It is vital to our democracy that you and others keep pounding away at how news is framed. I subscribe to Eric Alterman’s American Prospect Altercation emails for similar reasons, although his perspective is more acidic and less forgiving than yours. [Note to Thomas L Michler: I also subscribe to Taibbi, but lately, his efforts to carve out a contrarian niche seem designed more to generate clicks and controversy than anything else]. In Alterman’s February 11 American Prospect post, he provides some context that makes the omission of the Amnesty report even more egregious:


The Times response (taken from his Altercation email of February 18) to his post is below:

With regard to last week’s Altercation on the topic of the Times’ ostrich-like behavior regarding the Amnesty International report on “apartheid” in Israel, and the enormous reaction it inspired, I received this emailed response after it posted from Danielle Rhoades Ha, a Times spokesperson: “We have covered the debate over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, both the accusations by rights groups that Israel practices apartheid as well as with on-the-ground reporting of the underlying conditions that give rise to these arguments. While it is not our practice to cover every report published by NGOs, these issues have been and will continue to be an essential part of our Mideast coverage.”

A less-than-adequate response for sure, given Amnesty’s status as, by many measures, the world’s most significant human rights NGO and the gravity of the apartheid charge.

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I think your example about the reporting on covid test kits should be called something like “framing by implicit comparison to an unreasonable standard”. This kind of reporting implicitly compares real situations to some imaginary perfect world.

The WaPo’s Catherine Rampell has an article up today about how inflation is hurting the poor the most. Not only is she asserting a truism that applies to any sit in nation, she is also making an implicit assumption that the poor are suffering more because of inflation than they would if we hadn’t had the Biden stimulus policies. Rampell also almost certainly thinks Biden’s stimulus spending is the primary cause of the current inflation, not the unavoidable sharp spike in post-pandemic demand and the resulting supply chain glitches that all developed countries are not struggling with. Rampell surely knows that Biden’s policies have resulted in strong economic and jobs growth. She should be comparing how much suffering the poor would be experiencing had we not spent on stimulus programs compared to their current situation.

A lot of the harsh media treatment of Democrats is caused by journalists implicitly, manny unconsciously comparing them to some idealized fantasy about the perfect, magical politician.

Every time a journalist blames the Democrats for failing to pass important bills despite overwhelming Republicans opposition or says things like “Hillary was highly qualified but a flawed candidate” or “Biden is not perfect but…” I want someone to challenge them to name any politician — or human — who isn’t flawed. There is no perfect politician or all powerful politician yet many in the mainstream media seem to have that childhood utopian fantasy — what Greg Sargent has called the “Green Lantern” theory of magical presidential powers.

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This piece on framing was terrific. Gonna have to read it again.

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Very informative and interesting post. I especially liked the line ""Power that will not explain itself is the problem."

About point #3, my uncle has been hollering about gas prices for months and months. He is a Trump supporter (who also voted for Obama) and comfortable financially, though not wealthy. From the start, his emotion about gas prices has seemed inflated, too. I suspect his news sources have helped get him going--as when, for example, he argued that the Democrats were busing Central Americans in droves to the US border to make then-Pres. Trump look bad.

If I'm right about the role of my uncle's sources in his upset, it's interesting that they and CNN (the source of the headline for which you provided the link) would frame the story similarly. What makes me wonder even more is that the audience for right-leaning news sources probably is more susceptible, in general, to the bite of day-to-day inflation than CNN's or the Times' or WP's. Why frame the economy story so narrowly and forgo the opportunity to present the greater context for readers who, presumably, can appreciate the big picture?

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The media could have chosen to point out that gasoline prices were bound to rise as the economy reopened and people started driving a lot more. Instead what I saw was reports that never bothered to make the distinction between the expected price increase and the actual increase. There also was not attention to the fact that the Saudis had convinced OPEC to not increase production in order to keep prices up or to the evidence that at least some American companies were doing the same.

I did see a couple of reports that after an initial spike prices had eased to pre-pandemic levels in many places. I know that was the case in my area but maybe that was unusual. Now prices are almost certainly going to spike if Russian invades Ukraine. Right wing media will certainly blame Biden but I would not be surprised if many in the mainstream “liberal” media will too.

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Arthur Brisbane comes to mind. His unhappy tenure at, and contentious departure from, the New York Times were the first flares that I remember as pointing clearly to the blind spots which, by definition, are hard to see. From the ATLANTIC:


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I wrote to the author of the New Yorker profile: You asked Dean about the giant Clinton headline just before the election. There was any obvious follow up question: the placement of recent revelations about Trump (buried on A15). James Fallows and others have dealt with this "framing" issue: https://fallows.substack.com/p/framing-the-news-an-update?utm_source=url (scroll down) This seems like an obvious follow-up question. You didn't ask it. Looking back, do you wish you had?

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Thanks for your “framing” reporting.

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Baquet’s interview...not an iota of willingness to examine his schema and its flawed terms, which are binary: good reporting has no point of view (what he dismisses as opinion), the truth he seeks is achieved by draining the story of anything but what he believes is some sort of factual purity that he thinks frames itself—of course the Times didn’t overhype and overheat the email story, it was a story, wasn’t it? So the 2016 campaign word cloud means nothing to him. Perhaps this blindness makes him Times executive editor material. Beg pardon for my cynicism, but Baquet’s sneering at the little people who dare to question his paper’s editorial decisions really got my goat. And the ghost of a smirk I so often see flash across journalists’ faces when anyone raises the subject of the public’s criticism of their work is empowered by Baquet’s.

I’ve heard comments by other journalists when they discuss their readers’ apparent hopelessness in offering criticism of their work. The consensus seems to be that we simply can’t understand what they do, and that they are of course doing the very best possible job. As you point out, it’s antithetical to the sort of self-examination that makes learning and improvement possible.

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While there is quite a bit of space between you & Matt Taibbi, I read both of you for this reason: you offer a refreshingly bold and unsparing critique of today's major news organizations. The resounding message from both of you is the same: The Press/Democratic Party/Eastern Elites/Establishment Liberals just don't seem to get it. No matter how many losses, no matter how many Americans flip them the bird, their response is summed up by Baquet's "I could care less" or Clinton's "deplorables" remark. Even Obama was guilty at times: when asked if he cared about Fox's criticisms - given the fact it was the number one watched news channel in America - Obama almost rolled his eyes as he said, "I really don't." The result of this arrogance is this: no matter how overtly qualified, experienced, even egalitarian the candidate, voters are appalled at the arrogance and will vote no on that basis alone.

Same with media. NY Times may be the most influential news organization in the country right now, but there may be more Americans who refuse to read its articles than refuse to watch Fox "News." And that's probably the biggest reason America had to tolerate 4 years of the most incompetent, corrupt charlatan in our history.

Media holds power just as politicians do. And as it does with politicians, that power comes with responsibility as well as benefits. Those who shirk their responsibility to the truth and to their followers risk losing their positions, and deservedly so.

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I hold the "Press/Democratic Party/Eastern Elites/Establishment Liberals" responsible for Trump's win in '16--because their reporting on mass immigration is about 90% one-sided. They almost never report on problems caused by immigration (although the NYT did a little of that in the '90s and I think early '00s--mainly overcrowded hospitals), and their articles on the subject often are more cheerleading than journalism.

There are big questions about immigration that should be answered. How many people can the US support sustainably? (I think we crossed that line decades ago.) How much immigration can the country support before it begins to hurt American workers? (I would hold that mass immigration has been a major contributor to the US' expanding GINI quotient.)

Unfortunately, on the left, mass immigration has become a sacred cow, to the point where in the 2020 debates, a couple of the moderators--who obviously were proponents of mass immigration, asked questions that were designed to push candidates into making statements to the effect that they wouldn't deport anyone who hadn't committed a violent crime (or something close to that). In fact, one of them asked all the candidates at once "to raise their hands," creating a peer pressure among the candidates that Biden, at the time, tried to resist, but no-one else did. Needless to say, no questions were asked about potential downsides of the current amount of immigration, or downsides to not deporting illegal immigrants. No questions were asked about sustainability, or effects on workers' wages.

And none of the media wrote anything about the problem of biased moderators pushing their biases on the candidates!

I had some back and forth with the NPR public editor, Kelly McBride, who seemed interested in my concerns. She had one of her assistants interview me. The young woman asked me if I was really a Democrat (my views are closest, among the candidates, to Bernie Sanders, except on immigration, but he had the same views on immigration as I do as late as 2015, as he demonstrated in an interview with Vox ["open borders is a Koch brothers policy,"], because she could not imagine that a Democrat would want to reduce immigration. (Immigration is a bipartisan issue--both Dems and GOPers favor more (big biz GOPers love it), and both Dems and GOPers want reductions.)

She also had some idea that the Center for Immigration Studies, which the National Academy of Sciences used as an outside reviewer for their 2016 study on The Economic and Fiscal Impact of Immigration was somehow a nefarious organization that NPR should ignore. The young woman was the daughter of Central American immigrants, and had done some cheerleading type journalism on the subject if I remember correctly, and certainly did not seem like an objective observer. Kelly McBride never wrote about my concerns.

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