Monday, April 10, 2006


Media Spin-o'-the-Day

Tiger Hawk notes two different approaches to today’s Media Spin-o’-the-Day, the report on the Army’s Retention Program. Tiger Hawk notes the generally update assessment in USAToday, with the following headline:
"Army surpassing year's retention goal by 15%"
But Tiger Hawk also notes, within this positively framed piece, that subjectivity enters in when the reporter alleges that:
Strong retention has helped the Army offset recruiting that has failed to meet its targets as the war in Iraq has made it harder to attract new soldiers. The Army fell 8% short of its goal of recruiting 80,000 soldiers in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, although it is exceeding its goal this year.
Tiger Hawk is precisely right to question:
How does the reporter know that it was "the war in Iraq" that made it harder to attract new soldiers? There is no support for this theory in the story. The reporter -- Tom Vanden Brook -- just assumed facts not in evidence and his editor let him get away with it. If the Iraq war were the reason for poor recruitment last year, why has recruitment improved this year, when the news coverage of the war is so much more defeatist?
Where are the Editors of these papers, what did they learn, and where did they learn it? Sheesh, I remember editors on my High School newspaper having fits with this kind of prose. (I’ll admit we had some rare talent on that paper, but really, these kind of things fall out in Journalism 101.)

Tiger Hawk saves the greater share of his wrath for the New York Times (natch), in a story headlined:
"Young Officers Leaving Army at a High Rate"
What’s a high rate you might ask? It turns out, not historically high, but relatively higher, coming off a low rate historically. This is amply demonstrated by McQ at Qando Net.

McQ dissects the graphic the NY Times includes in its story, and quickly notes that the graphic refutes the very basis the Times uses in its story: that Officer Retention is suffering because of Iraq [typos corrected]:
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Iraq doesn't at all factor into the decision making process, but interestingly, the NYT's own graphic doesn't support the inference that Iraq is the major driving factor in the loss of junior officers. Additionally, their explanation of the graphic is completely misleading:

Not a single year before 9/11 is lower than the retention numbers since the 9/11 and the war in Iraq. That means that in 1997 through 1999 , three years of peace, more officers were leaving the army then than in any year since Iraq began.Obviously that means there are other reasons officers leave than just Iraq as I've explained.Just as obviously the loss rate is trending up a bit. That, I think can, in part, be laid at the feet of Iraq and, most likely, pressure from young families effected by numerous deployments in a short time frame. Then again, maybe not. It may be no more than "the army isn't for me" at work. But to pretend this is some sort of crisis brought on solely by Iraq is a bit over the top.
Other Bloggers to note the discrepancy between actual data and the Media Spin-o’-the-Day: USS Neverdock, James Joyner at Outside the Beltway, Blue Crab Boulevard, Law Hawk, and Powerline.)

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