Every morning I make the rounds of an increasing number of websites, trying to get the latest news on the war in Iraq and the protests around the world. I’m looking for the least-biased, most factual reporting I can find, which means that I often end up comparing reports from several different sources and trying to sort out the inconsistencies. Even more frustrating is that it’s becoming increasingly obvious that many of the embedded journalists in Iraq simply don’t know what they’re talking about. How can I trust war news from someone who can’t tell the difference between an M-16 and an AK-47?
There seem to be two extremes in media these days. Corporate media (CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, etc.) tends to be sanitized and nearly devoid of any actual information other than the short tidbits provided by the government or by embedded reporters, who often get their information wrong or have a skewed view of things due to their lack of experience on the battlefield. Corporate media coverage of war protests in particular is very obviously biased against protestors these days, now that many “on the scene” reporters are followed by guards who some protestors say are more disruptive than the protestors themselves.
On the other extreme is the independent media, which seems to do everything they can to contradict the corporate media. Bias is embraced by the independent media, and I have yet to find an independent media outlet that doesn’t proudly proclaim to be anti-war or anti-Bush. It’s hardly surprising that the independent media often reports cases of Gestapo-like police brutality against protestors and bystanders, or stories of soldiers violently killing civilians. That’s what they want to see: something that validates their point of view.
The problem is that neither side can be believed, and there seems to be no middle ground. Even if there was an unbiased news source, how could it prove itself trustworthy? Even the unintentional omission of a single piece of information from a story could be considered media bias.
So what’s the solution? The media consumer must become as omnipresent as the media producer. This would be a very difficult thing to do in the midst of a war, but it’s applicable at least to coverage of protests here at home. If 100 people with video cameras followed various protests and shot video from an outside vantage point—say a nearby building or rooftop—then uploaded the video, unedited, to a website where it could be made available to the world at large for their own consideration, I think media consumers would get a much better picture of what’s actually happening.
Of course, this quickly becomes a logistics problem: how do you store (and transfer) unedited digital video from hundreds of sources, perhaps every day? I doubt you’ll see it happening anytime soon.
Still an interesting idea, I think.