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The Bloggers Who Cried Wolf

If you read conservative blogs, you're familiar with the argument that the mainstream media buries the good news in Iraq because of their liberal bias and hatred of the president. Liberals, meanwhile, contend the press isn't showing the real horrors of the war, and suggest that a focus on insignificant "good news" would be misleading the public. (Recently, the New Republic's Jason Zengerle mocked the righties for "linking to stories about an Iraqi third grader getting a crayon" and deeming it "good news from Iraq.")

This behavior falls into a typical pattern, of course, and at some point you start to tune it out. Which is a shame, because sometimes the bloggers have a point. We've been surprised at how little attention the Iraqi election, which is truly an historic event, has been getting on the cable networks, for example. Yes, we've seen the purple fingers before, but this is a big deal, folks – though you wouldn't know it if you've been tuned into the cable nets. The relative lack of coverage is not evidence of MASSIVE LIBERAL BIAS AND OH MY GOD WE MUST TRUST THE BLOGGERS AND NOT THE CORRUPT AND STUPID MSM. But it is, at the very least, worth noting. Too bad it's getting lost in the avalanche of predictable rhetoric that the blogs are famous for.

Here's James Taranto on the topic:

…the producers at CNN and Fox appear to have regarded a genuine election in Iraq as such a routine event that it didn't merit continuous live coverage. (Both stations did break into the recorded fare for occasional live updates.) It's quite a striking indication of just how out of touch with the outside world are those within the Beltway media bubble.
Also worth noting is Byron York's National Review piece from yesterday about a new poll that suggests that the Iraqis are upbeat:
How many times have supporters of the war in Iraq complained that there is little reporting on good news from Iraq? And that when there is such news, it receives less-prominent coverage than reports of car bombings and sectarian mayhem?

Sometimes the criticism has little merit; after all, there are lots of car bombings and sectarian mayhem, and they are news. But the where's-the-good-news question seems particularly timely this week after the publication of a new poll which found widespread optimism among Iraqis, both about their personal situations and the future of the country. Beyond the news organizations that sponsored the poll — it was done by ABC News, Time magazine, the BBC, the Japanese television network NHK, and the German magazine Der Spiegel — the survey's results received little coverage.

Captain Ed, meanwhile, is going after the bloggers' favorite target, The New York Times, complaining that tomorrow's editorials don't touch on the election. Michelle Malkin also goes after the Times, asking why it published its story about the feds spying on Americans "on the day after the Iraqi elections? Why not the day before? Why not Sunday?"

That sounds a little conspiratorial to us – although, Times, an editors note explaining the timing would have been nice, seeing as you held the story for a year. (Times bashers may want to keep in mind the front page from this morning, however – the paper didn't exactly ignore the elections.) Anyway, in light of all this, this exchange from Jim Lehrer's interview with President Bush, to be aired tonight, is amusing (thanks Romo):

MR. LEHRER: First, the New York Times story this morning that says that you authorized secret wiretaps by the National Security Agency of thousands of Americans. Is that true?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Jim, we do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations to protect the country, and the reason why is that there's an enemy that lurks, that would like to know exactly what we're trying to do to stop them. I will make this point. That whatever I do to protect the American people, and I have an obligation to do so, that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people.
MR. LEHRER: So if, in fact, these things did occur, they were done legally and properly?
PRESIDENT BUSH: So you're trying to get me to talk about a program--
MR. LEHRER: Yeah. ....
MR. LEHRER: I don't want to "beat a dead horse" here, Mr. President--
PRESIDENT BUSH: Okay.
MR. LEHRER: --but the story is now all over the world.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah.
MR. LEHRER: I mean, it's on the front page of the New York Times, the Washington Post, every newspaper in America today, and it's going--it's the main story of the day. So--
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's not the main story of the day.
MR. LEHRER: Well, but I mean in terms of the way it's being covered-- [Simultaneous conversation.]
PRESIDENT BUSH: The main story of the day is the Iraqi election. ...
But back to an earlier point: Wouldn't it be great if instead of a constant drumbeat of "MSM"-bashing the blogs did their bashing when it was actually appropriate? That way people would pay attention when the blogs actually had something to say. An avalanche of criticism, much of it not terribly compelling, does no one much good. (Well, maybe not no one: Franklin Foer argues that attacking the mainstream media is part of the right's strategy "to weaken the press so it will stop obstructing their agenda.")

This point applies to a lot of blogs, but, well, I may as well just throw down the gauntlet: How's it going, Newsbusters? I know you need content, but when you write post after post with toothless critiques, the scattered worthwhile posts get lost. (The point also applies – though to a lesser degree, in my opinion – to Media Matters.) I'm constantly on the lookout for serious criticism of CBS News, but since so many of Newsbusters' claims are pretty much baseless, I don't much check in over there any more. Since Newsbusters is attached to an organization that seems designed to further the strategy Foer perceives, perhaps mine is a quixotic request. (Although the Media Research Center deserves credit for its willingness to acknowledge positive Iraq coverage when it sees it.) Anyway, since it's the holiday season, let me make my plea to Newsbusters and all its brethren: Filter out the empty rhetoric, and you'll make a loyal reader out of me.