W. Thomas Smith provides a behind-the-scenes look at how the big news organizations rig the game with loaded questions:
So I receive a phone call from a reporter at ABC News. They are working on a story about Haditha, and the reporter’s comments to me go something along the lines of; “I am particularly interested in your recent pieces on Haditha in which you say that in order to understand what happened, we must first understand the men involved, the dynamics of the system in which they operate, and the realities of ground combat.”
The reporter’s referencing of my own comments are somewhat paraphrased, but his following questions are clearly etched in my mind verbatim:
“Don’t you think the killings at Haditha [November 19, 2005] are the result of a wrong war and a failed policy?” he asks. “Much like the tragedy of My Lai [the killings of unarmed civilians by U.S. soldiers in the village of My Lai, Vietnam in 1968] was the result of a wrong war and a failed policy?”
I was taken aback for about as long as it takes to silently mouth the words, “This is going to be too easy.” After all, it’s one thing to read and listen to politicized versions of news stories spun by the various national news organizations. But to actually experience the machine as it begins to process what they plan to feed the masses is quite another. It wasn’t a first for me, nor will it be the last I’m sure. But I was temporarily surprised by the reporter’s lack of perspective, his obvious agenda, and his attempt to put words in my mouth. And by the way, this was no recent J-school grad. This guy was seasoned.
One benefit of the proliferation of news outlets on the Internet is that it’s given us more opportunities to see the media sausage getting made. I realize Smith’s columns run in newspapers, but they enjoy a wider readership via the net and blogs. More importantly, any source for a news story can start a blog and tell his version of how the interview went down. If the reporter worked from an agenda — as this one did — the chances are more likely now that it will be reported and discussed.