Thinking About Thinking

It’s Hard To Get The News From The News

Posted in Philosophy, Pop Culture by larrycheng on August 12, 2009

This post may be a statement of the obvious, but it’s an observation I had this morning.  As is typical, I skimmed the Kindle versions of The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal on my subway ride to work.  I thought it was very interesting how the three papers described the audience at President Obama’s town hall meeting in New Hampshire last night. 

First up, The Boston Globe:

Obama’s audience at Portsmouth High School gymnasium was tame.  The bleachers teemed with Obama supporters…  The president wound up preaching to the choir, which applauded wildly at his calls for action on healthcare – at one point breaking into a chant of “Yes we can!”

Next up, The New York Times:

Unlike many of Mr. Obama’s town-hall-style meetings, usually filled to the rafters with supporters, Tuesday’s meeting included skeptics from whom he sought out questions.  At one point he asked that only people who disagreed with his approach raise their hands to be called on.  There were plenty who responded.

Finally, The Wall Street Journal:

Inside Portsmouth High School, Mr. Obama faced a friendly crowd, so much so that he sought out some tough questioners.

And just to round it out, I checked out Fox News once I got to work:

Obama faced no disruptions at his meeting, instead taking questions from supporters who soft-balled him opportunities to knock down criticism. 

….and The Huffington Post:

The encounter was so friendly, in fact, that by the end Obama was even asking for skeptical questioners to come forward – to no avail.

After reading all five characterizations, I am inclined to think that The Huffington Post had the most accurate portrayal with the Wall Street Journal a distant second.  The other sources seemed to emphasize parts of the interaction as perhaps unfairly representative of the whole. 

This reminds me of a thought about what it means to be accurate in what you say.  To portray a situation accurately, it’s not just about making factual statements – which I think all of these sources did to an extent.  Accuracy involves more than isolated facts, but complete representation with – importantly – fair and proper emphasis.  This is as true for representing the news in journalism as it is in representing the Bible from the pulpit or representing a company in a Board meeting.