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Reporter bias revealed

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Edward Lee Pitts is a reporter for a newspaper whose motto is “To Give the News Impartially, Without Fear or Favor.”

Yet according to an email posted on the Drudge Report, Pitts was far from impartial when he helped stage a question from a soldier to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In the email addressed to Chattanooga Time Free Press staffers, Pitts says “…we worked on questions to ask Rumsfeld about the appaling lack of armor their vehicles going into combat have.” Media attention quickly focused on the soldier who had asked the question as Pitts — a 2003 graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism — basked in the afterglow of a successfully executed stunt.

“The great part was that after the event was over the throng of national media following Rumsfeld- The New York Times, AP, all the major networks — swarmed to the two soldiers I brought from the unit I am embedded with.”

Most news consumers never see this side of journalism because reporters and their willing newsroom accomplices work behind a guise of “objectivity.” Yet, in Pitts’ email, the author’s bias is clear. He seems to have no problem sharing it to his colleagues, yet it is doubtful he would have ever revealed his thoughts to his readers. And you’ve got to ask your self “why?”

There are some people in the news business who see their job as a craft. There are others — usually the troublemakers — who see it as an art. And the production of art affords the artist a poetic license if you will. In Pitts’ case, his brush stroke was pinpoint and precise: buddy up with a soldier and coach him, and hope his boss picks on him for a question. If it works, you’ve got a lead story. A-block. Front page. Top of the hour. There is no wonder Pitts began his email with the following sentence: “I just had one of the best days as a journalist today.”

Did his editors?

This article first appeared on Reporterette.com.

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About Reporterette

  • OK, I’ll bite. How is suggesting a question for a soldier to ask an example of bias? You just state this but don’t explain it.

    Thank you.

  • Also, didn’t the cheers of all the soldiers in the room indicate that almost everyone there wanted the question to be asked in the firstplace.

    And, shouldn’t we be debating the question itself rather than the modus operandi behind it?

    Mark Twain would have approved, both as an artist and as a craftsman, methinks.

  • Addendum: I read the e-mail. He does not come off as biased.

    He comes off as excited that he, a reporter at a 73,500-circulation newspaper, is getting some publicity. Excitement is allowed. He didn’t crow to the world though; he crowed to colleagues and the e-mail leaked.

    Bearing in mind he is also traveling with sldiers, he also comes off as someone who knows his beat,his story. He asked the question many soldiers wanted to know “Why don’t our vehicles have armor?” Witness the loud cheer in response to the question if his own account is to be believed.

    Did the soldier have the ability to say, “No, I don’t want to ask that?” Yes, he did and he would not have if he didn’t want to know the answer.

    Please explain how you think the reporter has been ethically challenged in this?

    Let me finish by saying, in run-of-the-mill journalism, no you don’t plant questions with people in the crowd. You don’t because you have the ability as a journalist to ask those questions and to do otherwise is lazy.

    This was not run-of-the-mill and this reporter does not have the same level of access in this venue as the national media newspapers and TV.

    So again, what ethical challenges have been breached here?

    Thank you.

  • bhw

    This was not run-of-the-mill and this reporter does not have the same level of access in this venue as the national media newspapers and TV.

    True Temple. And in this case, the reporter was told that only soldiers would be allowed to ask Rummy questions. Journalists were not allowed to ask questions, which is not surprising for this administration.

  • I’m focuing on the journalism part of this, not the politics.

  • Guess I wasn’t focusing enough to type.

  • bhw

    I hear you … I guess whenever I see Drudge cited as the source of a story, I get going ….

  • Shark


    Thanks for getting the right-wing apologetics going on this one. Lord knows it’s more about the way the question arrived than about the missing armor which allows American GIs to die in droves.


    That’s a good little girl;

    Support the war, but FUCK THE TROOPS.

    Very Patriotic of ya.

  • Regardless of the source of the question, I think that Rumsfeld’s “fuck you” response to the troops was the more telling part of the story.

  • I posted additionally about this here at my Web site, Templestark.com. Reporterette has posted at her own blog since posting here, and should, like the rest of us blogcritics, get notices that someone commented to her post.

    A few someone’s at this time.

    Answers Yvette?

  • On re-reading this entire thread, I think the title is apposite – “Reporter Bias Revealed” – for the poster – Reporterette

  • Hi guys and thanks for reading!

    To Aaman: You got it. Look at my blog roll and yes, I do lean right. I just wish more reporters would be up front about their bias. What irks me is how so many reporters pass themselves off as being unbiased and objective — we know better.

    To Templestark: I think the best bit in Mike Clark’s piece was the following (4th graf): “Yet, if they set out to make things happen, they have lost their objectivity.”

    Thanks all for the interest! — Reporterette

  • To quote the great man HST:
    “With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.”

    However, asking a pertinent question of a government official is just *journalism*.

    Surely, the real story is in the fact that a reporter had to go to such lengths just to ask it.

  • i do love the smokescreen going up about the objectiveness of the journalism involved…as opposed to the lame rumsfeld reply.

  • Thanks all for the interest

    I’m interested in better answers. You offer another quote but not how it relates.

    I AM being deliberately obtuse, in a way, but only because I want to see if you can rationally explain your claim of “bias.” Thinking I know what you’re trying to say and filling in the blnaks for you isn’t what this journalist does. Never assume is my shortest working motto. The Clark quote you offered was a different type of bias than you are alleging elsewhere and in a more urgent way on your own site.

  • Sandra Smallson

    I have to make comments about Fox News because only on that channel have I seen this matter blown out of proportion. Nevermind that the man’s ex wife has told us all that this was an issue long before he went to Iraq. They both had debates about it when he was packing. Fox as usual are missing the point,running around like headless chickens defending the mighty military of the United states, FORGETTING that it is a member of the military that raised the question and whether or not prodded to do so, was applauded by his mates. Why not deal with the issue?

    Kofi Adnan is now their new target. Forget about Halliburton and other overdue investigations. Ask for Adnans head because the 21billion loss was on his watch though there is not a shred of evidence that he had anything to do with it. Give Republicans the platform to air their reasons as to why Kofi must go. Allow Ann Coulter who is looking more like a horse everyday, airtime to spew her verbal diarrhoea.

    How come Fox did not ask for Bush’s resignation seeing as 9/11 was on his watch? Yes, the level of tragedy is incomparable but the point is the same. On your watch, something bad has happened either by your commission or omission. Are you to suffer the consequences? Whats good for Bush is good for Kofi? If Bush can stay, so can Kofi.

    “You are watching FOX News, where your News is “Fair” and “balanced”…. Yet if there has ever been a more biased news channel in the world, I haven’t seen it. Believe it! Fox rivals Al Jazeera in their level of bias. It is the American equivalent of Al Jazeera.

    What the anchor men and women, field reporters and show hosts say, beggars belief. Yet, Americans wake up everyday and wonder why they are hated? Ask Fox news. When CNN was syndicated worldwide, there was hate because there will always be people who thrive on hate in the world. However, the minute Fox News started worldwide coverage,the hate has multiplied a thousand fold.

    If Americans could step outside themselves one day and watch Fox News as a non-American you would understand. I am pleased that a reasonable number of Americans are intelligent enough to acknowledge the car crash that is Fox News. Of course it might be the most watched. Jerry springer was well watched as well. As are TV soaps. That you are well watched does not make you credilble or the best. I watch the thing myself often times. With the same motivation I use to watch E news. It’s entertainment, that Fox News channel.

    When I want to see what is happening in the world for real, I turn to Sky News , BBC World, or even CNN. To quote Fox News is like quoting the Drudge Report. Garbage. Rubbish. We watch it like we watch car crashes or bad shows. The world is filled with ambulance chasers. Now we know most of them live in the States since Fox is allegedly the most watched News channel over there.

    I am sorry for using your thread to talk about Fox News but they’ve been complaining about this reporter for two days now like he shot Rumsfeld, it’s ridiculous.

    A better example of journalistic bias is Fox News itself. You have used a very wrong example to discuss this issue if this is truly the issue that concerns you.

  • Steve S

    Very well said, Sandra.