Anyone who has been a witness to a news event knows how much of what appears in the media is wrong. Whether due to laziness, bias, or incompetence, the news media just can't get it right.

Worse than factual errors, are stories which pose as news but attempt to sway public opinion. These stories may look neutral, but use either false premises or flawed analysis to get across the writer's political agenda.

Some in the media admit their biases. Time magazine, for example, though it calls itself a news magazine, admits that it takes a slant on the news and promotes its own political agenda in the way it presents its stories. If you read Time stories about violence, you will often see an assumption behind the writing that stricter gun control laws are the answer.

While some biases are obvious, others are subtle, and younger readers who may assume they are reading news may come away with assumptions that are distorted by a source's agenda.

It is the purpose of this site to point out errors and distortions in the media. We welcome submissions from concerned readers.

  Business Week , June 21, 1999

If Business Week's editors could, they'd probably editorialize against the whole capitalist system, but as it is they limit themselves to promoting higher taxes and anti-business legislation. The latest is a commentary by Mike France which calls the lack of taxes on the Internet a "free ride," a "subsidy" and a "gift."

When you walk down the street without getting mugged, you don't consider it a gift from a mugger. Why is it a subsidy or gift when the government does not take taxes out of the Internet? Such a statement assumes that all money belongs to the governemnt unless it decides to let us keep it. This is not the state of affairs in a free society. Except for national defense, and things like police and fire protection, taxes are gifts from productive members of society to nonproductive ones.

A tax-free internet offers the potential for economic growth like never before and worldwide economic prosperity. Business Week should be promoting this, not publishing outdated socialist theories.

 Brill's Content, May, 1999

Brill's Content is a great magazine that does a great job of watching for errors and biases in the media. However, they also suffer the occasional slip-up.

Fact vs. Opinion. In a previous issue a letter writer claimed that an article published in the International Herald Tribune was not written by the person signing it. The editorial comment after the letter said that what she said was true. After two letters of complaint Brill's "Ombudsman" says that this was the letter writer's opinion. But claiming that a person did not write a letter is a statement of fact that can be proved true or false. Either the person did or did not write the letter. It is not opinion.

When dealing with facts, opinion is irrelevant. Who cares if someone says, "In my opinion she is pregnant."? What we want to know is the fact of whether or not she is pregnant. Opinion is irrelevant. (Of course, where facts cannot be verified, e.g. the age of a mummy, we do seek the opinion of an expert that "This mummy is 2,000 years old.)

Opinion deals with something, upon which, based on the same facts, two reasonable people could differ. For example, is an article well researched? Looking at a person, is he fat? The same article, the same person, but two people could differ in their opinions on the matter.

Internal inconsistencies? On Page 34 Warren Mitofsky says that two polls on whether people believed Clinton had sexually assaulted (or raped) Juanita Broderick had different results because Fox's question was "loaded" but CNN's was not. Yet according to the article on page 29, CNN's poll question, saying that Clinton denied the charges, was false. That article said that Clinton could not deny the charge because he could then be sued for libel.

   Harper's, May, 1999

A Clinton supporter sends an email to his Republican senator urging him to end the impeachment proceedings. The response is an email acknowledging the correspondence, sharing concern and promising to make decisions based on the best interests of the nation. The Clinton supporter writes again, with a loaded question, criticizing the proceedings, and gets the same email response. The writer critices the identical response and gets the same email response. He keeps writing and keeps getting the same response, and the Republican senator looks foolish.

Apparently the senator uses an auto-responder rather than sitting at the computer all day answering his mail personally. Does anyone really expect that a U.S. senator can sit at the computer and correspond with every idiot who uses the internet? Can we not assume that if a letter contains some worthwhile information it will be brought to the senator's attention? For this foolish banter there was obviously no need. Why Harpers thought it was worth publishing across four pages is a mystery.

 Business Week , April 26, 1999

Wouldn't you think that businesses would adopt programs that were good for their business? And wouldn't you think that a magazine called Buisiness Week, aimed at those businesses would think so? Well, it doesn't. Business Week repeatedly calls for government mandates forcing expensive programs on businesses, saying that they are really best for bsuiness. If they were good programs businesses would adopt them. If government must mandate them, some people obviously don't feel they are good ideas. It is amazing that a business magazine with such an anti-business bias survives. Their factual reporting must outweigh their reports from la-la land.

The latest is the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act which puts the cost of mainstreaming the disabled in this country on businesses (to be passed on to consumers), rather on the government. What a grand way to create a new government benefit without raising taxes, force businesses to handle it.

Anyway, in its April 26, 1999 Legal Affairs Commentary, Business Week argues that the ADA is good for business. Nevermind the incompetent and obnoxious employees who can't be fired because their behavious has been called a disability, or that companies which have to hire a second employee to assist a disables employee do his job.

 Correction: Newsweek had to admit that Gucci's CEO's name is Domenico, not Dominique, as it reported April 5, 1999. Just wishful thinking, perhaps.

 U.S. News & World Report , April 12, 1999

"Poor housing makes for sick kids" reported that a study by doctors at Boston Medical Center estimated that 10,000 a year are treated for allergies to cockroaches and mice because they don't have a decent place to live. USN&WR then commented on Congress' reluctance to fund more affordable housing. What is wrong with this story? Someone is assuming that the price of the housing determines whether cockroaches and mice want to live there. But cockroaches and mice don't discriminate. A family living in a million dollar mansion that leaves food around and doesn't clean up after it eats is much more likely to have cockroaches and mice than one living in a run down house that cleans up after itself. If our goal is to prevent childhood allergies to cockroaches and mice, let's give those people hygiene lessons and cleansers, not housing subsidies. Obviously these reporters have other goals.

 Correction: USN&WR knew that a convention was held at Madame C. J. Walker's estate in 1924, but it neglected to note that she had dies years earlier, so it said she hosted the convention. Oops! Fire the fact checker. What fact checker???

 

Continuing...

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