Popular Mainstream Media Sources: A Report Card

Most people get their news information from mainstream news outlets. The very act of publishing seems to grant whats printed an air of veracity and legitimacy. But is this always justified?

The following is a rudimentary analysis of popular media sources. Factors to be considered are objectivity and analysis. Objectivity refers to how closely to (verifiable) truth the source adheres. Analysis refers to whether the source merely prints the latest Condoleeza Rice quote, or provides some context or discussion about how true the statement actually is.

Fox News

F

CNN

I grew up watching CNN. It is a tough one to judge. In many cases, there are examples of journalistic brilliance. Christiane Amanpour is one of the best foreign correspondents in the world. CNN also seems at least at times impervious to the Israeli lobby.

When the rest of the MSM made it seem like the 2008-09 Gaza Massacre was started by Hamas, CNN did some rare investigative journalism and discovered the truth, that it was Israel who started the violence and broke the existing cease-fire agreement which Hamas had fully honored up until that point.

If CNN spent more time on serious and honest reporting, it would get a higher grade. But giving monkeys like Larry King and Wolf Blitzer full-time gigs just makes it lose credibility. The latter was even an AIPAC lobbyist before starting what is supposed to be a more neutral career in journalism. Didn’t CNN see the folly in hiring a former nationalist-lobbyist of a foreign government as a news anchor?

B-

New York Times

The most celebrated and respected publication in the world. And a total propaganda machine. If I had a a peso for every time the NYT published a warmongering editorial calling for war on Iran or rationalizing Israeli aggression on civilians, I’d be richer than Bill Gates.

Rarely do you get a balanced perspective from the NYT on Middle East issues. Everything is usually an Israeli hasbara propaganda piece and I can’t think of any times where opposing voices are heard. The NYT is often labeled a liberal publication, but given its role in the warmongering hypertrophy of late, I’d call it a toxic rag too dangerous to wipe your ass with.

If this sounds like hyperbole, check out how the interviewer asks notorious war criminal Tzipi Livni softball questions punctuated by calling Israel’s initial campaign of terrorism during its creation  “a more romantic era“!

You know you’re failing as a journalist when an Israeli official says there’s no humanitarian problem in Gaza, and you don’t ask any follow up questions like: “If that’s true, then why have numerous aid flotillas been sent there in the past few years?” Or, “If the cameras you speak of would show the truth, why aren’t they used to broadcast what a wonderful and safe place Gaza has become?

Note also the regular column granted to Thomas Friedman, the man who characterized the rationale for the Iraq war as “Suck. On. This.” But above and beyond such wanton and callous disregard for any shred of humanity and empathy for an utterly decimated population and obliterated society, he is a general idiot, as noted by journalists not afraid to call  a spade a spade.

D

BBC

The BBC is quite popular among educated folk, and seen as the most objective of mainstream media outlets, partly due to the fact it is a public corporation. While the BBC has an attractive and user-friendly website, it suffers from lack of analysis and often dabbles in misrepresentations.

A glaring example of the BBCs lack of objectivity was when they refused to broadcast an ad where a charity attempted a fund raising appeal for Gaza’s victims of the 2008-09 Israeli “war” or massacre (as it should be more accurately titled given the lack of fight by the civilians being bombed) was scuttled because the BBC said it would “[run] the risk of calling into question the public’s confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in its coverage of the story as a whole.” [Translation: we have very powerful Jewish constituents that would be angered by any gesture of beneficence to Palestinians and therefore would rather not upset them so we can keep the revenue and support they give us as long as we don’t cross certain journalistic boundaries].

This is unfortunate, given that the BBC has given free air time to previous appeals by the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella for groups including the Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children. The appeals have raised millions of pounds for victims of war and natural disaster in Congo, Myanmar and elsewhere.

C+

Al Jazeera

Based out of Qatar, Al Jazeera is a relative newcomer. It was originally designed to countervail the Orientalism often prevalent in Western media, and has since evolved to offer truly comprehensive journalism worldwide.

My favorite feature of AJ are its TV programs. Riz Khan seeks news makers of the day and has them present perspectives on hot button issues. His manner of handling guests, who can often be boorish and belligerent (the Catholic apologist Bill Donohue comes to mind) is respectfully inquisitive. Faultlines is a segment by Canadian journalist Avi Lewis, and examines existing political power structures and how they affect common folk. This is a perspective rarely, if ever examined in most other mainstream media sources.

And there are the thrilling documentaries, such as the series “Dining with Terrorists”, which examined various militias, and analyzed whether they were terrorists or freedom fighters. Most notable in this series was lack of judgment, initially at least, as the reasons for why various groups existed and what they were motivated by were examined with a curious and empathetic eye, rather than the blanket rejection and caricaturization generally present in other forms of mainstream media.


AJ does suffer from occasional grammatical and spelling errors, which usually take a day or two to correct. This undermines the presentation and execution, but does not alter the substance of the publication which is otherwise impressive.

A-

The Economist

London generally has a fairly high standard of journalism, known to generally look at issues with a critical eye and designed towards an educated readership. Widely praised among educated and social elites, the Economist brands itself an objective and detached analyst of economic, social, scientific and political current events. But is the praise warranted? A look at the Economists track record reveals its analysis leads to poor conclusions. A few examples:

-supporting both the 2000 (and almost the 2004) GW Bush Presidential campaign

-supporting the 2003 Iraq war

-jingoistically defending Goldman Sachs in the wake of solid evidence GS engaged in deceptive and arguably fraudulent economic activity before, during and after the Wall Street collapse

Many more come to mind, but I think the point stands. As an aggregator of superficial factual reporting, the Economist does a good job of finding varying perspectives on current events. To get a quick-Wikipedia-esque glimpse into the background of any given issue, the Economist is solid.

But in its analysis, the Economist waffles and wobbles, often leading to conclusions, which in hindsight, are laughably shortsighted and plain wrong. Supporting Bush’s first election campaign can be seen as an honest mistake. Supporting the second, in the wake of the death and destruction of the gratuitous 2003 Iraq war, is an error which really undermines the credibility of a publication, especially when the overwhelming majority of undergraduate liberal arts students would find much more compelling reasons to disagree off the top of their heads.

Finally, the Economist’s tone is often pretentious and glib. Some may like the authoritative voice, others, like me, may find the patronizing and self assured tone grating, especially when it makes glaring errors noted above. Furthermore, I would like seeing names published next to articles, and it would help establish track records of varying journalists and separating the wheat from the chaff. Unless of course, the articles are a collaborative effort, in which case one would be lead to conclude the Economist is run by a confederacy of dunces.

C+

The Globe and Mail

Arguably Canada’s most venerated news source. Honestly, not worth the effort of analyzing. Canadian MSM is abysmal. Mostly because it takes itself so seriously. Even Fox News realizes its limitations and presents itself (even if not deliberately) as something worthy of ridicule.

C-

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