This is Journalism?

The term “mainstream media” is now a perjorative and a story published yesterday by the New York Times, which also went around the nation on the Times News Service, serves as the latest example why.  Referring to the trampling death of a Wal-Mart employee as well as the shooting deaths of two shoppers in a Toys ‘R Us, the story by Stephanie Rosenbloom begins, “In a sign of consumer desperation amid a bleak economy, the annual rite of retailing known as Black Friday turned chaotic and even deadly, as predawn shoppers scrambled for holiday bargains.” The notion of “consumer desperation amid a bleak economy” is wholly unsupported anywhere in the following article.  In fact, shoppers stampeding store employees to buy products would seem to suggest a banner shopping season ahead.  The real story here would be to explain why shoppers are rushing to buy goods in such a bad economy.

Later, a professor at USC is quoted as saying, “I think it ties into a sort of fear and panic of not having enough,” and  “Walter Loeb, president of Loeb Associates, a retail consultancy, said there was shopping mania at Wal-Mart every year. But this year, he said, it seems ‘people are becoming irrational in their actions.'” Gee, a buying frenzy? That doesn’t sound like a “bleak economy” to me.  Rosenbloom clearly has a story line she’s going to fit this article into one way or another, and she fails miserably. Maybe her editors should explain to her the difference between an opinion piece and news reporting.

Even worse for “reporter” Rosenbloom and the Times is an AP story published today explaining that “Early data shows strong Black Friday shopping.” It may be that news with a bias is the future, but the Times has yet to explicitly accept it.  Until then, report the news or express an opinion, but don’t mix the two.

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