This article originally appeared on The Daily Pitchfork.
Here's how the media hierarchy often works: a global authority (say The New York Times) covers a story, the story hits the media radar, and smaller outlets pick it up, paraphrase it, and run it on their own sites.
As a rumor churns through a mill, so goes a story through the mediascape. The whole arrangement is a recipe for potential mutations and distortions. And when the original story had flaws to begin with, and the outlet who picks it up botches things even further, well, that's how a media that's supposed to enlighten us sows confusion. Add in the fact that animals cannot write letters to the editor and you an see why this happens a lot.
A textbook case of this process involved the last story I evaluated for The Daily Pitchfork. In it, I take the Times to task for downplaying the obvious message of Direct Action Everywhere's disturbing footage taken undercover at Petaluma Farms, a northern California Farm that supplies Whole Foods and Organic Valley. Rather than emphasize the clear evidence of animal abuse evident throughout the video, the reporters turned most of the piece over to Petaluma and its advocates to defend the operation, which they did in predictable but completely unsubstantiated ways.
A day later Civil Eats, an award-winning food and agriculture website promoting "critical thought," summarized the story as part of a generally useful weekly overview of major food-related journalism. Because Civil Eats (understandably) doesn't define its role as correcting media bias, it made no effort to critique the piece. Nor should it have. The problem, though, came with it's interpretation of the Times' article.
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