I've lost track of how many times someone from new or alternative media, in general - and the blogosphere, in particular - has chastised us debauched harlots of the mainstream media for overzealous or inadequate attention to facts, apparently to promote our own usually-but-not-always-liberal agenda. CBS/Dan Rather and the 'Bush/National Guard' story is not the only example cited in their argument, but it certainly appears to be one of the most celebrated.
Don't get me wrong, here ..... my profession (as is the case for all professions) is the better for constructive criticism, and the occasional review and house-cleaning prompted by that criticism ..... and if new media (such as the blogosphere) raises the profile of that criticism, and encourages needed review and house-cleaning, then more power to it.
But, what's sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander .....
This is what comes to mind as I read the Time Magazine online article, "The Swift-Boating of Graeme Frost" by Karen Tumulty. The article follows the controversy surrounding a 12-year-old boy who delivered the Democratic Party's Weekly Radio Address. Because of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) - Democrats say - the boy was able to get the medical care he needed after a serious car accident caused severe brain trauma, paralyzed one of his vocal chords and put him in a coma. He asked President Bush to sign into law the renewal of CHIP that passed both houses of Congress with broad bipartisan support, but was ultimately vetoed by the President.
The controversy grew with this post at freerepublic.com which questioned the boy's credibility as a CHIP-enrollee, citing among other things his attendance at a private school, and his family's home - recently-remodeled - where a neighboring house sold for almost $500,000.
On the surface, pretty damning stuff ..... but is there more to the story? Are there additional facts, and some history behind those facts-already-presented, that might present a more complete picture?
Tumulty found that the boy does indeed attend a private school, but he does so on a scholarship. As for Frost family's home, Tumulty did some background research on the property and found that they purchased the 1936 rowhouse in 1990 for $55,000. At the time, it was vacant and in a run-down neighborhood that has improved since then, in part because of the improvements that people like the Frosts (the boy's father is a self-employed woodworker) and others made to their homes and their neighborhood ..... those of you familiar with North Texas, will recall similar improvements made in Oak Cliff neighborhoods in the Dallas area, beginning in the 1980s, and the ensuing rise in property values. Tumulty also learned that, even with those improvements, the home was still valued substantially less than the neighboring home cited in the freerepublic.com post.
You could say that, by allowing their child to deliver the Democratic Party's politically-motivated address, the parents were 'fair game' for politically-motivated rebuttal, and all the rough-and-tumble consequences that entails ..... alright, but in playing that game, can't we endeavor to keep it fair .....
To me, this goes to show that new media does have a valid role as a watchdog and counter-balance of mainstream media ..... but only if we continue to make sure that our own house is in order, and that we are every bit as rigorous in researching and presenting the facts, as we demand from our more traditional sources of news.