FOXification, false equivalency, and ‘ethics’ at the Arizona Daily Star

The worst thing that the conservative media entertainment complex has done to public policy reporting in America is the FOXification of the news, i.e., the false equivalency of presenting an opposing opinion in response to an otherwise demonstrably provable fact, and giving equal weight and credibility to both statements in the interest of being “fair and balanced.” “We report, you decide.”

fox-news-gop-logoThis is, in fact, a construct designed to reduce all facts to mere opinions. This was in response to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s frequently quoted admonition, “You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.” In the fact-free world of FOX News, everything is reduced to mere opinions. Voilà!

The example I frequently use to illustrate this point is the person who says the Earth is round and revolves around the Sun. The FOXification of the news requires an opposing opinion from a person who says the Earth is flat, and the Sun revolves around the Earth. Both statements are given equal weight and credibility, even though one is demonstrably provable fact, and the other is utter ignorance. “We report, you decide.”

Which brings me to the report today by Joe Ferguson in the Arizona Daily Star. Barber-McSally rivalry now revolves around the A-10. First, the demonstrably provable facts, which are included in the reporting:

[Congressman] Ron Barber documented meetings over the past year with Department of Defense officials and produced several letters he sent to military officials along with a direct plea to President Obama.

* * *

Barber said [Martha] McSally intentionally ignored his role as a co-sponsor on a congressional mandate that keeps the A-10 flying for a year.

“I fought alongside my colleagues to protect the A-10 in 2014 and we will continue working to keep this aircraft flying,” Barber said. He said he will work on a similar bill for 2015.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, praised Barber for his work to protect Davis-Monthan.

“Ron Barber has been in the forefront of the fight to save the A-10 since he got to Washington in 2012,” Smith said. “Ron has made it his job to bring me to his district and see firsthand the amazing work that is done for our national security at Arizona’s military installations and defense industry.”

Hank Peck, chairman of the DM50 Public Policy Committee, said Barber has long been an ally.

“He has been fighting with us since before he took office to protect the A-10 and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base,” Peck said.

Bruce Dusenberry and Mike Grassinger, both members of the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance, also wrote in the Arizona Daily Star that Barber has been fighting for the A-10.

To imply that Barber was late to the fight is simply not true,” they wrote. “He was a first initiator and joined other members of the Arizona congressional delegation to help organize the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance to mobilize Tucson’s community support for D-M and the 162nd Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard at Tucson International Airport.”

* * *

The Tucson Democrat blames another political construct — sequestration — as the real motivation to retire the A-10.

The across-the-board cuts to federal programs have forced the Obama administration to consider grounding a fleet it has spent more than a billion dollars upgrading to keep them flying for another 15 years.

Barber said that while the threat to the A-10 is serious, a final decision hasn’t been made.

“This is a proposal – and at this point, that is all it is – that will leave American ground troops more vulnerable with no suitable aircraft ready to immediately take over the role of the A-10.”

So who is the Flat-Earther the Arizona Daily Star turns to for the false equivalency of “fair and balanced” reporting? You guessed it, former Arizona Daily Star political reporter hack Daniel Scarpinato, who is now a GOPropragandist flacking for the RNCC:

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said Barber is trying to cover his tracks after failing to take the threat to the A-10 seriously.

“Ron Barber let Tucson down. When it mattered most, Barber failed to fight for Southern Arizona and the A-10,” Scarpinato said.

The “Scarp” reveals too much. Just as we suspected, he clearly had a hand in ghost writing Martha McSally’s “special” guest opinion to the Arizona Daily Star. And McSally is sticking to the talking points scripted for her by Scarpinato and the RNCC:

McSally doesn’t dispute that Barber wrote letters in defense of the A-10, but she said he sent them long after Air Force officials signaled in mid-September that they wanted to ground the fleet to cut about $3.5 billion from the defense budget.

“All the items listed after September 19th in Barber’s timeline were after he woke up and realized he had been snoozing on the job,” she said. “He has since been working overtime to convince the media and community that he is leading the effort to save the A-10.”

This is a pretty good ventriloquist act — I didn’t even see Scarpinato’s lips move when his McSally puppet parroted his words.

As I have said before, I have never seen a candidate so controlled by handlers and so afraid of answering substantive questions from the media. I have speculated previously “it is painfully obvious that Martha McSally is a vacuous candidate who does not know enough about any subject to offer a thoughtful and detailed explanation of her positions. So she continues to hide in the bunker and refuses to offer any detailed explanations of her positions.”

All McSally has are empty platitudes, bumper sticker slogans and GOP talking points prepared for her by handlers.

Now back to the Arizona Daily Star. It has previously published rewritten press releases from the McSally campaign as “news” items.  Star reporters frequently cite their former colleague Daniel Scarpinato, as Joe Ferguson did here, as a source in its reporting. It is obvious that Scarpinato at least had an editing hand in ghost writing McSally’s “special” opinion to the Star.

If the Arizona Daily Star is going to give this much unfettered access to a former employee on behalf of a candidate in its supposedly objective news reporting on the CD 2 race, this raises issues of journalistic ethics in my mind.  It certainly undermines the credibility of the Arizona Daily Star as an objective news source in the mind of the public.

One would think the Arizona Daily Star would want to maintain a firewall when a former employee is flacking on behalf of a candidate that the newspaper is reporting on in its supposedly objective news reporting. At a minimum, any time Daniel Scarpinato is a source, on or off the record, that reporting should include a disclaimer explaining Scarpinato’s former association with the Arizona Daily Star.

As I recall, this is the same complaint that Republicans made against former Arizona Daily Star reporter C.J.Karamargin when he was working for former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. It is not at all clear to me that the Arizona Daily Star has an ethics policy or journalism standard for reporting on former employees who are now working on behalf of political candidates or office holders.

One final point. Joe Feguson reported a statement from Congressman Ron Barber on the automatic sequester budget cuts, which the Tea-Publican Congress has embraced as its only legislative achievement. The sequester is the reason why the A-10 is at issue. It is not self-evident from the reporting that Joe Ferguson ever asked Martha McSally for a statement on her position on the automatic sequester budget cuts, and whether she supports her party’s position defending the automatic sequester budget cuts — questions that we have been asking since last year without any response from the McSally campaign. Questions for Martha McSally: Do you support the automatic GOP Sequester budget cuts?

One response to “FOXification, false equivalency, and ‘ethics’ at the Arizona Daily Star

  1. On Saturday, John Nichols touched on the horrible state of corporate, advertising-driven media in the US in his talk sponsored by PDA and PALF. Locally, they not only set up these false equivalencies as you noted. They just don’t report half of what’s going on in town. Look at all of what report here. Most of it never makes it into the Star or the Weekly.

    Nichols pointed out that in 2010 when the astro-turf Tea Party (bankrolled by corporate America) was out “demonstrating” (“Take your hands off my Medicare!”), every event was reported.

    But with the Occupy movement, it took even the “liberal” New York Times a couple of weeks to begin reporting something that was right outside the window. The Arizona Daily Star waited until Occupy Tucson ranked as one of the longest-running and most-harassed encampments in the country before they sent Brodesky down there to make fun of them.

    More recently, the mainstream media (locally and nationally) has completely ignored the work of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) with the monthly letter drops to more than 300 Congressional offices nationwide, the street protests against food stamp cuts last summer, the protests and social media blitzes against the Trans-Pacific Pipeline (TPP) and the invasion of Syria. Has the TPP– a horrible initiative drafted by 600 multi-national corporations that would undermine hundreds of laws in the US– even been MENTIONED in the Star? NO. PDA Tucson has been around since February 2011. It is one of the largest chapters in the country. We worked closely with lawmakers on policy. Has PDA ever been mentioned in the Star or the Weekly– except when we put something in the calendar? NO. (Of course, they hardly ever report the City Council meetings, what can I expect?)

    The Star used to be a good newspaper. It’s really sad to see how far it has fallen under Lee Enterprises. It’s a collection of ads, press releases, and wire stories + a handful of local stories.