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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, June 29, 2012

When will they learn?

It wasn’t a train wreck as big as Dewey defeats Truman, but coverage of the Supreme Court’s health care decision should convince the media to quit the prognostication game.

It won't.

The endless predictions that surrounded yesterday's decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable  Care Act were almost uniformly wrong.

Almost simply because of the whispers that began this week, from corners I can't even recall, that Chief Justice Roberts would uphold the constitutionality of Congress' tax-writing authority as the foundation.

But from the tea-leafing reading after days of oral arguments that said the bill was doomed up to the rush-to-air mistakes of CNN and Fox to call it wrong -- virtually everything that appeared in print and on the air and on the web was wrong -- based on the endless appetite of the 24-hour cable news cycle and the partisan spinners willing to feed the beast.

It swallowed up good journalists like Jeffrey Toobin and ideological warriors like Bill O'Reilly. And the rush to get it first produced the stunning embarrassment of CNN getting on the air with the wrong result. (It's notable that no one is wringing their hands over Fox News making the same mistake).

I've read a court opinion or two as a journalist not trained as a lawyer. It's not the kind of thing you want to do on the fly because the opinions are often densely written with background crammed up top.

In the case of the Roberts opinion, it appears the real result was in the seventh paragraph, and some reporters only made it to paragraph three before rushing to report.

As someone who worked for a wire service that wrongly upped the Chernobyl death toll, the potential damage to an already reeling CNN is significant. But the risks are even worse for the news business as a whole, which is already held in serious disregard by a growing segment of the public.

Shouting heads are bad enough. Toss in ill-founded speculation and factual errors and it could be deadly.

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Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

About Fox News' error... did you see the words digby caught?

One company will house entertainment businesses like 20th Century Fox, Fox broadcast network and Fox News Channel
while another houses the publishing assets, which include The Wall Street Journal and the Times of London along with HarperCollins book publishing and News Corp.'s education business.

June 29, 2012 9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noticed the placement of Fox News yesterday, and wonder if it's being done to screen it from the kind of scrutiny that legitimate news organizations receive. Where it will be, in entertainment, it can continue to be unfair and imbalanced with impunity.

June 29, 2012 10:05 AM  

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