Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Problem with Journalists Today

As far as I can tell, there are five different, basic approaches to providing information:

1. You can give the facts without any spin
2. You can characterize the facts in a way that disposes others to believe what you want them to believe about the situation
3. You can just make sh*t up
4. You can pick certain facts and exclude others to give a spin on the situation
5. You can stretch the truth about the situation

Journalists are supposed to do #1. Traditionally, maybe they did, and maybe they didn't. If they didn't, then hopefully they at least tried to do that. Today, few journalists do.

Lawyers are supposed to do #2, and that's what we pay them to do. The right-wing media (by that I mean Fox) also tend to do this. This is fine, however, because people can easily see the bias and read between the lines to find the kernels of truth. And with this approach, the truth is still there.

The Weekly World News does #3. It's fine in this situaiton because everything they "report" is completely fake, and everyone knows it. Occasionally this method seeps into the mainstream media, and it does so more often now that most of the mainstream media outlets seem to be letting bloggers do their research for them. This makes it easy for a blogger to create a hoax, and they do this on a regular basis just to keep the news on their toes.

The media of the 80's and 90's tended to do #4, and this approach probably goes back much further. It's one of the most dangerous methods because it sounds like the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and if you don't hear the story from anywhere else then you will take it as the truth, without any indication otherwise.

The media of today are continually falling into method #5. This is usually the domain of comedians, but the media aren't trying to make you laugh. They're trying to convince you of something that isn't true, like, for example, that New Jersey is two-feet deep in water, or that the body count in NOLA is ten or fifty or a hundred times as high as it really is.

The so-called liberal media use tricks #4 and #5 almost exclusively, and it's dangerous. If you can't find any non-mainstream media outlet (or maybe PBS) that uses method #1, then go with the crazy right-wingers on Fox, because when somebody calls Bush a great man because of what he did today, you can decide for yourself whether to believe that characterization. It's less dangerous simply because it's obvious. Then check out the liberal media to see exactly what it is that they're hiding from you or lying about.

2 comments:

  1. I think you're on to something with this post.

    But I also would like to ask the question: What is it about us -- the consumers of journalistic junk food -- that rewards the journalists for producing the crap they produce?

    What do we have to be willing to do differently?

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  2. The only thing we can do is avoid TV, or perhaps switch to public television. Commercial television depends too much on ratings, and ratings go up when they make the story bigger than it really is.

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