MSM and the internet--a few thoughts

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MSM and the internet--a few thoughts

Post  cradlerc on Mon Aug 17, 2009 5:37 pm

Today I came upon a very sad post on one of the blogs I regularly visit, about a family whose 14yo son, Ryan Barrett, was lost and then discovered dead while his family was camping in the Catskills. His mother, who blogs and homeschools her 8 children, wrote a beautiful letter in which she mentioned, among other things, that some of the reports in the media simply were not true or had a hurtful tone to them.

I'll say. While they aren't uniformly horrible, one that I read makes the statement that the "father claimed" that his son was prone to siezures (which he was, and which is probably what killed him.) Many others have quotations about how hard it is to watch autistic kids, how they're prone to wander off, how it "takes a village"--making it sound as if the father was camping alone with his two kids and let Ryan wander away. In truth, he was there with seven other families, and it appears that the child was alone for a minute, suffered a grand mal siezure--not "was likely drowned" as one irresponsible reporter conjectured (without mentioning the siezures at all).

I know it happnes, I know we've discussed it here before. But it just turns my stomach. It's also one of those times when I'm glad for the internet, because reporters are getting more idiotic every day.
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Reporters generally are

Post  Thereforeiam on Mon Aug 17, 2009 9:02 pm

mostly concerned with advancing their career. Accuracy and quoting in context within their stories is far and few between. I know from several personal experiences several decades ago. I hope this poor mom has the record set straight on the death of her son.
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Based on the letter she wrote

Post  cradlerc on Mon Aug 17, 2009 9:37 pm

that was printed on another blog, it sounds like they're done talking to reporters. I did find one good article--but I think it may have been from small Catholic newspaper since they discussed the family's faith in detail. I'm osrry to hear you've had experience with this; I hope I never do.
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A few thoughts

Post  VicarJoe on Tue Aug 18, 2009 8:10 am

I actually quite enjoy reading over newspapers...from the early twentieth century. Then, you had folks like GK Chesterton and HL Mencken (apparently it was required to go by one's initials) writing for papers, and not just the major media center papers--Mencken wrote for the Baltimore paper. I think a lot of those fellows were simply great writers and intelligent men, and while they probably pushed their agendas and politics more than journalists today, they were also more forthcoming about it. In fact, what's funny is that when you look at old newspapers, they'll have names like the Cleveland Democrat or the Cincinnati Republican or the Toledo Independent. Perhaps no one pretended to objectivity, so you knew what you were getting. But the reporters were also simply great storytellers and intelligent people.

I wonder sometimes what ruined reporting. Sometimes I think it was journalism schools (which seem to set as their goal the cranking out of mediocre, banal, sloppy writers). Sometimes I think it was Watergate (which made every reporter feel like his ticket to the big time was playing gotcha! with people in his stories). Somewhere along the line, too, reporters took on the mantle of objectivity, without actually becoming objective, and that somehow breaks the trust with readers in a way that obviously and openly partisan reporting does not. There's also a kind of "dead inside" quality to the whole enterprise of exploiting people's suffering to sell papers or goose ratings. I think scandal was always a big focus of reporting, going all the way back to the broadsheet ballads, but somehow our reporters crudely sentimentalize suffering and want viewers/readers to wallow in other people's private pain, which I don't think was always the case. It's more voyeuristic now.

Sounds like with your story, Cradle, you've got dead inside voyeurs looking to play gotcha! while at the same time using mawkish sentiment. The worst of all possible worlds.

Neutral
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You make a great point, Joe.

Post  cradlerc on Tue Aug 18, 2009 11:45 am

Back in my undergrad days, I took a course in literary journalism, and we read folks like Joan Didion and Hunter S. Thompson. What I liked about literary journalism was that it deliberately did not make the pretense to be objective; the whole point was the underlying belief that every reporter brings subjectivity to bear when they're writing about other people. This doesn't mean that I think attempts at objectivity are completely fruitless, but I think you were dead-on with this statement:

"Somewhere along the line, too, reporters took on the mantle of objectivity, without actually becoming objective, and that somehow breaks the trust with readers in a way that obviously and openly partisan reporting does not."

This is the problem. And I can't tell if some things are just laziness--like when a writer uses the word "claims" to describe someone's statement, does the writer realize the connatation it gives? Or is it like the word "admits", which seems to get attached to all kinds of statements whether or not they have the air of confession about them or not?
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Claims and Admits

Post  VicarJoe on Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:22 pm

Yes, a lot of stuff these days is in the way stories are shaded.

I ranted about this the other day: MSNBC was running footage of a republican senator's town hall meeting, and the footage was that grainy cell phone footage, all wobbly, partly cut off. You know what I mean. And the footage was aired and then commented on as a "gotcha!" moment. The implication was that this footage had been surreptitiously shot at Sen Grassley's town hall, and we were catching him saying something that is incriminating.

Then I flipped over to CNBC and saw the same town hall, but as shot by the regular NBC News camera crew.

Think about that. MSNBC decided to air the surreptitious, shaky, cell phone video and not its own network feed, shot in beautiful hi-def by a professional cameraman.

The medium is the message?
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How bizarre.

Post  cradlerc on Tue Aug 18, 2009 10:03 pm

Burt then, I was thinking very cynically a few minutes ago about how few jobs there are these days that don;t encourage--often overtly--a lack of interety. Some jobs create a weird dualism for people, where to be responsible and committed to your work is also, on some level, to be selling other people out. Some sales positions, for example, or advertising jobs. And at the same time, you're never supposed to say you work so you can make money to support your real life--jobs are about "teambuilding" and "commitment to the vision of the company"--such vision, again, being about how you can manipulate other people.

I know, cynical. I might have been influenced by the layer of filth I was trying to remove from my stupid (white) kitchen floor.

My point is that jounralism seems to be one of those jobs, too. I think the shadiness now just suffuses the entire enterprise.


Last edited by cradlerc on Tue Aug 18, 2009 10:04 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : I had no point, so I tried to add one. How did I do?)
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Ugh, a white kitchen floor

Post  VicarJoe on Wed Aug 19, 2009 7:54 am

We have one of those. Mop, wait ten minutes, repeat, wait ten minutes...

I guess what bothered me, too, about using the "hidden camera" footage when they had the network feed to use was the way it feeds into the conspiratorial ethos of modern politics. Nothing is supposed to be what it seems. Even the people themselves are written off as insincere agents of some hidden paymaster.
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The press seems to be beside itself

Post  cradlerc on Wed Aug 19, 2009 9:46 pm

when it comes to reporting these town hall meetings. I was cracking up at an NPR description this afternoon of a group in Washington--while the reporter conceded (and there I go! But I think it was a concession) that no one got crazy, the paraphrasing of the kids of questions asked betrayed a very befuddled, elitist point of view (again, in my oh so humble opinion).
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And they're highlighting Lyndon Larouche posters

Post  VicarJoe on Thu Aug 20, 2009 8:28 am

with Obama as Hitler, and Larouche question-askers calling Obama a nazi. Like Larouche was ever mainstream or non-lunatic. I see half my facebook friends aren't aware that that stuff is from Larouche, either. The media don't typically identify it.
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Journalism training

Post  SursumCorda on Fri Aug 21, 2009 10:48 am

I attended graduate school in journalism; I have my master's in newspaper and magazine
editing, although as I think I mentioned earlier, or perhaps on the Syracuse forum, I work
almost exclusively in nonfiction, academic textbooks and journal articles.

The program I went to is very highly rated, and I say that not to brag but to give myself
credibility. Most of the graduates go on to very high-ranking positions in the major news
programs and newspapers.

We had it drummed into us for two years that the news media are to make every effort
to be fair and unbiased. (Is anyone choking on his/her coffee?) We had to make every
effort to use equal terms when referring to opposing groups (e.g., pro- or anti- groups),
and our verbs were scrutinized (e.g., "declined" vs. "refused," the use of "admit," etc. -- you
all know what I mean).

I often wonder where, exactly, all this learning goes when people enter the real world of
journalism. It seems to have flown out the window, because I rarely, if ever, see equal
terms used (esp. in regard to abortion), and of course, as CradleRC and Joe have already
pointed out, the use of pejorative verbs is rampant.

Maybe I'm cynical, but this almost seems like a whole-media collusion in favor of liberalism.
If a reporter uses pejorative language, then the copyeditor should modify it. However, this
obviously does not happen in the mainstream media.

I haven't "called" any of my colleagues (who have much more distinguished careers than I do!)
on this, because we're scattered about so far geographically, and we haven't organized any
sort of reunion yet. Someday, though....
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I see more and more

Post  cradlerc on Sat Aug 22, 2009 11:20 pm

and not just in the media, this powerful sense of smug elitism on the left. It's not that the right escapes it, of course; it's not even that I don;t idenitfy with many "lesftist" positions--because I do. But I see it among academics, for example--this completely dismissive attitude towards religion, for example, and the sense of entitlement to the agreement of others, that shocks me, because these are people who should know better.
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I harbor a suspicion

Post  VicarJoe on Mon Aug 24, 2009 9:03 am

but it's only a glimmer of one, that the more the media reports that those folks who are against parts of Obamacare like the public option are just a bunch of liars and dupes and astroturfers, etc., arrogantly dismissing the idea that anyone could reasonably be against such a proposal, the more the proposal sinks in the polls. Basically, my notion is that the arrogance itself is so off-putting, the assumption that anyone in opposition is either a willful liar or a helpless moron so insulting to everyone who things they have rational questions or problems with the thing, that it's backfiring. The more the media tries to "fact check" away any opposition, the more opposition seems to grow.

Separate from the policy proposal itself, it's THAT kind of trend that makes me think that the American people are not so easily cowed by their media overlords as, in my more despairing moments, I worry they are. I think maybe at least some Americans become very aware when something is being shoved down their throats without a real debate, especially independents. I used to think Indies were just an indecisive bunch, but now I think they may just be wary, suspicious of spin, etc. They think to themselves, "I'm not sure I like the idea of government running my healthcare," and then they hear from their newspapers and television news programs that to think that is to be duped by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. And they think, "But I don't listen to him, or watch them...."

The strategy seems to be to embarrass anyone with reservations by lumping them in with mouth breathers and paid hacks. For some people, that will just make them dig in their heels.
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I do hope so.

Post  cradlerc on Mon Aug 24, 2009 11:51 am

I'll be honest and embarrassed--I have no idea how I feel about this health care plan. I find it impossible to find good information on it, though, from objective sources.

But you're right, I don't like the way opponents are being painted in the media--I don't recall that happening when people opposed the Iraq War (which I opposed, so I'm not just crying foul). And it makes me think twice about just swallowing down this health care plan without fully understanding it.
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Health care reform

Post  SursumCorda on Tue Aug 25, 2009 11:10 am

I, too, know very little about the whole health care reform and related issues. It's
so hard to separate the wheat from the chaff in the news media.

I think your most recent post in this thread is right on target, VicarJoe.
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Re: MSM and the internet--a few thoughts

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