John Furie Zacharias
having a bad day in a strange place
Thunderstorms Anywhere

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Tuesday, April 06, 2004
A thought experiment


Mind numbing












"Part of the reason why I write about the media is because I am interested in the whole intellectual culture, and the part of it that is easiest to study is the media.  It comes out every day.  You can do a systematic investigation.  You can compare yesterday’s version to today’s version.  There is a lot of evidence about what’s played up and what isn’t and the way things are structured." 

 - Noam Chomsky, in "What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream".

Okay, since I just talked about Chomsky yesterday, I revisited some of my links in that entry from last month, P isn't for Politix. So, here's my little thought experiment: One story, many ways of telling it.  We report, you decide.

One story:
Originated from a February 18th, 2004 press release by Senator Grassley of Iowa:
http://grassley.senate.gov/releases/2004/p04r02-18.htm

The Associated Press seems to have run with it first. (Reuters did not)

Long-suppressed report details FBI agent firings for crimes, misconduct

Author: CURT ANDERSON Associated Press Writer
Date: February 19, 2004
Publication: Associated Press Archive Search

"An internal FBI report kept under wraps for three years details dozens of cases of agents fired for egregious misconduct and crimes, including drug trafficking, attempted murder, theft, misuse of informants and consorting with prostitutes.
The report, released Wednesday by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, found that about one in 1,000 agents was dismissed for serious misconduct or criminal offenses by the FBI during the period examined, from 1986 to 1999. The average was between eight..."

Now the fun begins with the headlines, the blurbs, and the importance of the story:

Detroit News (one paragraph national briefing):
Report details FBI agents’ misconduct
http://www.detnews.com/2004/nation/0402/19/a05-68955.htm

MSNBC web site parrots original AP story but the headline suggests no suppression:
FBI report on agents released after long delay
Audit finds 1 in 1,000 dismissed for crimes, misconduct
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4312671/
"and was accompanied by a Justice Department letter urging that it be kept confidential."

The Washington Times (full AP article editted by staff writer):
FBI disciplined 77 agents over 14-year period
http://www.washtimes.com/national/20040219-110945-2040r.htm
The AP story with some seemingly insignificant changes in it:
"... but was accompanied by a letter from the Justice Department urging that it be kept secret."

CBS News: (AP/CBS writers with balanced blurbs with lots of related story links)
Years Of FBI Agent Crimes Detailed
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/02/19/national/main601135.shtml

Then there's Fox News: Nothing at all.
http://search.foxnews.com/

If you can find where Fox News ran this story, I'd like to see it.

I found it very interesting exploring the weight of the portions of the AP story each news outlet focussed in on.  You'd have to read each article in browser windows side-by-side, like I did, to really appreciate the subtlety involved.

[> permalink <]

 


Posted at 08:00 am by John Furie Zacharias

 

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