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Stenography Masquerading as Journalism

By   Published: Friday, October 14th, 2011

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta brought his song and dance show to Congress. He was invited to speak by Congressional Republicans about routine defense subjects, but it quickly turned into a well thought out media ploy.

Exhibit A: GOP Lawmakers, Secretary Leon Panetta Ring Alarm Bells on Defense Budget Cuts

In an era when news organizations are cutting statehouse and county bureaus to nothing, when they are laying off reporters, bloggers, editors, page designers and suffering all kinds of bureaucratic malaise– it is ASTOUNDING to me that they spent three reporters’ time on this “story.” (The education, health, and sports beat reporters should be equally outraged too.)

Panetta’s defense contractor-approved talking points– “When you cut the budget by $450 billion…there are some risks that are out there”– were quoted high in the story.

And what stenography reporting could be complete without something from President John McCain, who is the next voice we hear in this self-described ‘news’ article. The reporters then quote Republican presidential candidates who pledge fealty to Panetta’s Pentagon spin.

The closest thing to loyal opposition in this ABC News report comes from Tea Party darling Herman Cain, who pledges to not take a position.

ABC, in the words of a good metro editor, missed the story. That happens, but at least don’t be so shameless about it. Three reporters shouldn’t miss a story so obvious.

Exhibit B: Report: Pentagon’s accounting is a hot mess

On the same day, the Center for Public Integrity published a devastating look at how the Defense Department is a Monty Python equivalent of General Electric’s accountants (you know, the ones who are able to make a multi-billion dollar company pay no taxes.)

These anti-stenographers rightfully observe:

Experts say the Pentagon’s accounting has never been reliable. A lengthy effort by the military services to implement new financial systems at a cost so far of more than $6 billion has itself been plagued by overruns and delays, senior defense officials say.

But an internal government accountability report said the Pentagon’s accounting system can now track purchases as promised. One snag:

Although the services can now fully track incoming appropriations, they still cannot demonstrate their funds are being spent as they should.

Is this the best government money can buy? Without accountability or watchdog reporting, we might never know.

If you liked this note, please use it to inform and motivate your friends. We’re going to need all the allies we can muster if we’re to dent the Pentagon’s spending addiction.

-MS


Image by Mike White





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