Skip to comments.Newsrooms under siege
Posted on 09/09/2004 7:31:10 AM PDT by ZGuy
News is a messy and elusive form of information. Journalism is crude, tentative and fumbling, always involving compromise, and there's a healthy measure of give-and-take in the process.
But anybody who enters the profession makes a core commitment to do his or her best to determine and tell the truth. And that commitment is now under assault.
The attack doesn't come from ideologically committed journalists and commentators who put together reports clearly selected and spun-dry to sell a political line. As long as such writers retain some minimal respect for fact, the transparency of their motives may even work to enrich the variety of information and interpretations available to all.
The more compelling danger concerns news organizations in the so-called mainstream. These are the country's best-staffed and most influential news organizations, and they're losing their nerve.
I understand why. It's hard now even to write for publication without being aware of just how thoroughly what you say is going to be inspected for any trace of undesirable political tilt and denounced by a free-floating cadre of rightist warriors.
If that's apparent to me as a mere columnist, I can only imagine the current mind-set of supervising editors: If we give prominence to this story of carnage in Iraq, will we be accused of anti-administration bias? And - here it gets interesting - will we therefore owe our readers an offsetting story, perhaps an inspirational tale of Marines teaching young Iraqis how to play softball?
Now, both stories may well be integral to the news. If so, both should be told. The problem arises when the pressure to tell the softball story comes not from a principled desire to deliver a factual account that is broadly emblematic of significant happenings in Iraq, but from a gutless attempt to buy off a hostile and suspicious fragment of the audience base.
News then becomes a negotiation - not a negotiation among discordant pictures of reality, as it always is, but an abject negotiation with a loud and bullying sliver of the audience. News of great significance becomes not an honest attempt to reflect genuinely contradictory realities, but a daily bargaining session with an increasingly factionalized public, a corrupted process in which elements of the news become offerings - payments really - in a kind of intellectual extortion.
The performance of this country's finest news organizations in the run-up to the Iraq invasion of March 2003 will be remembered as a disgrace. To be sure, it was an angry, fearful time, when independent-minded reporting might not have been heard above the drumbeats of patriotism and war. But it's hard to read the hand-wringing confessionals from news organizations that now realize that they got the prewar story wrong without concluding that the real problem was they were afraid to tell the truth.
Resisting undue outside influence is part of what news professionals do. But it's hard enough to get the story right, without holding it hostage to an open-ended negotiation with zealots who believe they already know what the story is.
"Rightest warriors". And proud of it.
"But it's hard enough to get the story right, without holding it hostage to an open-ended negotiation with zealots who believe they already know what the story is."
The leftist zealots in the press have been doing this for years unchecked.
Translation in Kerryspeak: "How dare you commoners question what we tell you?"
Great post. Journalists are beginning to whine. "WAAAAAHHH....WWWAAAAHHH.... I'm being forced to be truthful and balanced". Thank God for computers and the internet. Liberal lies and liars are being spotted and counterattacked almost instantly.
Absolutely, if you insist on using words like "carnage".
We "rightest warriors" want the news to be reported "right" as in CORRECT, HONEST and UNBIASED. Apparently some newsrooms think that is too much to ask. That's okay. We "rightest warriors" will just keep getting our news from the internet and watching FNC for fair and balanced news.
This sounds like a buggy whip maker bemoaning that new fangled horseless carriage Mr. Ford was pimping.
I am a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (in the late 1970s), and while there I was amazed at the extent to which the students and faculty parroted the conventional wisdom of the media (at the time, the students all seemed to believe that Ayatolla Khomenei was a would-be Jeffersonian Democrat who would bring a new era of peace to the world).
This columnist can be pinioned by his own example. Why would the softball game be part of the news? Why wouldn't it be news? Herbert Gans wrote a book called "Deciding what's News", but it really doesn't begin to answer the question. The fact is, the mainstream media (and all other media, for that matter) decide what's news by instinctive feel within very general guidelines.
This journalist wants to be one of the high priests in the temple, making decisions that no mere commoner can fathom. The fact is, this kind of failed elitism is what has brought the mainstream media to the state they are in today.
I don't believe that the bloggers whom he refers to are right-wing as much as they are appalled by the important information that does not get reported, and by the way that other stories are portrayed. They started as a reaction to the failures of the media to cover stories from a fair and balanced perspective. As the mainstream media, led, I believe, by Pinch Sulzberger's New York Times, dug in their heels, the bloggers have discovered that they can function as a source of news themselves.
Moreover, where Free Republic stands head and shoulders over even the best of the webloggers, is that it has a democratic self-correcting mechanism -- the threads. People here have a real instinct for what is news. When an article is posted, other FReepers will read it carefully for bias and comment on any unfair word usage, prejudiced selection of information or other spin. If there is an outright inaccuracy in the article, FReepers will jump all over it to correct the mistakes. What we are doing here is a transparent collection and dissemination of the news in real time.
It is the failure of the mainstream media to recognize their own biases, coupled with the availability of alternative sources of news (and interactive participation) in weblogs and Free Republic, that is killing the media. Today, even if the media were to turn overnight into a fair and balanced vehicle, I think it is too late. By their failures, they have created a viable alternative to their closed system, and information flow will never be the same.
That's not newsworthy? It's only an "offsetting story" to placate the "rightist warriors"?
Americans liberating Iraqis IS the story. The fixation on "carnage" is background noise.
Oh, quit the dramatics. CNN admitted that they spiked the truth about atrocities in Iraq. Thus, they didn't report the story anyway! I mean how hard was that? And, one more time, the consumers understand that there is no need to trust the MSM anymore since the MSM spins the truth or suppresses it to favor the Democrats. So you can just do as the great Mama T advises - "Shove it."
Where's the BARF ALERT?
Rightest warriors". And proud of it."....ditto
Until they wake up they wil continue their march towards irrelevance.
If that were only the case
but a daily bargaining session with an increasingly factionalized public
Bargaining? It should come down to which side can provide the facts to support their assertions, and not relying on the lies of ommission to make one's point.
What a pantload.
I won't be satisfied until newsrooms are under siege from heavy weaponry.
And a blogger is limited to his own personal knowledge and experience. FR has thousands of very informed persons, and you can take almost any subject and you will have FR posters who have personal and/or expert knowledge of the subject. And differences of opinion and variances of facts are tried in a very public court on the threads. That is where FR is vastly superior to the blogs and the MSM.