07 Jan 2006 Equal Number of Complaints Dodge is My Media Pet Peeve Number One
One of my top media pet peeves is when a journalist explains away criticism by saying something along these lines: “We got an equal number of complaints from liberals and conservatives, so we aren’t concerned.”
Think again, dweebo. It may have been that your article was objectively inaccurate.
This rant was in part inspired by listening to a big name broadcast network correspondent explain a news story in response to a question from an anchor and get nearly all of it wrong, including getting the dates of key events wrong by over a decade, claiming key individuals in the story worked for certain firms when they in fact worked for other firms entirely and, in a particularly “out there” burst of inaccuracy, claiming a controversial White House official worked at the firm with the other cited individuals, when none of the named persons had ever worked for that firm or, in fact, had ever worked together anywhere.
I ask myself: Why don’t these guys just reply: “Gee, Mr. Anchor, I don’t know much about that story. Better tell me the questions in advance next time.”
I suppose the answer is that, in broadcast news, presentation is more important than substance. Why admit ignorance on-air, since the audience, which is relying on you for the details, is unlikely to notice you have no idea what you are talking about? Just look suave and fake it.
Besides, if complaints come in, you can always blithely note that you got an equal number of complaints from liberals and conservatives, and then go back to arranging your hair.