Dim view of media? Try more transparency

September 18, 2009

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

This week brought more distressing news for journalists, as a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found the U.S. public more critical than ever of the accuracy and independence of the media.

Only 29 percent of Americans believe that news organisations generally get the facts straight, the survey found, the lowest level in the survey’s near quarter-century history.

It gets worse:

–Just 26 percent said the media are careful that reporting is not politically biased.
–Only 20 percent believe news organisations are independent of powerful people and organisations.
–Barely a fifth believe the media are willing to admit mistakes.

And news organisations have been able to do what politicians have failed at: creating consensus across party lines. Now solid majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents all believe that stories are often inaccurate and tend to favor one side.

It’s been a long road down. Back in 1985, in the first survey on media performance cited by Pew, 55 percent said news outlets get the facts straight and only 45 percent said the press was politically biased. Now 60 percent see political bias and only 18 percent say the media deal fairly with all sides of political and social issues.

What are we to do?

In the face of criticism, there’s sometimes a tendency to take shelter, keep one’s head down and hope the critics go away. But they won’t go away. And judging by the passionate and sometimes vitriolic criticisms I see in our comment sections, there are significant numbers of readers who will never believe reporters can put aside personal viewpoints and report a story accurately and fairly. You only have to look at discussions of coverage in the Middle East to see that.

The proper response, I believe, can be summed up in two words: More transparency.

That’s why we decided to make freely available to the public the guidelines our journalists live by when we published our Handbook of Journalism–and asked for feedback on it. That’s why I’m doing this job. That’s why we’re aggressive and open about correcting our mistakes. That’s why, in this blog and others, we welcome comments and debate on our work and issues in the news.

Reuters Editor in Chief David Schlesinger put it well in a recent speech, when he described journalism, at its best, as “a mirror, exposing back to society a true and brutally honest picture of what is going on.”

“When we fail at that,” he said, “when our picture is not clear or is at all distorted, we deserve to be criticised.”

At the risk of violating metaphor-overload rules, I invite you to take advantage of the windows we’re opening into our world–our Handbook of Journalism and our blogs–to tell us when you see a distorted picture or when the view is foggy. Or when it’s clear and distinct.

Judging by the dim view of the media revealed in the Pew survey, we can’t open the windows too wide or too soon.

More From For the Record
One final point
Hungary drudges through this toxic spill
Toward a more thoughtful conversation on stories
Hungary grapples with free-press issues
What did you say your name was?
When journalism becomes a good story
Comments
140 comments so far

Why are we to suppose that the handbook published is the one being followed?

Posted by Daniel Mason | Report as abusive

Here is a nice little example:

Recently, MSNBC aired a story about a man carrying a gun at a rally. However, it was not apparent from the footage that the man was acually black. Here is what Greg Gutfeld had to say”

“So why did MSNBC go way out of its way to obliterate the race of “Chris”?

Because it didn’t fit the story MSNBC wanted to tell: That if you disagree with Obama, you must be a white crazy person with guns — even if you’re black.”

Posted by Glen | Report as abusive

While I agree, Dean, that transparency is tantamount in getting us to trust media again, I would suggest that to the average citizen, most media outlets are altogether blazingly transparent in their a priori political leanings already. The day of Walter Cronkite’s attempts at even-handedness are long gone, with the overwhelming majority of news being driven by cynical critique toward all things historically of value to the average American. We just plain feel like mainstream values of family, and love are being cast as being politically derivative. The average American citizen across middle America feels like media looks at them like right-wing uneducated buffoons, and out of their superior world-view is trying to snootily propagandize us to their more enlightened dogma. We’ve had it! Get some staff that represents the average American, not just uber metro politico types, like on GMA, and the rest of national news. Other than on Fox, what other major network has even one representative from the middle, or what media would call the right?

Posted by bruce newton | Report as abusive

It’s great that you can post a handbook of journalism and call that more transparent. The US government wrote a couple little things called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Now for all the fine words on the parchment the actions taken by the US administrations in the past few decades have been directly against those documents.

When I consider the coverage of the Vietnam war versus the coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan war I see no real coverage as to what’s going on there. When I consider how the media has responded to the 9/11 truth movement, either ignoring them are referring to them as kooks (after all what would hundreds of demolition experts, architects and engineers know about buildings falling down) with no analysis into their evidence you become a part of that lie.

The problem is not a lack of transparency, the problem is that in your actions you have shown us all too clearly exactly who ‘corporate media’ sides with.

Posted by Orgizmo | Report as abusive

Note to Daniel: The published handbook is the only one we have. It’s hard enough to manage one 500-plus-page handbook.

Posted by Dean Wright | Report as abusive

I love these arguments. First, you have on that comes from one biased source trying to critique another biased source. If you haven’t noticed, Fox news is just as biased. I mean — Glen Beck himself called Obama a racist, took it back, and then said he didn’t take it back. And this is from me watching Fox news. I don’t have to watch another media source to realize that just because you feel something doesn’t make it logical or in anyway based on a fact. That’s why they’re called FEELINGS. Lets get some actual support and not just information about how someone feels. I get enough of that talking to my girlfriend.

The second argument is ad hominem plain and simple. If you don’t know what that means;

An ad hominem argument has the basic form:
Person A makes claim X
There is something objectionable about Person A
Therefore claim X is false

That’s right. Just because someone tells you something, or reports something that is an issue that you don’t like, doesn’t mean that it’s not true. And just because someone is liberal or conservative, doesn’t mean they don’t make a valid point, or produce valid news.

Posted by Phillip M. Walters | Report as abusive

Cable news and respected news organizations like Reuters, the AP, etc. are two very different things. Unfortunatley, the MSNBC’s and Fox News’ of the world that cater to sensationalism and partisanship ruin the reputation of an entire industry.

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive

I think one thing that would help is making it easier for readers to alert editors when there’s an error in a story. To do so now requires five or six clicks away from the article. Adding a “correction” button at the end of each story next to the various “share” options would be a lot more convienient, and eliminate the need to include which article is in question.

For what it’s worth, I find Reuters to be pretty straight journalism. Some of the bloggers are more open about their opinions, but that’s not a scandlous secret.

I glanced over the values and find “commission” but where is “omission”? Failure to report on the Tax Day Tea Parties (which I did not attend) was lamentable. Thousands of Americans in all 50 states participating in any activity is newsworthy. This, naturally, leads one of wonder what else you are omitting? And why? And who decided that we didn’t need to be informed? And with what agenda?

Posted by Elaina | Report as abusive

@”Orgizmo”: “…after all what would hundreds of demolition experts, architects and engineers know about buildings falling down…”

And I count YOU among those kooks. 1) I haven’t seen “hundreds” of credible professional experts as you cite, perhaps a few dozen, and it was easy to see they either had an agenda, or were infact “kooks”. 2) a group calling itself “Al Queda” with a leader “Asama bin Laden” (sic) did cheer quite loudly after the results of the attack and claimed credit for the act, and many acts after wards. It seems silly to me that the US Gov. would commit 9/11 and then allow this “Al Queda” to claim credit for the following acts. Occam’s razor says it was all completely committed by Al Quaeda. Knock of the idiotic conspiracy rants. It makes you look simply silly and foolish. Grow up and help us face the real threat, stop the childishness.

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

I’m sure you’ve heard the joke that the media get 99% of the stories exactly right. It’s only the 1% that you know anything about that they get wrong. As I’ve aged I now realize that if EVERY story that I know something about is incorrect in some way that implies that EVERY story has 1 or more mistakes. Accurate reporting will go a long way to improving the public perception of the media.

Posted by John the Elder | Report as abusive

Dean,
Concerning your note to Daniel: We’re not asking out here for media to manage all the fine print in a 500 page document. If they merely handled the 10 absolutes…the ones that suggest to stay free of bias, and personal opinion. In fact, I don’t mind when either political polemic states their bias, but rather, when their overwhelming bias is couched as “accepted fact.” People of centrist Christian faith are all “right-wingers” (except of course, those who are liberal in their paradigm) to the media, Obama is so clearly the darling, and any, ANY republican is a rightful scapegoat…Marshall McLuhan was right: The Medium IS the massage. The media doesn’t attempt any longer to be the mirror to society, they are inebriated with a sense of their own power to be king-makers, and reality benders. Every page in the paper is suspect of being editorial in nature, rather than mere mirror. There is a serious political divide in the country that pits citizen against citizen, when there used to be far more unanimity even in discussion. Who profits from such irritation? Mainly one element. The media. They know everybody loves a train wreck, whether its political divide, or the ruination of a celebrity’s life. If you want to improve media,either in terms of their ethics or improved credibility, you have to start with their heart. Their aim right now is to divide us, not unite us, to gloat over lives ruined, not to bring any form of healing to us. In short, folks have begun to see media as the over-bloated, self-serving agency it truly is: They want money, power, at the expense of all of our well-being. And fear-mongering, or appealing to the most base of our instincts like sexuality gone amok, is the way to sell a headline. I wonder how your assignment of global editor in charge of ethics deals with that, and truly, what you consider ethical?

Posted by bruce newton | Report as abusive

I think your survey is right about most people not trusting the media , but I dont trust this article because its the media

Posted by mark browne | Report as abusive

This is funny. The only transparency I see is the transparent bias of media outlets like Reuters. The article I was reading when I saw the link to this blog was entitled “Conservative Christians assail Obama agenda”. First, ‘assail’ is a loaded word that indicates a fierce mob ganging up on a defenseless victim. Second, in the article we see the following passage:
“Most of those attending swim far from the political center.

“I don’t believe in global warming,” said conservative activist Kim Simac, a horse trainer and mother of nine from Wisconsin who also believes that the teaching of creationism and prayer need to be brought back to public schools.”

No substantiation of the claim that those gathered were far from the center and give as an example an individual who SUPPOSEDLY believes that creationism and prayer need to be brought back into public schools…a view that many centrists would find a bit off.

Let us not forget this passage:

“The Family Research Council also claims “Obamacare” will lead to federal funding for abortion — an allegation hotly disputed by the president and his supporters”

Make sure you throw that support in for Obama, I rarely see that tag-on done in support of any conservatives on reuters.

Summing up, the media has lost all credibility with the American people. It’s a bit late to talk about transparency.

Posted by Mike Freeman | Report as abusive

The so-called mainstream media shows their media bias towards the left and are too concerned with being the “first” to report the story, instead of getting it right. An example is the CNN coverage and misinformation of the Coast Gaurd’s training exercise on 9/11.Jeff Immelt CEO of General Electric, parent company of NBC, is an advisor to President Obama. Jeff has been place on the Federal Reserve Board by Obama. Jeff and GE stand to make a lot of monet with the initiatives Obama wants to get passed, the Cap and Trade and Healthcare legislation. What kind of objective reporting do you think NBC will do on the Obama administration? Do you think this is a conflict of interest?

The so-called mainstream media shows their media bias towards the left and are too concerned with being the “first” to report the story, instead of getting it right. An example is the CNN coverage and misinformation of the Coast Gaurd’s training exercise on 9/11.Jeff Immelt CEO of General Electric, parent company of NBC, is an advisor to President Obama. Jeff has been place on the Federal Reserve Board by Obama. Jeff and GE stand to make a lot of money with the initiatives Obama wants to get passed, the Cap and Trade and Healthcare legislation. What kind of objective reporting do you think NBC will do on the Obama administration? Do you think this is a conflict of interest?

Where are the real reporters? Not someone who just parrots the Govt. line on our State of The Union. What happeneed to the people who use to do real investigative reporting? Jobless numbers, fiscal numbers, Banksters crimes, FED refusing audits, illegal alien statistics are all bogus and reporters just repeat what the govt. wants us to believe.
Where are the Woodwards and Bernsteins of today????

Where, please tell, where?

Posted by kirk | Report as abusive

The reality is that, with access to the Internet, it is much easier to verify that media are misreporting the news. “Back in 1985″, people were less aware that they were being lied to and misinformed, and the laziness of reporting was not as obvious, but now one can see that mainstream media just (slowly) copy from each other, do not bother to verify sources, and perhaps call old YouTube videos their very own new discoveries…

Looking at the Acorn investigations posted on YouTube, I was amazed to see a ‘related link’ to a ‘CNN investigation’ which took the 10 minute YouTube video (10 minutes! On a 24 hour news day, who would have time to actually show that? Clearly Americans do not have that kind of attention span!) and reduced it to one minute clips, largely removing credit from the original authors, etc. It’s a pretty sad ‘investigation’ when you edited down an already short YouTube video. Just let it die already. Journalists are middlemen.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

Trust the media? You have a lot of work to do. Here’s a start for you. Stop treating us like we are idiots! You give us distorted stories full of half truths with an OBVIOUS bias like we’re a bunch of drooling bobble heads with an average IQ of 40. I’ve spent two weeks now listening to media types calling me a racist because I disagree with Obama on a particular issue. That is outrageous! I VOTED FOR OBAMA! I don’t appreciate being call nasty names by ELITIST SNOBS in the media who think they have the corner on intelligence. Here’s an idea for you….. REPORT THE NEWS! It’s really THAT simple.

Posted by Mark Ottman | Report as abusive

Investigative journalism is dead…the media has been infected by capitalism and is the whipping boy of it’s owners which are for the most part to rich to challenge the bs that is spewed from corporations or government entities whose majority owners, upper management and officeholders are the rich…anyone see pattern here?

Posted by csodak | Report as abusive

Your Handbook in-and-of-itself is a perfect example of why the U.S. public doesn’t believe in the accuracy and independence of the media. I took a look at the Handbook (albeit cursory). Than I compared the edicts of the Handbook to some stories on your site. Guess what, the stories don’t reflect the Handbook. Just look at the article “Conservative Christians assail Obama agenda”. The headline alone carries undertones. And the stories you choose to carry are absolutely suggestive of a certain biased tendency.

So if you want your Handbook to be taken seriously, show evidence that it is being followed on your site.

Thank you, Sam

Posted by Sam Davis | Report as abusive

An other great exaple would be last weekend. Main stream media reported in Washington, a few thousand people gathered for the “Tea Party” protest, meanwhile multiple reports had it pegged at 1-2 million. Why would they purpossly down play the numbers?
I know many people were there for many different reasons, reguardless if it was Taxes, Heathcare, or just fed up, they are mad and had a right to express themselves.
Media has to “spin” the story that it was a few thousand “kooks” who are racist. No wonder “we” have lost faith, no other way to think. The Media has made it’s bed and now they have to lay in it.

Spend one hour watching a cable news channel (especially in the mornings when older people are watching) and count how many news stories play on fear. Count the number of commercials that do the same. Transparency is a good idea, but ultimately it does come down to editorial choice of all that is “fit to print”. The 24/7 news cycle, coupled with the internet have made for an out-of-control media

Posted by JoeInNorCal | Report as abusive

You will never eliminate bias from reporting, but you can be more transparent – and inclusive. Hire staff from across the political spectrum and state their leanings at the close of each article. when an article has been co-written by two opposing viewpoints, I am more likely to see a “fair” portrayal of the facts; maybe not perfect but fair.

Posted by Common Man | Report as abusive

Transparency?

OK – let’s start with who owns Reuters and Associated Press?

Who is still dumb enough to believe US media? I remember when the media was reporting the Hussein was working with Al Qaeda. This was immediately recognizable as untrue because Hussein was a secular leader who murdered anybody he saw as a possible political threat especially religious leaders – having witnessed what happened in Iran – the country he fought a long bloody war against for 8 years, to a stalemate.

The “media” is filled with crap, or more likely, CIA. Who is Reuters anyhow? Who is AP? Where do you make your money? Let’s see your accounting books, who is on your board. You DARE to write an article about transparency, the hypocrisy is so loud that few people will recognize the insincerity of it, and of course, that’s the design.

I pay for newsletters like Dines, Harry Schultz, the Aden Sisters, etc – but the US media didn’t see the inevitable housing collapse – according to them in 2004, anybody that believed we were in a housing bubble was CRAZY. But all the newsletters I paid for were spot on. Gee, who did the media miss this obvious event? It really didn’t take a genius to realize that once housing became totally unaffordable that prices would go down, and since most money in the banking system is loaned out for mortgages it would cause havoc in the banking system.

You’d be a FOOL to believe the mainstream media today but there are plenty of those.

The media in the US today makes Pravda look like a simplistic child’s approach to telling a lie. Most Soviet Citizens believed most of Pravda too, that was never told in the US media, but ask a former citizen of the USSR. You’re on the net, go ask.

Our media today was constructed by Edward Bernays, and it’s the most sophisticated propaganda machine in all of history.

I witnessed Yahoo take down their comment sections, and have seen “news” site after “news” site remove their comment sections. the media isn’t interested in reporting the news, or informing the public, or listening to the public – it’s there to convince the public that whatever is going on should be going on and that whatever policy was enacted was the right policy to enact.

It’s either controlled by our government, or more likely, controls our government.

Posted by Richard Wicks | Report as abusive

Actually, Reuters is, in my opinion, one of the most unbiased sources available today. Dignified, but not snobbish, there is objectivity in nearly every news story. I do wonder why there wasn’t better coverage of the recent rally in Washington. The pics circulating online prove that there were many, many more people than any of the news agencies have reported. How about an aerial shot of the city with most of the main streets around the capital completely clogged with people? Isn’t that newsworthy? I’d like to hear about it, not because I agree or disagree with anyone there, but because this type of protest rally on the capital is a first in terms of scale and represents many, many people who were willing to sacrifice their money, time and convenience to come to Washington DC. Where were you, Reuters?

Posted by dan | Report as abusive

Dean, I applaud your goal. Given today’s public climate, as evidenced by the replies to your post here, I think the success criteria you should bee looking for is as a news organization to be hated by all sides. Because in a sense today’s media *is* a mirror … the trouble in the media is also a trouble in today’s society.

Posted by torroid | Report as abusive

It’s the stories you don’t tell that is an issue. Days go by and not a hint about Van Jones. The ACORN mess and so on. When you finally get around to telling the story, like the MSNBC example above, very important facts are left out because they don’t fit the preconceived narrative. Or the facts are blatantly twisted – Van Jones, “low-level employee”, when he was hand-picked and given sway over hung chucks of our tax dollars. You don’t call out obvious crooks, Charlie Rangel, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, come to mind. Then anybody and everybody is a racist. I’m sick of it all.

I would like to read some true reporting. I’m not so out of touch that I believe that FoxNews and the Drudge Report are balanced, but they are at least pointing out the important stories.

Posted by Wendell | Report as abusive

To append my earlier post, the 24/7 news cycle runs in a frenzy without much oversight (in theory, editors are responsible for oversight, but who has oversight of the editors?). One issue that really bothers me is when a story is run that later is deemed to be false (such as the Death Panels incident). Facts are checked and apologies are made, but so much damage is done in the interim. It seems that there are more and more viral stories doing damage yet the amount of time dedicated to retraction is minimal compared to the amount of time the false information was initially run.

Posted by JoeInNorCal | Report as abusive

How much of this mustrust is due to the propaganda coming out of FAUX (FOX) news?

Posted by DE | Report as abusive

News is what the powerful don’t want you to know. Everything else is advertising. I’d like more news and less public relations flackery on Reuters please. That means quoting more dissidents and whistleblowers, and fewer “officials.”

Dean

Thank you for being sincere and recognizing that there’s a problem.

It’s not just the wording though that makes me distrust “Rooters.” It’s the choices of story coverage, and the way that stories will consistently focus away from the real issue at hand to an issue that makes conservative or free market opposition seem trivial.

For instance, in the Van Jones debacle, very few stories mentioned Jones’ belonging to a radical Marxist organization that disbanded fairly recently. Instead the focus was on his signing a petition and calling Republicans a bad word. So when journalists “forget” the fact there’s a self-confessed Communist revolutionary personally selected by the President in a policy making position, and instead focus on his language choices, that makes us not trust you.

I could go on and on. ACORN has a lengthy history of fraudulently registering voters, but it’s usually mentioned as “an organization fighting poverty that has long been the target of Congressional Republicans.” William Ayers is “controversial professor”, not a “self confessed terrorist.”

Posted by Who is Good Will | Report as abusive

The media is owned and controlled by a small handful of corporations,how can it not be corrupt? It took a young couple who paid for it on their own dime to bring to light the corruption of ACORN, and now is gaining momentum for a full congressional investigation into the organization. Where were the media, besides fox on this.Where is the media coverage on Sibel Edmunds when she said under oath that Osama Bin Laden was working for the CIA up until 911?
Another example recently is Charlie Sheen coming out with his 20 questions for 911 truth with Pres. Obama. All the media reports I saw were hit pieces on Charlie’s past and blowing him off as a hollywood kook, and not one report on his talking points.
I feel most Americans are a little wary of the direction this country is going and calling us racist for concerns about some bills going through congress is further distancing the media from the grassroots of America.
I turn to people like Wayne Madsen for my news now because it interests me, not what msm is reporting.

Posted by Jerome James | Report as abusive

How much of this mustrust is due to the propaganda coming out of CNN

Posted by Rat | Report as abusive

I wrote a very lengthy comments on five-5,Global Risks to this website.
You have mentioned that,posted by me,this is awaiting for moderations.
Do you know, how much time ,i have taken for it,
I am a prolific writer on any subjects.
Here, i am doing it for the sake of others, spending some spare times for useful and constructive purposes.
That was a totally relevant contributions,
All my writings are automatic, never taken from anybody!s words.
Till today, i am getting only mental satisfaction, follow the oldest sayings-Let Noble thoughts to us and to spread for everyone.
I do not want to get any recognition from anybody for small monetary benefits or to get any publicity.
This is for your introspection only.
If you do not want to publish it, you can straight away say, it can not be published.
Please understand everybody!s feeling on journalistic point of views.
Instead of spending more hours with my own earned amounts for system up gradation, times, in hard ,mid night hours with consuming coffee,tea,cool drinks and much power consumptions, then it goes to dustbin,that is not fair point of view.
Please tell me in advance for reasons for moderation or removing from publication and so on.
back to this topic, media should be free and fair from some unwanted, unfair censor can not be accepted, agreed on true journalism sense.
I have observed many times here, some editors, reporters are giving much coverages on well established countries capitalism thoughts.
I observed more journalists, medias supported ,and wholeheartdly welcomed Obama! election victory as a real democratic, and progressive mind set by Americans.
Now what Happened.
The answer is hidden,
One day it will be revealed.
I am neither belonged to any political party.
In spite of your rejections or postponing of my writings to this world famous news provider, still i am surfing this website, reading next days reporting from you,i am holding frank view of this news networks as a world number one in Business and Technology segments.
Hope for the best.

It is not true to construe from the polls that we distrust the media for not “getting the facts straight”. That is, in and of itself, a distortion of the facts. Facts are facts. It is the BIAS in reporting of these facts, that we have been fed like pablum since children, that we find so odious and so smug.

The major media ignore whatever does not pass the political correctness litmus test.

I’ve taken a brief look at your handbook, which might be improved by applying the advice of Polonius “Brevity is the soul of wit.”

It is neither accuracy nor balance that is required in stories. It is truth. Truth need not be balanced by falsehood. Accurate reporting of false opinions do nothing to inform the public. Truth alone should be the standard, and reporters should be sufficiently prepared to know truth from lies, with those failing this test removed from their employment.

Today I read a story about Iran. It is predictably biased against the country and its leadership. The stories about the recent election and the claims of fraud in Iran were vivid and frequent, in part because of the freedom to demonstrate that was permitted in the country. The more recent and much more notable election fraud in Afghanistan, where the US and Britain have an occupying army supporting a defective regime, receive far less attention.

Today’s story says the president of Iran said “The pretext (Holocaust) for the creation of the Zionist regime (Israel) is false … It is a lie based on an unprovable and mythical claim,” — note the modification of the quote. He did not say the Holocaust, but the reporter and editor added this. He said Zionist, but the reporter and editor added “Israel”. Now consider the headline: “Ahmadinejad says Holocaust a lie, Israel has no future.”http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldis closure/wp-content/plugins/peters-custom -anti-spam-image/custom_anti_spam.php?au dioselect=182765

In my opinion, this is not what he said. I heard the president of Iran speak at Columbia University, where he said that he felt research should be done on the Holocaust — not that it was a lie. Anyone reasonably informed would say that the treatment of Nazi actions as a solely Jewish event is designed to give a false impression. The events were real, the characterization is misleading, perhaps intentionally so.

What Ahmadinejad said might be more accurately interpreted as claiming that the use of the Holocaust as a pretext for creating the State of Israel is a falsehood — something concealed by the headline and additions to his quoted words. The Zionist movement began a half century earlier and the violence which eventually produced the State of Israel began before the Holocaust. The Holocaust has nothing to do with the existence of the State of Israel, but is used by some to justify the decades of Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians — ranging from rape and murder of innocent civilians to the targeting of UN personnel and journalists to the wholesale destruction of the economy of the Palestinian people — all in pursuit of Greater Israel.

Reuters cannot deny history or manipulate the words of Iranians and expect to have credibility with an informed audience that seeks the truth.

First off, to pretend that “objectivity” exists in journalism and is something worthy of pursuit is nonsense. It is impossible to present a set of facts without a point of view. The arrangement of the information, what to choose for a lead paragraph, what information to include, what to leave out, and finally the choice of a headline and any photos to accompany the text are all point-of-view matters. Until we have computers writing news stories instead of reporters…oh, wait…who programs the computers?

Next, a “free press” exists only to the extent that you own one. Whoever owns the form of media being viewed, whether it be TV, radio, newspapers, a website or blog, etc., controls what appears. And with that control comes bias toward the political/economic/social point of view of the controller. A previous commenter asked “who is Reuters anyway, who is AP?” This is a legitimate question. How much tough coverage of energy issues and the military/industrial complex can be expected from NBC, which is owned by General Electric. GE is heavily involved in energy, especially nuclear power, and is a major defense contractor. Are we really to believe that such corporate interests don’t filter down into editorial policy. It doesn’t even have to be explicit, just a general understanding about what is to be taken seriously, and what is not.

Finally, the 24/7 news cycle, introduced by CNN, has totally corrupted news gathering and news dissemination. What we have now is not news, but infotainment. Cable news in general is particularly guilty of this, and not just FAUX News, which is only the most egregious example. Cable news grabs onto a relatively minor story, Michael Jackson’s death for example, and hypes it day after day, week after week. My wife and I took to joking about “Breaking News! Michael Jackson is still dead!!! This was a one day story gone mad, but is typical of how the 24/7 imperative has grotesquely missphapen the news gathering and dissemination process.

I could go on and on, but I fear that democracy itself is at risk when bottom-line driven infotainment, controlled corporations with their own agendas and delivered by the boob tube is the staple information from which the electorate develops its opinions about the world.

Posted by James R. Cook | Report as abusive

Ultimate transperency from the media-try getting NPR to admit their strong leftist bias, funded by taxpayer dollars no less. Get the media to publish how each reporter has voted in last several Presidential and local elections along each story Prove to us that 90 plus pct of the US national media does nor vote Democratic almost of the time Have the predominantly leftist media allow the general public who might not agree with them on issues an opportunity to critique stories beforee they are published Make sure to report stories that are relevant even if your staff would prefer that some conservative issue might get favorable coverage If your responses are anywhere close to the response that the NPR Ombusdman gave me last year to these suggestions, you will answer for yourself why the media has so much inherent bias, and only contributes to polarization among people on political, financial and social issues

Posted by Craig | Report as abusive

News Trustworthy??? Most people watching the US news don’t believe its even news. No its just stories filled with commercials. The sad thing is most countries around the world are also watching US news. Wonder what they think, wonder what they report on a particular story to their watchers. US news has been off the track for years. Most folks will search the internet or other sources for the “real” news. Blogs, web sites etc. carry far more truths them the news. The funny thing is corporate news just hasn’t figured that out. Transparency??? What about just bare, honest news not guides by political parts, or affiliations.

Posted by Harry Hallstrom | Report as abusive

We want MORE Michael Jackson and less politico and economania!!!

Posted by mactek | Report as abusive

This is a good philosophy in theory, now let’s see Reuter’s actual practice:

“Opposition to abortion rights and gay rights long have been leading rallying cries of the religious right, …”

In case you cannot discern the tone, you have chosen to pre-judge those of the Religious Right in your statement by saying they oppose “… rights …”. Keep in mind that from their perspective, murder and interference with sacraments are not “rights”. A more proper statement would be:

“Opposition to abortion and gay marriage are defining positions of the Religious Right, … ”

In such a statement you are not taking sides on the issue. Not taking sides is critical if you are going to claim neutrality.

The press is far from neutral: either it is highly liberal or highly conservative. That is why you are not trusted.

Posted by Archangel | Report as abusive

Reuters “objective”? What a joke! I read your Handbook which is about as credible as reading the old Constitution of the Soviet Union. Do you Lying Leftist Lackeys really believe you have no agenda? Do you Socialist Shills really believe bias isn’t stuffed into every dishonest story you make up?

Your pretenses at Reuters are indeed a powerful emetic!

Posted by johng | Report as abusive

Journalists are untrustworthy, inaccurate and biased. In other news, the sky is blue.

I don’t think that “being transparent” is going to fix the public’s opinion of the media. Actually doing your job in reporting the news accurately and without bias might help.

Saying “Here’s our ethical guidelines, see we must be on the up-and-up” is like saying “We say we are innocent so we must be innocent.”

I realize that in the Twitter age many news agencies feel the need to report quickly, but as supposed PROFESSIONALS you should check your facts before you report things as facts. In my position, I’m privy to a lot of information that ultimately gets reported in the news. When it comes to things I’m privy to, I’d say that on a good day the media gets all it’s “facts” correct about 50% of the time.

And the media loves to only tell half the story – the half that will either strike fear into the hearts of the public or enrage them – hey, that kind of reporting sells. They tend to leave out the positives or “feel-good” aspects of those same events. Telling only half the story is often equivalent to lying – ask any parent dealing with children who are experts at the “half-truth”.

The media also loves to characterize and polarize their stories. Take the recent ACORN stories. Instead of being reported as the discovery of corruption and illegal activities in a partially government funded institution (something that ALL people should be happy about), most media outlets characterized it as a victory for conservatives who have been “out to get” a liberal organization even though votes to limit funding of ACORN were overwhelmingly bipartisan.

And trustworthy? How about reporting on comments made by the president that were supposed to be off the record.

Any media outlet that was truly willing to do some self analysis to see why the public no longer trusts them could find dozens of stories in this past week alone that exemplify their problem.

Posted by Scott | Report as abusive

I heartily agree that a much greater degree of “transparency”, as it has been defined here, is a necessary element today’s national media hope to reverse the decline of readers’ beliefs in the medias’ honesty and accuracy.

I think that transparency is, however, a NECESSARY, but not a SUFFICIENT reason.

Beyond “transparency” of HOW stories are reported, we must also have an even-handed approach as to WHICH stories are reported from among each day’s important stories.

In today’s media, many stories are simply ignored or “buried” because they do not fit the media’s preconceived view of the ongoing national narrative. Too many people in the national news media have taken sides, and their biased viewpoint is used to screen out stories which the majority of Americans appear to think SHOULD be reported.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

this is beyond the media, really. this is about the american people getting tired of centralization of power and the corruption it breeds. look at what is going on not only with the media, but with opposition to government. the tip of the iceberg is just starting to show.

we are tired of it, and it is becoming increasingly obvious that it is unsustainable and obsolete. the internet gives us a much more free market and competition in media, we have the freedom to research something of interest. to hear many points of view closer to the source, and make our own decisions based on what’s presented. consumers are rejecting what we see as a lousy product. and with such free access to information it’s not exactly hard to see how the presentation of “news” can be absolutely and utterly misleading.

the real funny part is watching the media powerhouses react to it. they can’t understand how to solve it, and how to get people back under their wing. they are scrambling to marginalize, refute, and ignore those who are rejecting them in a futile attempt to sway the tide. and in doing so they are simply making themselves more and more obvious all the time. these big bloated messes of power are self destructing. they can’t stop it any more than the music industry could stop the massive filesharing epidemic, or the surge of independant artists who now found a means to promote themselves directly to the public.

the disillusioned masses are starting to realize how much they’ve been toyed with and had a neatly packaged product shoved down their throats.

and that there is alternatives…

Posted by asx | Report as abusive

As any responsible journalism professor will tell you neutrality is impossible but should be the objective of any good reporter. This is not an oxymoron but a simple call to journalism students and graduates (i.e. reporters) to be as factually accurate as humanly possible.
In regards to the subject of this editorial, it’s interesting to note that the level of Americans’ trust in news dispensation has gone down in direct relation to the corporotization of the American news media. As someone pointed out, NBC is owned by General Electric, one of the nation’s biggest arms manufacturers. Do I expect NBC to be anything but a cheerleader for war when the parent company stands to reap billions of taxpayer money to replace spent weaponry? I’d be a fool to.
Now let’s take a look at the run-up to our little imbroglio in Iraq. American news organizations have busily rewritten history saying that they could not have known that the Bush administration lied to get us into war. For example, the infamous aluminum tubes that could be used for nuclear weapons. Almost every major news outlet in the U.S. made headlines for days out of what was clearly a baldfaced lie. To find the truth was actually pretty simple. All you needed to do was read the major press in Europe and the Middle East (which I did via links provided by the also cheerleading Drudge Report) where they made hash out of that claim in less than 24 hours. Even the New York Times trumpeted this doodoo on the front page in articles written by Scooter Libby’s buddy Judith Miller who helped expose an active CIA agent via Libby a few years later. That same day the NYT printed a much smaller article about nuclear scientists calling the administration’s claims bunk on page 8.
And lest I be perceived as just bashing only supposed “liberal” news outlets, let me address the right wingers who oh so love Fox news and its supposed support of family values, apple pie, etc. or more specifically Rupert Murdoch. It was Murdoch who introduced the topless page 3 girl in the Sunday edition of the British tabloid he owns when it was trailing its biggest competitor in sales. This is a man who trumpets his conservative family values principles when talking to the right wing but plasters tatas on every good Christian’s sabbath newspaper. He also broadcast the most sexually gratuitous and generally crass shows on the Fox network (Temptation Island, Married With Children) so beloved by the Jesus crowd.
As for the poster who called out Reuters on the Ahmadinejad quote. Right on. I’m no fan of Iran’s probably illegitimate president but it is not for a reporter or his/her editor to put inferences in parentheses or in a headline. You can do that in an editorial but not what is supposed to be a straight news article.
As for the Tea Party crowd complaining about the coverage their protest in D.C. last week, welcome to the club. When over a million people in one day all over the country (including an actual 200,000 in New York City) protested the run-up to the Iraq war and the press gave it virtually no coverage, I didn’t hear you complain. When the press made the 1999 Seattle WTO protests out to be one giant anarchist riot when in fact maybe a dozen dunderheads out of over a hundred thousand people (including Grandmothers Against War)smashed a few store front windows and torched some cars on mostly one street, I didn’t hear you complain about misrepresentative coverage (I had a friend who was an eyewitness to what actually went on). You just bought the b.s. because it suited what you wanted to believe (them evil libs).
The fact is, the ideologues, both liberal and conservative are right: you can’t trust the mainstream press. And for the rightwingers, anything Rupert Murdoch owns qualifies as mainstream press too. Do what I did in regards to the infamous aluminum tubes and dig a little deeper, look at disparate sources. Certainly when it comes matters that affect the national well-being you should consider it an obligation. The founding fathers understood that a democracy requires an informed citizenry. It’s why Jefferson started the University of Virginia, which was supposed to be free and open to anyone. Jefferson wasn’t right about everything but he sure understood the power of information, which is why he wanted people to have access to it and to discuss it.

Posted by Chris Foulke | Report as abusive

In some ways I think the data are misleading. I trust some of the media to get things right much more than I do other parts. Reuters is one of those parts that I trust, for example. Other wire services I do not trust as much. I think one of the major differences is story attribution. By the mere fact that Reuters puts the journalists’ names on its stories, I think it helps keep them more motivated to do a good job, to research and verify the information they are presenting, and to remain neutral in reporting. Not the sort of artificial neutrality of presenting both sides without comment that passes for journalism in many places. The kind of neutral view that comes from simply reporting facts. Speaking of which, I particularly like the “FACTBOX” articles. There’s nothing like verifiable, sourced facts to cut through all of the nonsense arguments that others in media occasionally try to give credence to. Please keep up the good work. Other news organizations would be well served if they imitated this organization’s commitment to facts and the truth.

Posted by Mike McLaughlin | Report as abusive

Hey, reuters. Any hospitals blown up lately? Or did the bomb land outside the hospital again?

Oh well, one is as good as the other for ‘balanced reporting’ right?

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

It is not transparency that is lacking in the media — it’s a lack of bias. Each news organization is either “liberal,” “rightwing,” etc., having its own agenda in doling out news. What you CHOOSE to print or broadcast, furthermore, is as important as what you ACTUALLY SAY when you do. I, in the past 20 years, have seen the very neutrality in which journalists typically couched their words degenerate to the purely inflamatory. Just stop giving us your politically biased editorials (because everything that you read these days is an editorial) and start going back to precise, well proofed journalism. Perhaps then, we might start believing what you say.

Posted by Brenda | Report as abusive
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