘a respected senator on foreign affairs.’ In fact, while some observers greatly respect Senator Lugar, others view him as a chronic hand-wringer whose pathetic deference to presidential militarism has aided and abetted the latest war crimes ordered from the Oval Office."

* "For more than five years, readers of this newspaper have encountered — without attribution — frequent references to ‘the war on terrorism’ and ‘the war on terror.’ While avidly used by architects and supporters of the U.S. government’s military actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, such phrases are based on assumptions that could be substantively and effectively refuted. The Daily Bugle regrets that its news pages have relentlessly promoted such official buzzwords as though they were objective realities instead of terms devised to manipulate the public for endless war."

NORMAN SOLOMON is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

The new documentary film "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," based on NORMAN SOLOMON’s book of the same title, will be released directly to DVD in June. For information about the full-length movie, narrated by Sean Penn, go to: www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org