Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Post Just For Jon

This is actually a continuation of a comment made on a previous post, but I'm starting a new entry to avoid another reprimand from Jon for lengthy comments.

The blog entry was about the U of I giving Karl Rove $40,000 to not answer questions. My response is to the comment from publici08. First of all, I should've known better. I should have known that making the statement "...he may be correct..." in reference to Karl Rove would lead to accusations of inaccurate statements. It's difficult to get beyond my disbelief that someone from the Center for Public Integrity is aware that the DI Opinions blog exists; but my attempts to comprehend have sparked a mental image of the Center as an institutional version of Marlo Stanfield, responding to accusations of bias through clenched teeth: "My name is on the blog? My name is my NAME!"

For everyone other than the two people reading who watch the Wire, you have to trust me - it's a delightful personification. Much like the fictional Baltimore Kingpin, the Center does not take kindly to accusations (and I must say, their scope of research is impressive if it reaches Iowa.) So, when I mentioned Karl Rove's response to 935 false statements discovered by the Center for Public Integrity, I was - as Jon said - dished up some hot spicy pwnage[sic] on behalf of the Center. I don't like being accused of inaccurate statements any more than an independent nonprofit
501(c)(3) likes to be accused of bias, so I'll explain exactly what led me to the offending statements.

First of all, bias itself is subjective. Some people think Fox News is fair and balanced, some think the New York Times is objective. It all depends on where you're standing. Stephen Colbert said it best at the White House Correspondents Shunfest: Reality has a well known liberal bias. From where Karl Rove is standing, nearly everyone is on the left.

But, no matter how far left of Rove you stand, there are factors that would lead one to believe that the Center truly is left of center; the first of which would be a visit to their website, publicintegrity.org. The home page links to investigations about misstatements by the Bush administration, an environmental study kept under wraps by the administration, analysis of U.S. government contracts in Iraq, post-9/11 foreign policy, and not to mention the video of Condi Rice being grilled by a Florida Congressman (Colbert Report fans know him - he has lots of fun things to do!) with a web address for Rep. Wexler's site calling for Cheney's impeachment. This is not my personal opinion, but society likes to put people in either a blue box or a red box. When measuring the words "Bush" and "Clinton" in the site's search function, the Clinton search finds 4 ambiguous-sounding headlines, the Bush search nets 34, with varying degrees of contention. Surely one can see how this organization would be filed in the blue box with the donkey on the front.

The ties to George Soros I mentioned were from Open Society grants. I did not mean to suggest any involvement beyond financial support; which Soros is generally known for.

I have another reaction to yesterday's comment as well. I find it curious that anytime someone accuses the Center of bias, they bring up the investigation of the Clintons and the Lincoln bedroom. When the War Card investigation was released, I saw Bill Buzenberg on C-Span's Q&A when Brian Lamb pressed him on the issue of bias. As I remember it, he even went so far as to ask if anyone working for the Center could be considered "right of center," but Buzenberg looked uncomfortable and brought up the Lincoln bedroom story. I'm not using this as evidence of bias, but I do think it's a bit like calling a white community "culturally diverse" because there's one Jewish person and a Filipino in town.

All of that has nothing to do with my personal opinion of the Center for Public Integrity. In the aforementioned Q&A interview, Brian Lamb made an excellent point. Buzenberg was there to talk about the investigation on misstatements, and Lamb introduced news headlines citing the Center's research. His point was to illustrate the low expectations in contemporary news media. The Center did extensive research on statements by individuals in the Bush administration. The mainstream media just reported it. It was an interesting point that media sources inform the public by saying, "a new study shows..." and giving a brief summary. It really isn't an expectation of mainstream media to do their own investigative reporting anymore. It's quite depressing when you think that nonprofits and think tanks do the investigative wok and media does little more than deliver the headline to their audience. Hell, in some cases corporations are the ones funding the studies. Investigative journalism is a dying art. I have a lot of respect for the Center for Public Integrity and for its founder, Charles Lewis. My intent was not to reinforce Rove's assertions of bias, but to question his reaction as if bias and lies were the same thing.

If there is, in fact, someone affiliated with the Center for Public Integrity who stumbled upon this blog; I may be facing some more snaps. I will say this - I'm planning a trip to DC next week for spring break. If I have in any way misrepresented the Center, you may prove me wrong in person.


Publici08 said...

Kathleen, visitors, including yourself, are welcome to visit the Center if you're ever in Washington, D.C. The Center's website was not officially launched until the end of Clinton's second term, which would explain why you found more citations for "Bush" than "Clinton." Had you searched "Gore" you'd find at least 8 additional stories. As for your statement, "bias itself is subjective," the Center uses primarily publicly available information as the basis for its independent investigations; factual, undisputed, documented data that is not "biased" by contributions or involvement by governments, corporations, labor unions, anonymous donors or advertisers - all groups which the Center does not accept donations. The Center was the first group, media or otherwise, to write about the Clinton administration's selling of the Lincoln bedroom, hence the recurring mention of this series of stories, which were also widely quoted by many conservative groups and politicians when first released. The Center was also the first to uncover Abramoff's travel and lobbying connections, which resulted in wide-spread media coverage and score of congressional guilty pleas by both Republicans and Democrats. As for the Iraq War Card project, the Center was the only media outlet to collect, assemble, organize, analyze and make publicly available a database on the Bush administration's statements prior to the invasion- a newsworthy topic that amazingly no mainstream media organization has done, as you pointed out. It's not that the Center "does not take kindly to accusations," rather, the more important issue, which I want to stress here, is the misunderstanding and misinformation that people have about the Center. Hopefully through this discourse I have changed that.

andrewswift said...

+1 for the Marlo reference.

andrewswift said...

Hey, can you guys give me a job?

Kathleen said...

I guess that leaves me with the question of bias vs. influence. I understand the importance of refusing donations from interested parties, but anyone with values has a bias toward specific issues or topics. This isn't a criticism. The suggestion of being in Soros' pocket is a bad thing, but investigating issues that are more progressive is not.

I appreciate the work that the Center has done, and it's sad (and somewhat frightening) that investigative journalism is a dying art. I agree with Brian Lamb's point - journalism seems to be more about citing sources than investigating issues. I respect the exhaustive research of the Center. While I'm more than a little surprised that you've acknowledged us punk college students out here in Iowa, I appreciate it. I also hope that the Center will add some archives to the website with links to the older studies. If you need someone to set that up for you, I hear Andrew Swift is looking for a job. He's a very hard worker and I'd be happy to drop off his resume for him next week.