Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wake-up Call to the Media

The loudest and longest reactions during Sarah Palin's acceptance speech occurred when she said:
I’ve learned quickly these last few days that, if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone. (AUDIENCE BOOS)

But now, here’s a little newsflash for those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this great country. (APPLAUSE)

Perhaps I'm imagining this, but since that speech, I've noticed the media being a bit more even-handed in covering the campaign. I can imagine many media members thinking or even saying something like, "Sure we want Obama to win, but we'd better tone down the bias for a while. Our bias has been so obvious that it's created a big backlash, which ironically may give McCain-Palin votes. Obama's so great, even though he's down now by a few points, he'll win without our help. So, at least until the election's over, we better do what C-SPAN has always done: be fair and balanced. That will restore our credibility, and then we can go back to injecting our liberal bias (subtly) and have the influence we want."

Whatever the media's motivation, I do hope it does its best to be fair and balanced in covering this campaign. And to that end, my #1 recommendation is that the media vets Obama's core policy recommendations as fully as it is vetting Palin's.

For example, in his acceptance speech, Obama said:

  • If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves..."I will cut taxes for 95 percent of all working families." In addition, Obama has long said that he wants a path to legalization for the estimated 13 million illegals in the U.S.

I would like to understand how Obama will provide Congressperson-level health care for everyone while giving 95% of families a tax cut, especially because the 45.5 million Americans who do not have health insurance as well as the current 13 million illegals have above-average health care needs. Obama will, for example, need to explain how American's already overtaxed doctors, nurses, etc, will provide decent care for all those additional patients (at lower cost,) when already, every year, 100,000 people die and countless more suffer unnecessary pain and suffering because of medical errors.
The media should be taking as hard a look at that as it is at the GOP's statements that Palin was against earmarks and the Bridge to Nowhere.
  • "I'll pay them (teachers) higher salaries."
Despite having a Ph.D. from Berkeley specializing in evaluation of education and, for decades, reading studies on what improves student learning, I have not seen data that shows it's worth taking the huge sums from taxpayers that would be required to fund that.
Can we look working- and middle-class people in the eye and say, "Forcing you to give the government money to pay for higher teacher salaries is a better use of your money than to allow your family to use it to pay for expenses or save for your family's future?"
The media should be taking as hard a look at that as it is at Palin's (totally wrongheaded in my view) belief that abortion should be prohibited even in cases of rape or incest.
  • "I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy."
The working and middle class is having a tough time paying the rent, let alone a mortgage. Should they be forced to hand over $150 billion to the government to pay for projects that the private sector rejected as unworthy to invest in? If a project was worth investing in, the private sector would have invested in it. For example, the private sector often rejects projects that take 10 or more years to complete, because by then, the available technology or world needs might well have changed enough to make the project's goal obsolete. Think, for example, what has already happened to the government's plan to make ethanol the solution to our energy problems.
The media should be taking as hard a look at Obama's $150 billion alternative energy proposal as it is at Palin's (again, wrongheaded in my opinion) view that creationism should be taught in schools.
  • "Now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons."
Per the extensive evidence I've cited in previous posts and articles, the research is clear that for the same work, women and men are, on average, paid equally. The media has chosen to report terribly misleading broadbrush statistics such as "women earn 80 cents on dollar." Or they uncritically report the results of studies (all conducted or sponsored by biased entities such as the American Association of University Women,) when in fact, a decent undergraduate could rip apart those studies' validity. For example, their most recent study claims as evidence of bias against women the fact that "full-time-working" women in the computer industry earn less than full-time working men in the industry. It fails to report, for example, that full-time working men work many more hours per week than full-time-working women, and that men are much more likely to hold very technical programming jobs requiring a rarely-held skillset, which, therefore pay more than, for example, human resources jobs in the computer industry, which are much more likely to be held by women.
The media should be taking as hard a look at this as it is in reporting that as governor, Palin is usually not fully engaged in the issues.
Let us--liberals, conservatives, and libertarian-leaning sorts like me alike--continue to boo the media until they--now and long after Obama's election--return to their critical role as truly fair investigators and reporters of the issues important to our lives.


Anonymous said...

I don't think the news coverage has been even-handed lately. Since the introduction of Sarah Palin, she's really the only one in the spotlight. I've heard more about her in the past 10 days than I've heard about the candidates running for president. We've focused on Palin so much, you'd think SHE was running for president.

And since so much has come out about her, I have a hard time knowing what to believe. I've heard very strong positives and negatives, but I don't think I've heard the truth. Palin has divided voters about as sharply as Barack Obama has, in much less time. As with Obama, you're either a true believer in Palin or a staunch opponent, no gray area to be found. I think we have the media to thank (or blame) for that.

Anonymous said...

The banned book accusation has been debunked. Just FYI.

Anonymous said...

many good nuggets here. One point I would like to examine more closely though, is the idea of government spending on R&D versus private spending on R&D (the 150 billion for researching alternative energies). It has always been my understanding that private industry tends not to invest in R&D where the payoff (ROI) is more than 5-10 years. That is why the government tends to invest in R&D that is more strategic in nature (longer time to market/payoff than private industry will bet on) particularly when the health and/or well being of the general population is affected. Therefore, wouldn't this type of strategic research represent an intelligent form of government funded R&D?

Marty Nemko said...

A fair an an important comment, Anonymous. Thank you.

As always, my favorite comments are those who intelligently disagree with or amplify my post. Yours is a perfect example.

Okie said...

As a federal employee, my understanding has also been that the private sector will not invest in R&D where the payoff (ROI) is more than 5-10 years.

Anonymous said...

Palin's view that creationism should be taught in schools is far scarier than Obama's view that we should pay teachers more. Why?

Obama's view, right or wrong, can be evaluated against empirical evidence, such as you are doing here. We can evaluate in an objective way whether paying teachers more would produce the promised result.

Palin's view that creationism should be taught is based on religious dogma -- it can not be falsified or empirically tested. Same with her views on abortion. Her imaginary god said it, she believes it, that's the way it is.

It's much harder to have any meaningful discussion about -- or critical look at, like you are having here -- such a worldview. I therefore believe it deserves more scrutiny so that voters know what they are getting themselves into.

Charles said...

Palin is unknown to America. We have less than 2 months to learn what we can about her. I've heard and read far more about Troopergate, the Bridge to Nowhere, her lack of relevant experience, and her pregnant teenage daughter than her views cited in this post.

Obama has been campaigning for 19 months and has endured his share of ridiculous and sensational coverage (his name, is he a Muslim, the fist bump, etc).

Of course, the media could be doing a better job of covering the important issues, but let's not forget that they are in business to make money. As long as Americans gravitate towards the sensational stories, that's what we'll get.

Marty Nemko said...

Sure, tabloid publications are driven heavily by sensationalism.

But most serious journalists (and most of them really are serious about their work) are NOT motivated to provide sensationalistic news. They are motivated most heavily by their political beliefs. When they are sensationalistic, it most often emanates from the desire to persuade their audience to their political point of view and know that sensationalism is a route to that.

Charles said...

This video confirms what I stated in my previous comment. The "lipstick on a pig" comment is the latest sensation. As I type this, it's a headline on the front page of and