Friday, February 09, 2007

"Truth squadding" the Pelosi airplane story

On All Things Considered Thursday night NPR ran a story to, as they put it, "truth squad" the story of the flap over what government plane Nancy Pelosi is going to take when she travels between Washington and San Francisco.

Here's the link to the story. Unfortunately for NPR and Pelosi, what they are promoting as a truth squad piece is mostly another he said-she said politica story.

I have a couple of concerns here. First, the report does say that the story originated with the Washington Times, but it doesn't say anything about the conservative political bias or Moonie ownership of that paper. A journalist interested in really exploring the validity of the story would have done that.

Second, the report gets one crucial fact wrong. At 2:13 into the story you can hear Andrea Seabrook say, "Pelosi's office requested that the plane be capable of flying from Washington to her San Francisco district nonstop." Okay, except this allegation is false. It was the Sergeant at Arms who requested nonstop travel capability. Here's what he said:
The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable.
For NPR to report that it was Pelosi's request is to keep the story up while pretending that they are getting through to the truth. It is true that they later play an actuality of Pelosi saying that the Sergeant at Arms made the request, but that's not the same as reporting the facts. By putting in this statement in the voice of one of the partisans, NPR conveys the impression that this is just another one of those things that is susceptible of different interpretations, depending on which side of the political aisle you're on. No. There is the truth and there is fiction, and part of the responsibility of the journalist is to distinguish them from each other.

I really like NPR. I listen to it all the time, even when Car Talk isn't on, and I'll probably listen more when VPR converts to full-time news and public affairs. Still, they should get their stories straight, especially when they claim to be the Truth Squad.


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