A couple seemingly unrelated stories caught my attention today. One is written by Megan McArdle in the form of a letter to Hollywoodresponding to news that Robert Redford and Cate Blanchette plan to star in a film adaptation of Mary Mapes’ memoir, Truth and Duty.

It’s been ten years since the Rathergate affair simultaneously torpedoed the careers of Mapes and Dan Rather and McArdle does an admirable job recapping the story, explaining where Mapes went wrong and why Hollywood should be telling an entirely different story than the one Redford and Blanchette are likely to tell.

Of the more memorable defenses of the 60 Minutes piece Rather reported and Mapes produced was the assertion that while the memos themselves may have been fake, the story was accurate.

The other story is written by Ron Fornier in National Journal today. His purpose is to explain why Israel’s Prime Minister should be worried about the world’s perception of Israel’s military reaction to Hamas’ provocation. Here is his final paragraph:
"To me, on Sunday, the talking points Netanyahu deployed against Wallace were simultaneously accurate and archaic. Yes, the terrorists want to destroy Israel and are willing to kill their own people to do so. By why doesn’t he seem worried about the consequences of his approach – one tailored for a world that is rapidly ceasing to exist?"
Both Mapes (when she was on 60 Minutes) and Fornier are prominent journalists. Their reporting helps shape public opinion. Mapes never conceded – in the face of overwhelming evidence – that the documents she used were fake. McArdle suggests that a combination of confirmation bias and motivated cognition were to blame.
I’m not sure what Fornier’s excuse is. If Netanyahu’s talking points are accurate, yet there has been a "subtle but significant shift in coverage – a more empathic view of the plight of Gazans", then it is journalists who are to blame, not the Prime Minister. Isn’t accuracy what journalists strive for?
From a Fourth Generation Warfare perspective I understand the point Fournier makes. In a conflict like the one Israel is engaged with in Gaza – this is the poster child for 4GW – the lines between politics and military engagements are blurred. Fournier faults Netanyahu for not changing his rhetoric, but fails to credit Netanyahu for attempting to change how journalists are covering events in Gaza. He’s trying to get journalists to report more accurately.
For example, here is Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, on CNN last week:
"I’ve been listening for two hours of reports on CNN…I have not heard a single person say what I just said to you now, and I think that does a disservice to your viewers to not give them the context they need to make these judgements."
Call me crazy but if journalists get the "accurate" part right, then they’ve done their job. They should let the political chips fall where they may. Mapes let her own motivations get in the way of both truth and duty. And now Fournier argues that the accuracy of Netanyahu’s approach is irrelevant and "tailored for a world that is rapidly ceasing to exist."
A world where accuracy in reporting is rapidly ceasing to exist should be a world journalists abhor. Instead of advising a Prime Minister at war to change his "archaic" approach, Fournier might consider attempting to re-focus his own profession.
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