Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Balanced News? Don't Ask Me

This started out to be a post on Congress and ineptitude. Then it was about Congress taking over too much power. Then I wanted to write about both parties in Congress saying no to the Exec. Branch. (Rants)
But the more I researched an article I'd read the more I saw another post all together. Then even that changed to what you find below.
Sorry, this is a very long post but I don't want to shorten it. I thought about making it two posts but I don't want to interrupt the flow. I am not really sure how to break it up either. Consequently, the post is extremely long and time consuming. Just what a post should not be. Time is a valuable commodity these days.

Even when you try to get truly balanced news, you end up in a conundrum. (More Circles of Confusion) How does one tell which coverage is balanced? Don't ask me. I don't know. I am actually asking you.

Let's agree for purposes of this post that over-the-air TV and the 24-hour, cable or satellite, coverage is generally short and sweet. But they may give you enough information to seek out more in other news venues. The morning talk shows, the cable, satellite, “news” shows, will sometimes give another little piece of information whether right, center, or left. Now you are on your own. So you read papers or you go on-line and you take a time to check a little more for yourself. Yet, how do you know which article or writing is even trying to be balanced? You may find as I did you'll end up reading an article, trying to find more by and about the author of the article, trying to figure out who his/her real boss is, trying to find out for what the boss really stands(mission statements, other outlets, etc.). Too there are the weekly news magazines and “news” shows but I don't think you want me to get into that.

You could well spend a day or more doing all that investigation and determine you cannot find one person, place or thing that does not have an agenda, thereby a slant when covering the same news item. Of course I remember about psychological testing having, can't help but have, some subjective bias. With the use of statistics, use of large samples, and use of tests that can be replicated, the bias is lessened. However in reporting, writing, and editing, I figure there is bias-No matter how hard the people involved try to give balanced reporting. The reasons are many and the bias not always intended. The reader too comes to each article with a certain bias.

Now on with my search on a story about the Senate passing a bill on Iran Sanctions. The House had passed their version earlier. The two bills must be reconciled in the House-Senate Conference before going to the President.

While reading the NY Times on-line the other day, I saw this coverage: Senate OK's Sanctions on Iran's Fuel Suppliers. link Here is the first paragraph to get you started:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would let President Barack Obama impose sanctions on Iran's gasoline suppliers and penalize some of Teheran's elites, a move aimed at pressuring Tehran to give up its nuclear program.
(Note the use of the words “let President Barack Obama...”)
Please read the article further. At least read the other restrictions section near the end of the article.

I will give you one restriction as it pertains to some of the other articles I found:
Require the Obama administration to freeze the assets of Iranians, including Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, who are active in weapons proliferation or terrorism;
(Note the use of the words “Require the Obama administration...)

Remember these two quotations were found in the same news item.

Now look at this one from Baptist Press: Senate OKs tougher sanctions on Iran.
Here is the first paragraph:
The U.S. Senate approved increased sanctions on Iran's oil-related imports Jan 28 in a move intended to help prevent the extremist Islamic regime from developing nuclear weapons.

Further into the article :
The Senate's action came two days after Land and 45 other Christian leaders wrote to members of the body asking them to follow the example of the House.
(Land is Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. For further on the letter and those 45 others go here

From an articleYESHIVA WORLD NEWS: Schumer Announces Passage of Iran Sanction Legislation that Strengthens Efforts To Stop Iran From Getting Nukes
first paragraph:
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009 has unanimously passed the Senate. The Iranian regime has engaged in serious human rights abuses against its own citizens, funded terrorist activity throughout the Middle East, pursued illicit nuclear activities posing a serious threat to the security of the United States, the Middle East Region, and our allies. The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act strengthens sanctions and supports the President as he pursues a dual track of engagements and sanctions. Schumer, in his role as a Banking Committee member, was instrumental in seeing the bill come to the floor for a vote. The House passed a much narrower sanctions package in December while the two bills now have to be conferenced, Schumer is vowing to fight to ensure the stronger Senate Language prevails.
(Note these words “strengthens sanctions and supports the President...”)

The article mentions a Sense of Congress on human rights and the like.

Turns out Sen. Schumer signs letters to the President also.
Two weeks ago, Schumer signed onto a letter from Senator Even Bayh urging President Obama to consider using sanctions on the books. (I think they meant to consider using the sanctions he had at hand)

You can read the whole letter at the end of the article.

Catholic press 
A very short one paragraph coverage by one of the Catholic press. Mainly it refers to Catholic leaders Bill Hudson and Bill Donahue, members of the above mentioned Christian Leaders for a Nuclear-Free Iran, and they supported and will continue to work for a nuclear free Iran. They do get two links to articles they wrote on the subject.

At this point I looked for world-view items. HereAl Jazeera English had an older article.
First Paragraph:
The US lower house of congress has approved legislation to levy sanctions on foreign companies that help supply fuel to Iran, as part of efforts to punish Tehran over its nuclear programme.

Further on there are interviews with Congresspeople about the bill. Issues are raised about the “concerns” of “U.S. Trading partners and allies...” And an interview with “Afshin Rattansi, a journalist based in Iran, told Al Jazeera: "I think what is happening in the House of Representatives demonstrates yet again a complete lack of comprehension of what is happening in the Middle East.”

There are more interviews with “supporters” and more reporting on the world views as well as a little of the Iranian views of its “nuclear programme”. The article ends by naming some of the companies involved and how they are reacting.

IPS, Inter Press Service News Agency,-The Story Underneath, had a lengthy article.
US: Obama Losing Control of Iran Policy
Here is the opening paragraph:
In a surprisingly swift move on Thursday night that could have wide-ranging implications, the U.S. Senate passed a bill containing broad unilateral sanctions to punish foreign companies that export gasoline to Iran or help expand its domestic refiner capabilities.

These paragraphs relate back to the words “let” and “require” as mentioned in the NY Times article:
The contents of the bill require the president to impose the wide-ranging sanctions, restraining the traditional presidential foreign policy waiver to a line-by-line exemption that forces Obama to spend political capital. ... Another aspect of the Dodd bill raising eyebrows is the codification into law of an embargo against Iran by Pres. Bill Clinton in the 1990's. The Dodd bill requires Congress to approve the lifting of the embargo.

This writer, reporter, goes into more on the “human rights” debates. (I recommend you hunt that part.)
The article has much explanation of the maneuvering and has quotations from both Democratic and Republican Senators along with “neoconservative independent Joe Lieberman”. There are interviews with a member of the National Iranian American Council and other groups that support engagement with Iran.

So there you have it 6 articles from 6 different news agencies. Now you tell me which one we should declare as “fair and balanced”. (speaking of “fair and balanced”, I couldn't find much on the Senate passage subject on FOX news I found the AP item and so far 3 anti-Obama comments. If you find more feel free to comment.) I did not search the British news for this post. I am sure it would be interesting, but I really do have a little daily life.

(For a fun look at reporting from the BBC go to sobeale blog and watch the video posted on January 31.)

Hereis a serious look at the state of journalism.


  1. As you say in another way, it's partially in the eye of the beholder. I may think that a story is unbiased, but then someone else will claim liberal bias.

    Really enjoyed reading this and I am still not completely done with it. Good one, Kanna.

  2. Hi Thomas,
    I can't say it was always a joy to do the research.
    And there were many ways to write it. Hard to keep it on the subject of varieties of coverage.
    Sometimes I wanted to rant.
    I would love to find some person who could put all the information in one article-maybe news magazines can.
    But money is getting tight for many news agencies, publishers.

  3. Oh, this is a good one.
    In covering job loss, I read about the loss of 20,000 jobs "between December and January".
    I thought Dec. ended on the 31st at midnight and Jan. started right away quick.

  4. Here is an article from The Daily Banter that is related to yours and a pretty interesting point of view.

    I read this morning that the jobless rate is down. I am not sure what that means, but apparently some jobs have been added that are making up for the 20,000 loss.

  5. I was just shaking the old gray head on the writing style of the "between December and January" statement.
    Interesting Daily Banter article and how true how true.
    So I guess the hard research much go on.
    I know there are times I get tired of it and many many for so many many reasons just can't do the research.
    thanks again for commenting.