Monday, May 24, 2004

Quick notes on the media:
A "thank you" to C-Span this morning for pointing me to The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz pretty interesting overview of the recent joint survey by the Pew Research Center and the Project for Excellence in Journalism about the state of media - from the viewpoint of the media itself: ["Survey Finds Angst-Strained Wretches in the Fourth Estate"]. Kurtz's headline is a bit over the top and after reading the article you get the point a bit better. And of course, there is the token twist of the liberal media conspiracy:

Tom Rosenstiel, the project's director, says the growing proportion of self-identified liberals in the national media -- and the fact that "conservatives are not very well represented" -- is having an impact. "This is something journalists should worry about," he says. "Maybe diversity in the newsroom needs to mean more than ethnic and gender diversity."
Actually, there is a good chunk of conservatives in the media and there could be more in the newsroom. The problem is that most don't want to schlep around for $25,000 a year as beat reporters and many others don't want to tell stories. Most conservatives in the media make a pretty good clip as editorialists, broadcasters, or talking head fronts for rightwing think tanks and specialized publications like The Weekly Standard.
As well, if you add in the talk radio hosts and syndicated column writers with the reporters and editors, the media paradigm easily sways from liberal-to-moderate in the Pew survey to conservative-to-outright-rightwing in reality.
The influence of "the liberal newsroom" is also lower when you add in the fact that newspaper readership is dropping in most markets. If fewer and fewer people are getting their news from newspapers - but from somewhere else instead - the shift could be even more prominent. If they are getting their news from TV, what kind of TV is it - FoxNews or your late, local "if it bleeds it leads" news? [As an aside, I wonder how many people have nightmares after falling asleep hearing about the latest shooting from Dorchester. I wonder if anyone has studied this.] If they are getting their news from radio, what kind of radio is it - NPR or Rush Limbaugh? Just as an example, more people in the United States listen to Limbaugh for any one hour than spend reading The New York Times for an hour. So, who has a larger influence? The 'boob, of course.

But here is the bigger issue: The media is liberal on social issues, not corporate issues. Note this passage:

The survey confirmed that national journalists are to the left of the public on social issues. Nine in 10 say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral (40 percent of the public thinks this way). As might have been inferred from the upbeat coverage of gay marriage in Massachusetts, 88 percent of national journalists say society should accept homosexuality; only about half the public agrees.
While I haven't seen the report and I will look for it later, I have to assume that there was no question about corporate or fiscal issues. How do the national journalists feel about globalization? How do they feel about factories closing in America? How do they feel about the consolidation of TV, radio, newspaper, publishing, music, and movie industries? Do their views on these issues influence how they cover these issues the same way they influence gay or abortion issues? Well, we know they do because we have seen it in the reporting - or lack of reporting - on these issues. The NAFTA coverage by the media was a disaster with clear examples of editorial bias filtering down into the reporting of stories addressing that issue during the early 1990s. Only the most left of media sources bothers to cover globalization issues, like the influence of the banking industry, how dictators are propped up, or how our foreign policy is always military-based, regardless of which party is in power. It all seems to be accepted as the norm. And don't question the powers that be - you might blow your chance at that think tank grant later on when you are penning your best-seller!
These are huge questions probably missing from the survey. The closest Kurtz gets to these issues is this:

What the report calls a "crisis of confidence" permeates the findings. Two-thirds of national media staffers, and 57 percent of the locals, believe that profit pressures are seriously hurting news coverage. Nearly half of national journalists say the press is too timid. Almost two-thirds say there are too many cable talk shows.
Sure, "profit pressures" and a "timid" press are problems but they go hand in hand. We all remember what Larry Tisch once said about the award-winning CBS News Department, which used to be a hard-hitting news organization. Paraphrasing, Tisch reportedly said of the department's successes, 'When are they going to start turning a profit?' Never mind the scandals, corruption, lies, injuries, and wrongs exposed, all Tisch cared about was the money. News wasn't a public service - it was a commodity. And we wonder why things are so fucked up in the world?
Personally, I like a lot of the cable talk shows. I like open debate. Unlike my wife, I am challenged - not bothered - by the people yelling at each other. That is why I like watching "Inannity & Colmes" on FoxNews. Although I will readily admit two things about the show: a) Too often they have conservative analysts - Gingrich, Morris, Kissinger, Bennett, etc. - on alone, with no opposing liberal viewpoint arguing the other side. This tends to skew the debate from "fair and balanced" to conservative for whole sections of the program; and b) the yelling and debating does not often allow for any conducive discussion of the issues - even if it is very entertaining. It often becomes a belittling bickering match between Inannity - who keeps asking the same friggin' question over and over, usually, 'Aren't the Iraqis better off with Saddam Hussein gone,' and a Democrat [and not always a liberal one] twisting his answer to read from the talking points memo handed out for that night. Inannity will then interrupt the Democrat, which leads to him cutting the person off completely and returning to lobbing softballs at some blonde rightwing babe from a think tank.
Just once I would like the Democrat to say, "Yes, it is great that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power but the issue now is ..."

My other point this morning is this: ["Kerry pokes fun at Bush mishap"]. Note to everyone: Everything is on-the-record unless you say it is "off-the-record" BEFORE speaking! If you are John Kerry - or anyone else - and you make a quip like this one:

Kerry told reporters in front of cameras, "Did the training wheels fall off?"
... it is on-the-record. Period. End of story.

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