Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Media Takes a Glance at its Navel

The New York Times ran an article on its website yesterday titled "How ABC Interview Shaped a Torture Debate." The article contrasts claims by an ex-CIA operative (broadcast by ABC in a report on interrogation in 2007) that waterboarding was effective with the information in a recently declassified Justice Department Memo. The article points out that the ex-CIA operative's claims got a lot of reverb in the media and helped shape the debate on torture, but also argue that his claims were false.

The article brings up a few important questions: To what extent can people rely on the media to use accurate information to guide public debate? We have looked at conditions under which the media has trouble reporting the full story accurately, but once the media has reported on a story how well can the media return to an issue and correct itself? If false or heavily slanted information is reported by the media and heavily influences public debate, can the media correct itself or is this left to media scholars several years down the road? In either case, what does this mean for how we remember the past and view the present?

This is also a good example of a self-referential media story (hence the title). An ABC interview and its subsequent media reverb is the subject of a New York Times news article.

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