We recently got a call from Don Wycliff of the Chicago Tribune, who we later found out is the “public editor” of that paper. That is supposed to mean that he objectively analyzes complaints about the paper’s coverage. He was calling us because we were critical of the media’s misreporting of the Iraq War, and we contend that the coverage is a major factor in the military recruiting problem. Wycliff read from one of our press releases on this matter, asked us for examples of bad coverage, and repeatedly wanted to know if we opposed telling the truth about the war.
His bias was apparent in his approach. In his column he did mention a couple examples we cited, but he conveyed his prejudice in how he wrote his piece. Don’t take our word for it. Creag Banta sent us a copy of a letter he had sent to Wycliff. This letter says it all. He notes that Wycliff starts out by referring to “an organization called Accuracy in Media.” This is clever bias. In other words, the organization is not really committed to accuracy in media, it is only called that. Creag Banta writes, “Cliff consistently comments on media representations of fact that are loaded with emotionally slanted language. Your response honors what he is doing by presenting your position through the same slanted language.”
Banta goes on to cite more examples. Wycliff, for example, refers to the “so-called war on terror.” Banta asks, “What would you call it, accurately” Wycliff uses the phrase “so-called” to cast doubt on what we are doing. It’s as if he believes in some grand conspiracy that the war on terror is just a cover for depriving Americans of their civil liberties. Or perhaps he believes it’s just a scheme to take control of Middle East oil supplies. By using the phrase, “so-called,” Wycliff enters the Michael Moore camp.
Then Banta offers some more excellent media criticism. “It is not the reporting of the truth, even the harsh truths of our failures and the horrors that come from our failures,” he writes. “It is the underlying glee with which it is reported. It is the happiness at failure. The tone of your writing is not to help provide accurate guidance on how we are to best survive as a nation and civilization. The tone is glee at helping to bring it down. Silence is not requested. Be hard, be persistent, be factual and truthful. But drop the arrogance and emotionally slanted language that lets us know that above all else, you want Bush to fail.”
We don’t really know why Wycliff uses phrases like “so-called” about the war on terror. But we agree with Banta that there are too many in the media who want the U.S. under President Bush to fail. Wycliff may think he is merely making partisan political points when the result will be military defeat and more dead Americans.