It was fascinating to see the Washington Post publish a story on Media Matters for America (MMA) just days after Jamison Foser of MMA reported on the Post’s skewed reporting of Pentagon report on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The Post first leaked the story of the report a week earlier, but when the full report came out the newspaper kicked of its article about the troops’ views by emphasizing the fears of a small minority of military personnel. The headline screamed, “Voices from the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ report of the troops who oppose repeal” and it wasn’t until paragraph three that the reporter finally shared that 70 percent of active-duty and reserve forces saw little or no problem with ending the 17-year-old policy. Then again, last Saturday the headline was “Military chiefs: Right move, wrong time” when not all the chiefs held that view and you had to read the story to find out the truth.
There is no problem reporting negatives but there is a problem when the leads and headlines don’t reflect the real story. That is more like Fox News slanting a story or in the case of Fox often lying about it. The Post’s headline writers and photo editors, more so than reporters, are doing this more often and did so recently during the D.C. mayoral election.
The media have a responsibility to report all sides of a story and to report the facts.
But because they don’t, organizations like Media Matters for America have become more important in our society. When newspapers and broadcast news outlets skew stories someone must hold them accountable and tell the truth to the public. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was an original incorporator and short time member of the founding board of Directors of MMA.) I claim no credit for the idea to start the organization — that was all the doing of David Brock. And while some may still have issues with David, I realized as soon as he shared his idea for MMA how important an organization it would become and that Brock had the ability to make it happen.
Since the time MMA was founded in 2004, it has been a vigilant watchdog of the media and has corrected thousands of misstatements, bad reporting and outright lies that have appeared. I think the organization will become ever more important as we continue to see less and less interest in reporting full stories or making sure they are reported in a fair and balanced way.
Let’s hope that MMA gives more focus to reporting on LGBT issues. I have often read or seen stories on TV about our community and think to myself, do these people live in the same universe that I do? I respect differing points of view, but when outright lies are reported as truths and when the Washington Post devotes major space to a one-sided sympathetic story on the president of the National Organization for Marriage — turning him into an acceptable figure when the Southern Poverty Law Center names the organization a terrorist group — you have to wonder what happened to balance and truth.
The misinformation reported about our community must be constantly refuted and currently no one is doing that very effectively. Media Matters for America can serve that role and if history is prologue they will do it well. This isn’t about getting into the internal debates in our community but monitoring stories that reach the public. Our own organizations have a hard time doing that.
Media Matters for America has earned the respect to get into the trenches with various sectors of the media that like to portray the LGBT community in a negative light by using innuendo, misquotes, partial quotes and outright lies. We need Media Matters for America to stand up for the truth because of their proven willingness to do the research required to call out the lies and liars and do it independently.