I’m swamped with work, but I wanted to draw your attention to a few posts by Brad DeLong about the media coverage of the Iraq War. There are two very good comments about Washington Post reporter Thomas Ricks’ explanation for why the media wasn’t more critical of the war progress when they had sufficient information to write about the problems (here and here). DeLong summarizes Ricks’ mea culpa:
He assigns blame to congress because without the aircover provided by senators asking touch questions at hearings, Tom Ricks found that his editors at the Washington Post would not let him write the stories he knew he should be writing to inform his readers of what was going on. Because congress did not do its job, Ricks thinks, he and his colleagues in the media could not do their job.
Pretty lame. The senators would probably argue that they were waiting for accurate reporting of the Iraq War, so they could have the political cover to hold hearings and ask tough questions. You see, Monsieur Ricks, that is precisely what politicians do–respond to the voters. Reporters and editors, on the other hand, are supposed to describe what they see regardless of the political consequences: they’re not looking for votes.
One of the things I wonder about whenever I read about poor media reporting is how supporters of evolution managed to change the story line in the evolution ‘controversy’ from ‘he said-she said’ to treating the ‘controversy’ as non-existent among scientists (and, occasionally, even describing some evolutionary arguments). It’s scary that a bunch of us science goobers managed the media on a hot button issue better than political activists (although I wouldn’t push our luck…).