The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens makes a good point about the way in which the mainstream media pounced on a morality play in the initial reporting on the rape case against former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn:
. . . the media (broadly speaking) has too often been guilty of looking only for the evidence that fits a pre-existing story line. It doesn’t help that in journalism you can usually find the story you’re looking for, whether it’s record-breaking heat in some corner of the world, or malicious Israeli settlers making life miserable for their Palestinian neighbors, or evidence of financial chicanery in Manhattan, or of economic prowess in Shanghai.
But anecdotes are not data–which happens to be the world’s most easily neglected truism. Also true is that sloppy moral categories like the powerful and the powerless, or the selfish and the altruistic, are often misleading and susceptible to manipulation. And the journalists who most deserve to earn their keep are those who understand that the line of any story is likely to be crooked.
Of course, insightful bloggers such as Larry Ribstein have been pointing out this dynamic in regard to the mainstream media’s coverage of business-related matters for years.
And Stephens’ own employer still has not owned up to the fact that it embraced in the case of Jeff Skilling precisely the same type of morality plays that Stephens decries in the DSK affair. The fact that Skilling remains imprisoned under an effective life sentence makes the WSJ’s touting of myths in his case even more egregious.
Life is complicated. Government is powerful. When the MSM embraces the latter’s suggestion that the former is simple, beware.