We’re the media and we don’t care

Wesley J. Smith at Secondhand Smoke points to another case of arrogance in the media:

The Orlando Sentinel continually describes Terri Schiavo’s medical condition as “brain dead.” This is clearly wrong. Brain dead is a popular term for death by neurological criteria and it means that the whole brain and every constituent part has ceased to function as a brain. Thus, there are no reflexes, the body can’t breathe without support, etc.

Terri Schiavo was clearly not brain dead. She breathed on her own. She swallowed her own saliva. She had sleep and wake cycles, she moved her body–none of which can be done by a brain dead body.

But the Orlando Sentinel doesn’t care. When Bobby Schindler complained that their description of his sister was factually inaccurate, they told him to go eat a fig.

This was the letter the Orlando Sentinel sent to Bobby Schindler in response:

Dear Mr. Schindler:

I reviewed your complaint with our state editor, Bob Shaw. We’ve considered the arguments you made in our phone conversation, but we’ve consistently used the term “brain-dead” in connection with the Terry Schiavo case, and we see it as a valid brief description. I appreciate your calling us about it and letting us know your point of view.

Best regards,

Dana Eagles
Orlando Sentinel

But this wasn’t a “point of view” issue, it was about what is fact and what the paper was reporting. That kind of response — “point of view” — is media speak for “you can write to us all you want but we don’t care what you think and it won’t change anything we do.” It was only after a letter from Florida Attorney General David Gibbs requesting a correction that the paper admitted its mistake and printed a correction:

Correction: Because of an editing error, an article about the resignation of Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth B. Bell misstated the medical condition of Terri Schiavo, a Pinellas County woman who died in 2005 after the removal of her feeding tube. Schiavo, whose case was considered by the court, was severely brain-damaged but was not brain-dead.

That correction covers the particular story it was attached to, but it doesn’t go anywhere near addressing what was expressed in the letter from the Sentinel to Schindler that “we’ve consistently used “brain-dead” in connection with the Terry Schiavo case.” That’s a weak correction.

The media likes to throw out opinion polls to show how much our country hates the current president. Those are low numbers. But do you know the media is even lower in the public’s opinion than the much-criticized president and even Congress?

The point is not that we should trust all public opinion polls. After all, public opinion is fickle and there are a lot of opinions floating around out there. Rather, the point is is that we need to be discerning and critical-thinking about what is being reported. Major news organizations can do good work, but not just because they are “major news organizations.” That is just lazy thinking, and not worth putting our trust in.

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