The Structure of Conventional Journalism is Wrong

This link is to a rambling but interesting discussion, which crystallized some thoughts for me.

I have been thinking some about the failure of modern journalism.  Yep failure.  In every one of the biggest stories of the past nearly 10 years, I think modern journalism has blown it.  Clinton Impeachment, The War on Terror, Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, etc.

How?  Because the structure of journalism is wrong.  The conventional practice is to essentially be a recorder of events.  Tell the story.  Balance is of course required, and so we have lots of "he said" and "she said." 

It is considered wrong, and not the province of news reporting to then go the next step and say, "well, what he said is only partially true and what she said is false in the following respects as well." 

There are a number of defects in this approach but two that stand out.  The first is, that by taking this so called "neutral" perspective, the profession fails at one of its essential missions -- contributing towards an informed polity.  

A balanced report with quotes from both sides cedes public opinion to the better spinmeister.  The public is not in a position to hold newsmakers accountable to the facts -- we have day jobs -- but journalists are.  Sticking strictly to "he said, she said" leaves the public without any help in parsing the spin to get to the truth, and so the better spin just wins.

The second failure is in serving the reader/audience.  Help!  I am drowning in information, and much of it is based on original source material created by people with a definite agenda.  I need a professional to help me parse it.  Sticking strictly to "he said, she said" doesn't' help me.  

This sounds like the same point twice, but it isn't.  The first problem is that the better spin wins, the second is that it isn't serving the customer's needs.

How do I know what the customer's needs are?  Well I don't, but I look at the success of Fox News, or the Daily Show, and I think, "hmmm... Maybe people want something more than just neutral reportage."

I'm not suggesting a left leaning alternative to Fox News.  Instead what I am suggesting is that mainstream media embrace the notion that it has to fairly, and without bias, hold newsmakers accountable to facts and history.  Perhaps this is analysis -- so what.  It's the right thing to do to serve the primary mission of the profession, and its smart business to meet customers needs.

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Another Media Punk-Out

Representative John Conyers committee just came out with a published report detailing twenty-six constitutional violations and legal abuses by the Bush administration. (Constitution in Crisis)
Have you seen anything about it on the networks or on cable news? I haven't. A major crisis we're facing in this country is the irresponsibilty of the media, occasioned by their "corporate entanglements." Americans, in effect, have lost their main source of objective information and critical commentary. Whatever Bush and his cohorts do is made to seem "feasible" by
the media- as though it were just "politics as usual." It's as though a raging fire were blazing and people just sat around discussing the relative merits of heat vs. cold instead of dousing the flames with water. Regarding the Conyers' report some of the progressive websites have petitions to the media going around addressing their silence regarding the report. Or you can send your own emails to organizations like CNN, MSNBC, etc.
We need to start making a lot of noise about the media's irresponsibility- about this issue and in general.

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'Liberal Media' Myth Goes 'Scientific'

From My Left Wing

Nothing is more crucial to the right wing than the myth of "liberal media bias." It is, quite simply, a one-size-fits-all, best-defense-is-good-offense response to anything that threatens to get in their way.  Witness Bush's attempt to shift blame to the New York Times for (very belatedly) spilling the beans on his wanton lawbreaking with countless illegal wiretaps.

The problem is, the myth, for all its propaganda power, is just that--a myth.  Which is why there's a crying need to dress it up as "fact."  Conservatives have been trying to do this for quite some time, with unconvincing results, to say the least. But now they've upped their ante with a new study promoted by UCLA's media office, in a press release ("Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA Political Scientist") that could have been written by a rightwing think tank.  And the study itself, it appears, virtually was, despite the fact that one of two co-authors--Tim Groseclose--is a UCLA professor.  It's already getting out there in the rightwing blogosphere, so let's do some debunking, shall we?

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