Saturday, August 23, 2008

This Makes Sense

Y'all ever read something on the web and it just clicks with you?

The piece provides new information and insight, or it just clarifies something you've thought about for a long time. I love stumbling across that type of work, and I find it all over the web.

Here is a gem.

I suggest y'all read the whole piece for yourselves; it's an interesting take on the media by someone who works in the media. But, I'm going to post and discuss a few snippets just because they caught my eye.

The Media Are Dumb...Don't Be Alarmed

Historically this has not been a time when a presidential candidate pulls away, and even if someone does it will be meaningless because it’s August. You could call that type of reporting irresponsible but that connotes a level of intelligence to the coverage that isn’t there. The narrative with McCain is the flip side of this–what can he do to derail the Obama juggernaut? Never mind that these narratives are contradictory. Obama is vulnerable in the one instance, but in the other, he’s evidently unstoppable. Logic just doesn’t count in these things.

I have friends who have elaborate conspiracy theories about the coverage, and how the media is leaning one way or the other. In my darker moments I find myself wishing the press were cunning enough to do that. But it’s more like sports journalism or, to use that tired cliché, the horse race mentality. If you’re a cable news director, you’re just not going to devote ten minutes to a major address about the subprime crisis, but if John Edwards confesses to an extramarital affair, even though he’s not even a candidate and holds no public office, it will lead to an orgy of coverage. Market share dictates the witless coverage, which is largely for the media’s own amusement

The funny thing about those snippets is how readily the cat being interviewed assumes that the idiocy of the media is because of some core lack of intelligence. I work in the media, I've been around media types, these people are not stupid. In fact, many of them are quite intelligent and well read. So, I always find it funny when media critics brush aside accusations that the media is part of some grand scheme by saying that media folks are not that smart.

No, your average reporter or anchor is not smart enough to design and carry out a crazy scheme. But, that doesn't mean that the people above them are stupid. The people who dictate coverage and the use of resources aren't idiots. More importantly, you don't have to be dumb to be complicit in someone else's scheme. You can be quite intelligent and believe in Manifest Destiny and slavery. It's already happened!

So, the idea that the decisions the media makes are not part of some bigger plot because reporters just aren't that smart is stupid to me. It sounds good and reassures people, but the more I live in this world the more I become convinced that there are power blocs that do dictate how the world operates. I'm not saying I believe in the Illuminati or something similar, but I believe that power people meet and make decisions that affect my life in ways I'm not even aware of. And the media has a role to play in that process.

This Amuses Me, That Makes It News

Market share dictates the witless coverage, which is largely for the media’s own amusement. You see that all the time on the Sunday political chat shows, which are always about the polls and who is performing better in strategic terms. The only constituency that cares about that is the media. I have family around the country and we always talk politics, and no one ever asks me, “How did Obama perform on his European tour?” It’s an asinine question.

Not only do reporters write about what they’re talking about, but they’re writing about each other. Notice the passive construction in these stories about “rampant speculation” and ask yourself, “Who’s doing the speculating?” It’s the reporters who are; most voters, being sane people, might think about it for a second but then they move on to the next thing in their day.

On television, the cool kids decide what everybody is talking about in high school. In real life, the media tries to take that role. (This isn't a coincidence.) Look, I'm a media member, the truth is that we decide what is and is not news.

Some of y'all might argue that if a train derails or a plane crashes, that's news and the media has to cover that. That's true, to an extent. But, we decide how much coverage we dedicate to which deaths, how much angst the public should show about certain accidents. And, when you move past breaking news, we totally decide what's an important issue and what's just fluff.

Like most people, media members take some of their cues about what's important from
the people around them. My friends and I like to talk about sports, particularly basketball. So, what's important to us is what's happening in the basketball world. We decided that's important, and we seek out information about basketball to circulate among each other.

The only difference between me and my friends and most media members is the size of the circulation. Media members gossip and discuss the minutia of the campaign, decide among themselves what's important and what's not, and then circulate those ideas to everybody. It's what makes being a journalist so attractive to people who like attention, gossip and power. If you're a media member you get to have all three things, and then pretend that you don't like any of them!

It's a very disturbing reality of the media that's only discussed in passing. Nobody really wants the public to understand that media companies have a huge impact on what information is disseminated, and therefore what topics the public is aware of. Do y'all really think global warming just became a problem? Or that same-sex marriage is no longer a big issue among evangelicals? Nope and nope. But, the media has decided that one issue is "newsworthy" and the other currently is not. The next time you here a media member use the term "newsworthy" remember that is just code "interesting to me."

This is Business...Businesses Make Money

First of all the media wants it to be as close of a race as possible.

Not to be too conspiratorial, but there is an economic interest at stake because you want people to come back and watch the same drivel the next day, in the same way that I obsessively check the sports section to see how the Cubs did.

I wrote a post a while back about how much money the Obama vs. Clinton primary was making media companies, particularly TV companies. Viewers were tuning in, which meant that advertisers were spending money.

Never, ever forget that most media companies are publicly traded entities with shareholders who like dividends. Never forget this. Businesses that don't make money don't exist. Blowout campaigns don't make money. Very few campaigns have been seen as blowouts before the election day, yet we've had multiple blowouts after actual voting has occurred. That tells me that somebody is really bad at predicting results, or people are predicting results that just aren't accurate for a reason.

Not only are media companies businesses, but they are the type of businesses owned by people who tend to vote Republican. Rich people like Republicans, the people who own and manage media companies are rich.

I'm just saying.


Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

I read the Harpers magazine article in your link. I've been fairly tuned out all week to the tv. Those motha fuckas ain't dumb. They do this crap all the time. Lately they pretended to obsess over Obama's possible running mate - they were avoiding telling us the real news, from our economy sliding down further in the past 7 days to the monkey business among the war planners.

Rule of thumb, the less they say, the worse things are. Notice they haven't even been saying much of jack about Russia and Georgia, and when was the last time you heard about North Korea, after they suddenly made it off our terrorist list?

As I wrote in my article, Expect the Draft nearly two weeks ago, our press has become like that of the old Communist Party and just an instrument of the rulers. It's a damn shame.

Big Man said...

That Russia and Georgia thing is an egregious example. The more I learn about that situation the more I realize it couldn't have been the complete surprise our media pretended it was. That thing had been brewing for months and the first time we heard about it was when bullets were already flying. That's unacceptable considering the fact that Russia is probably the third or fourth strongest country in the world.

WNG said...

AND why is no one reporting the fact that since this was a slow burning fuse our government had PLENTY of time to work with other nations around the world to dump some water on it and cool down the situation.

This is why I watch PBS and try to read as much independant journalism as possible. Personal bias I can deal with, corporate bias scares the crap out of me...

Air-Cooled Head said...

Well, I guess you've just answered the question I often wonder about:
"Why is this even on the news?"

Raving Black Lunatic