August 4, 2008

Facts: What Progressive Activists Say They Are, or Something More?

Carroll Andrew Morse

In Saturday's Projo, Bill Moyers attempted to take the Projo's David Mittell to task for not getting his facts correct in a recent set of columns by Mittell about Moyers (I promise, after the block quote, there will be no more references in this post to the timeline of how and when Bill Moyers became "Bill" instead of "Billy Don", an issue raised by Mittell in his original column)...

A course in Journalism 101 might have prepared [Mittell] to check his facts before making his judgments…

I do indeed have many critics among Mr. Mittell’s right-wing friends, but, as he does here, they are always getting their facts wrong. I became “Bill” not in 1954 but four years earlier, when on my 16th birthday I went to work as a cub reporter for my hometown newspaper, whose managing editor decided that “Billy Don” didn’t fit neatly into the space for a by-line....That little bit of snide sleight-of-hand by Mr. Mittell should be a warning flag to your readers to take his other assertions about me with a slight dose of skepticism.

But if you think that a writer accusing another of playing fast-and-loose with the facts is concerned with presenting accurate facts to the public in his own writing, at least in this case, you'd be wrong -- as wrong as Paul Bovenzi of Rhode Island's Future in his celebration of Moyers...
Reading Moyers gives you a glimmer into what is real journalism. It's a small difference, but something vital - Moyers only goes with facts, not assertions.
Moving to an issue of greater general interest later on in his op-ed, Bill Moyers objects to David Mittell's assertion that public broadcasting is "taxpayer supported" and he presents a "fact" to back it up…
Speaking of PBS: Mr. Mittell refers to the fact that I work for “taxpayer-supported public broadcasting.” I would like to point out that PBS is indeed supported by “viewers like you” but that only around 17 percent of the system’s total budget comes via congressional appropriations.
But Congress is not the only government body in the United States that authorizes taxes (a fact I'm sure I don't need to remind most Anchor Rising readers of). State and local governments also collect taxes and, like Congress, they also use a portion of their take to fund public broadcasting. According to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's 2005 financial report, the CPB received 19% of its funding from the Federal government AND another 24.6% from state and local taxes. To quote the character of John Winger from Stripes, "That's a fact, Jack", but in Moyers' opinion, one-quarter of the CPB budget drawn from taxpayer sources is somehow not relevant to a discussion of taxpayer support.

Tell me, exactly what journalistic purpose was served by Moyers presentation of incomplete data and his not informing the reader that Public Broadcasting, by its own accounting, receives over 40% of its funding from taxpayers? To paraphrase none other than Bill Moyers: this kind of rhetorical sleight-of-hand by should be a warning flag to readers to take Mr. Moyers' other assertions -- and his presentations of what he claims are facts -- with a heavy does of skepticism.

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Ah, but even MORE importantly, having read the article, the article rebutting the article, the RI Future article about the article rebutting the article, and now the Anchor Rising article about the RI Future article about the article rebutting the article, WHO F*@*ing CARES!?

Posted by: Greg at August 4, 2008 11:26 AM

Two core principles play into this post:

1. Obvious examples of how the thought process of "what we say must be true, because we're on the left; what you say is not, because you're not" has infiltrated so-called objective journalism are always worth pointing out.

2. Any time you can quote the movie "Stripes" in a post, go with it.

Posted by: Andrew at August 4, 2008 11:36 AM

Andrew-Stripes!Haha!Try imagining Sheldon Whitehouse in John Laroquette's role.

Posted by: joe bernstein at August 4, 2008 12:29 PM
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