Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Journalism 101

At first glance it will appear that I am going to beat this Cindy Sheehan horse long beyond the point where it's dead, but I want to make some more general comments that stem from Professor Vic and PBryon's observations that are not specific to this particular political theatre.

The more general situation is this: you have a President that you don't like, maybe even hate, who is confronted by a protest or confronted by a criticism that you think has little merit, or is run by crazy loons. But one of your main criticisms of the President that you think is valid is that he is a phoney opportunist, an artist in making people think he's a regular guy, concerned with the everyday people, when the truth is he would sell his mother in a heartbeat if there was a market for old ladies. So when the President does not do some simple phoney act to try to quell an absurd or unwarranted protest or criticism, you criticize the guy for not being enough of a phoney opportunist. Some guys just cannot win.

I'm not picking on PBryon or Professor Vic, because I don't know that they hate the President or have accused him of being a phoney. But surely you see this general pattern in the press coverage of absurd protests led by commie morons. Here is the pattern: cover the protest, but don't show any of the actual protestors; pick out the one or two who look normal and air the one quote in their five minute soliloquy where they make a moderate point, and do your best to get the camera angle just so in a manner where the viewer cannot see the jugular vein bulging out two inches from the speaker's neck.

Now speak of the protest as if it involves a wide swath of people from all reaches of society, just spontaneously gathering to voice their concern; no need to point out the fact that there are actual organizers often involved passing out commie literature (these people are no threat of course, but pointing out how unhinged they are would normally be newsworthy). Generalize from the protest to public opinion across the board. Run this story about ten days, and then take a poll to give you numbers that support the message you've been trying to drive home for ten days. Report the poll right after day 11 coverage of the protest, and puzzle over how out of touch the President is to not respond to their concerns directly, even if it would be in an a transparently phoney manner. Never ever ever ever examine the merit of the protest's claims when they are attacking a guy you like to see getting attacked.

The rules are quite different when the guy being attacked is one you like. In that event, dig up everything you can on the attackers, and let everyone know their connections. "Bill Clinton has faced criticism from Joe Rockhead that seems to be taking a political toll on his administration, but do we know the real Joe Rockhead?" What follows is a string of loose associations, culminating in a acquaintance with a guy who once went to college with a woman who had a friendship with a guy who was once in line at Starbuck's behind Karl Rove, and we'll leave it to you to connect the nefarious dots ...

In other words, when the story is adverse to one of them, they'll tell you exactly why the story is suspect (usually on the basis of who is telling it rather than its merit as truth), or they might ignore it, but they'll certainly ignore anyone who is buying the story. When the story is a bad one harming one of us, but is one that is being bought wholesale by a bunch of people, simply report the fact that the people are buying it, and ignore the fact that they might be buying a load of crap. Thus, we get the Swift Boat Vets, ignored by the mainstream press until Kerry felt like he had to respond, versus Farenheit 911, and all of the speculation about how (with fingers crossed under the view of the camera) the film might swing the electorate.

So make up your mind - if he's a political phoney, don't fault him in the one instance where he's not being a political phoney.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Hatcher and I must have watched/read different coverage of WTO & World Bank protests.

That coverage typically involved highlighting the potential violence, interviewing one early 20-something with 15 piercings and showing the most extreme poster. None of that coverage ever mentioned the substance of the protesters' message. There was no "liberal bias" in that coverage. It was simply the coverage that was easiest to report and most likely to bring in viewers.

That was the mass media does. It boils complex issues down to simple messages that are likely to attract the most viewers. If there is a bias, it's a bias to the lowest common denominator.

AQ

1:33 PM  
Blogger pbryon said...

I agree with Anonymous AQ. The Media does controversy because controversy and conflict is what sells.

I don't know if you call Limbaugh and Hannity journalists or not, but they're certainly taking up the slack in digging things up on the attackers.

And the worst part is that real journalism is going right out the window. Much of the information that gets used by both sides--no matter what the issue--is stuff that's being dug up/fabricated/spun by others, spoonfed to the heads that appear on TV and radio, and turned around and reported to us.

And don't get me started on the herd mentality in journalism today--what one station reports, it appears that ALL must report.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Jim O said...

"political phoney" is redundant.

"unbiased journalism" is an oxymoron.

"government of the people, for the people, and by the people" is more and more becoming a pipe dream, unless you are in control of vast amounts of money suitable for funding political ads.

And even simple issues are getting swarmed by associated and unassociated counter-issues, which makes everything so complex that the average person does not want to think about them, let alone discuss them.

Even in this blog post and the subsequent comments, Bush and Sheehan has been transmogrified to Bush, Clinton, Sheehan, Kerry, the Swift Boat Vets, the WTO, the World Bank. and finally, poor Joe Rockhead, former vice president of the Water Buffalo Lodge and friend to Fred and Barney.

The issue is Bush and Sheehan. Keep to the issue.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hatch's points about media bias made sense about ten years ago. They do not apply today.

The FCC used to apply a "Fairness Doctrine" to all broadcast news. The idea was that equal time had to be applied to all points of view.

This made it almost impossible to voice any real political opinion on broadcast media. If the broadcaster voiced anything remotely close to an opinion, any nutjob could demand equal time for his rantings.

The FCC abandoned the fairness doctrine right about the time that FOX News and talk radio took off. Without the burdens of the Fairness Doctrine, broadcasters were free to voice opinion making Fox News possible.

Also, we now have cable, talk radio, and the internet, giving everyone a voice in the marketplace of ideas. The "Liberal Media" now must compete with millions of people like Hatch for the minds of the American People.

I think it was fair to point to a liberal bias in the media while the FCC enforced the Fairness Doctrine and brocasting was dominated by three players. Now, however, with Fox News, talk radio, and even Hatch's Blog competing in the marketplace of ideas, I do not think conservatives can point to a liberal bias in the media any more than liberals can point to a "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy".

4:45 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

Hold the phone there, I wasn't claiming widespread media bias. Maybe my post was ill-titled. My point, poorly made apparently, is that there is a decision about what is newsworthy, and that most often it is a poor one. It may be that liberal protestors are just better at exploiting the poor instincts of the mass media in this area, I'll grant that.

And don't forget that Joe Rockhead was the head of the Joe Rockhead Volunteer Fire Department.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

Remember how I said I feel bad for Cindy Sheehan's loss? Well, that's been diminished by this point. She calls terrorists "freedom fighters" and our own soldiers killers of innocent Muslims.

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2005/8/24/90434.shtml

Her son must be rolling in his grave.

11:18 AM  

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