Thursday, January 13, 2005

A Mainstream News Media Tradition: Adding "Perspective" to The News


A reader who listens regularly and carefully to network radio news submitted the following. He consented to my request to post it here.

Yesterday, CBS Radio News reported that Pres. Bush donated $10,000 personally to the relief of the Tsunami survivors. Reuters and CNN also carried the story, adding that Pres. Bush's personal wealth was $13 million. No source offered. We'll have to take their word for it. Another story mentioned $17 million.

Would CBS, Reuters or CNN mention Sen. Kerry's total worth or former Pres. Clinton's personal wealth if they were the ones donating?

What the news media often do is "throw a negative" on a story like this one to minimize and find fault with President Bush. The CBS story went on to say that $10,000 was only 2.5% of Pres. Bush's annual income. My calculations using CBS's information show that Pres. Bush gets $400,000 per annum. That figure may or may not be accurate, but using CBS's figure Pres. Bush gets $33,333 per month. His or their (Laura and Geo.) $10,000 donation would be nearly one-third of GWB's monthly income BEFORE taxes. That sounds a lot better than 2.5% of his annual income.

Would CBS refer us to the percentage of Kerry's or Clinton's annual income in a similar story?

Other stories about Pres. Bush's $10,000 donation compared it with the amount (all from private donations) being spent on the President's inaugural celebrations this month.

If Kerry-Edwards had won, do you think the media would have carried stories like this?


I am pretty confident of the answers to my reader's questions. We live in an interesting time, when assumptions about information sources that have been largely unchallenged in my lifetime (I was born in 1954) are now fading quickly. Peggy Noonan comments on that transformation here, in one of the more balanced and thoughtful analyses on that subject I've seen yet.

UPDATE: Here, Hugh Hewitt persuasively analyzes both Howard Fineman's piece (referred to below) and a response by Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post.

What a great time to be following American history. What an exciting opportunity: To be able, with the click of a few buttons, to dive into and swim in the blogosphere's ocean of information.

Start your own blog today. And while you're at it buy Hugh Hewitt's new book, Blog, here.


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