Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Killing The Press

I'm going to try to be fair in my quotations to a piece I'm afraid I find to be particularly and emphatically stupid, The National Review Editorial "MSM, RIP" which actually starts off somewhat usefully:
There are few media metrics that point in an upward direction these days. Disdain of the press is one of them. Thirty-six percent of Americans now say that the press "hurts" democracy. Many others wouldn't express their feelings in quite such violent terms but share the basic disrespectful sentiment. Put another way, the crisis in journalism is even deeper than the crisis in its business model. It is suffering a crisis of legitimacy.

Chances are pretty good that the mass media has access to these numbers and quite possibly is horrified by them. If they're not horrified; they deserve the RIP. Some more fuel is tossed on the fire with this:
We all know the long list of scandals that has bloodied the profession--from Jayson Blair to Judith Miller to Dan Rather. But to focus only on these wrecks both misses the point and blames the victim.

Here you are, a run from out right fraud through baseless biased cheerleading and misrepresentation to an unverified document, not a stellar performance. But in these cases we're "blaming the victim" rather than engaging in fair and reasoned critiques. Now I'm not so sure I'd call this blaming the victim in the rape sense, perhaps more in the con game sense where the mark is a willing participant. Maybe that's splitting hairs but TNR has more to say:
The master narratives of both the right and the left have come to include the same villain: the hypocritical, biased elite media. And their combined grouching has helped foment the anti-media backlash.

Ah, now we're getting into something. As I remember the right's complaint was that facts didn't match their narrative and that pissed them off. It seems most of what I've heard on the left is a bit different, other than regarding Fox and its fact free content. I will say this in regard to the elite argument, when the press doesn't understand something that is news, they tend toward the shrill and sensational rather than nuanced in their reporting. These are the folks who refer to an AR15 as an assault rifle and call it automatic, conjuring up images of tommy guns blazing when it is a semi-auto and no such thing. -I digress-
A mirror version of this critique emerged on the left. In this telling, it was the timid, lazy press corps that failed to rigorously challenge the president's core (mendacious) claims about his tax cuts and rationale for heading to war. Very valid criticisms. But these specific objections morphed into populist broadsides against what the left came to describe as "the mainstream media"--avatars of establishmentarian groupthink who bend to the latest conventional wisdom emerging from D.C. cocktail parties and neurotically fret that they might be just as biased as their conservative critics allege.

Now what the hell? Morphed? How is doing exactly establishment groupthink as is validly criticized a morphing? In regard to the media worrying that they might actually be biased and reacting, how is that untrue in the face of the media's obsession with putting up two opinions about things where one is factually stupid and has at its back nothing but political talking points or demonstrated falsehoods? When the news doesn't please me, I'm unhappy and I might push for my political choice to change directions, but when I'm simply faced with information free content of equality of view point and have to sort it out myself I have not been informed, only confused.
This rhetoric creates a poisonous atmosphere. By assaulting the credibility of the press, it destroys its authority in the culture, giving cover to politicians who would rather avoid dealing with reporters in the first place.

I guess this means that we haven't been treated to a parade of Republicans making up things out of whole cloth about the stimulus bill for weeks? They certainly seem to be avoiding the media, about like lap dogs. They don't have to avoid a damn thing since the reporter sits there and allows lies they either know or damn well should know are lies to be bruited about as truth.
Obama can help set a tone for liberals, convincing them to ratchet down their hostility to newspapers and begin crusading on behalf of these imperiled organizations. The media deserves liberal critics, who hold it accountable. But it also deserves liberal defenders because a press working toward the ideal of objectivity is often the only means of blunting government or business run amok.

So... TNR advocates that I should praise the press while it doesn't do its job because the job it's supposed to do is important? I'll defend the hell out of the purpose of the press but I'll be damned if I can think of any reason to defend their behavior at this juncture.

What is entirely missing in this editorial is any mention of the consolidation of media and the corporate mind set controlling our information, but maybe we're supposed to address all these shortcomings after the media shakes itself out of the current financial crisis by behaving exactly as it has through the BushCo years. Addressing the liberals, rather than the media and telling the media to fix itself if it wants survival, is blaming the rape victim and TNR can stuff itself up whoever's hind end it is they're licking right here and now. I've got enough smoke in my face without TNR blaming me for it.

The purpose of the press is to publish facts or news about the lack of facts and to even make reasoned speculation based on facts. I don't need some bullshit balance when I'm informed, I can make up my own mind. If you're going to give politicians a platform, then be ready to make them back up their narrative, that'll cut the bullshitting down about a whole bunch. If the media is making itself unpopular with a segment for giving information then it's doing its job, but when it's pissing everybody off by not doing its job it deserves to fail. The problem is that we really cannot afford to lose them so they do have to straighten up. Petting them on their collective head and telling them everything will be alright is not a prescription for correction.

There are members of the press who have done their job right along and they don't deserve to get dragged down by those failing to do it and they should get our support. I'll specifically mention McClatchy because they still show some resemblance to KnightRidder and their good work. I'll also mention our smaller local papers, not so much because their work is so superior but they are much more amenable to correction of behavior than the beasts.

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