Skip to comments.The Market for Conservative-Based News
Posted on 11/14/2007 7:44:30 AM PST by conservatism_IS_compassion
Is there any such animal as "conservative-based news?" IMHO there is not. At least, not that goes under the banner of "news."
In the Founding Era, newspapers were different from what we are used to today. Technologically, their inputs were more expensive and their output was very slow and meager. And they were all addressing small, local markets. They were mostly weeklies, and some had no deadline at all - the printer just went to press when he was good and ready. And they did not have telegraphed news.
IOW, the newspapers of the founding era were pretty much like the local freebie advertising weeklies we see today - which don't do national/international newswire stories because the presumption is that the customer has seen all that on TV, heard it on the radio, or seen it on the Internet just as quickly as the local printer saw it.
The linchpin of the difference between the modern journalist and the newspaper printer of the eighteenth century is that the modern journalist has the AP newswire - that is, his stock in trade is what he "magically" knows with amazing 200-year old technology which you do not know until he tells you. But of course the "amazing" newswire cannot hold a candle to the Internet, so the niche of the Associated Press newswire is by now an anachronism.
The AP, founded in 1848 as The New York Associated Press, aggressively monopolized the use of the telegraph to transmit news. And that raised the serious question of whether such a concentration of propaganda power was not dangerous to the republic. . . . now where have I heard that issue before? Oh yes, I remember - it came up when radio transmission was licensed by the FCC. And what was the answer then? Oh yeah - "Don't worry about a thing - we don't have any axe to grind, we are all objective journalists here." Well, it turns out that that argument, such as it is, was precisely what was used to justify the monopolistic Associated Press news service.
The claim of objectivity actually is an assault on the very premise that the public is competent to govern its own affairs and, via the "fairness doctrine" and more recently via "campaign finance reform," on the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press of those not "in the know" by virtue of being privy to the newswire. The claim of objectivity is essentially indistinguishable, as far as I can see, from a claim of wisdom - and arguing from a claim of superior wisdom is the essence of sophistry ("soph" being Greek for "wisdom").
That being the case, we-the-people have the right and the duty to assign the burden of proof for anyone's claim of objectivity squarely on the shoulders of the claimant. That is, we should not be embarrassed by their begging the question but should demand that they prove their case. Even were their claim true, of course, that is an impossible case to prove - essentially an attempt to prove a negative - but that does not suffice as an argument to prove that it is true. It even leaves open the possibility that proof that it is untrue could exist.
Yet how can we know if a fresh report, hot off the wire, is or is not objective? We actually cannot - but there is no necessary reason why that should be the criterion which we choose for judging claimed objectivity. We can wait. We can judge the stories which once were "hot off the wire" in the light of history. We can apply the biblical standard for testing authority:
"When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:22, New American Standard Bible (©1995)
By the standard of the light of history, whole books can be written on the fact that journalism is not objective. See, for example, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right by Ann Coulter. Also see, Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case by Stuart Taylor , KC Johnson. Another classic case of journalism run amok is the fraudulent "Killian Memos" promoted by Dan Rather and CBS News and never outted as a blatant fraud by the rest of "objective" journalism, a mountain of damning evidence notwithstanding.
And that last point illustrates how Big Journalism - Associated Press journalism - manipulates the public discourse. The system is quite simple - if some fact is not congenial to the worldview of the journalist, Big Journalism systematically stonewalls that fact and/or raises the standard of proof for that fact to the unattainable level of metaphysical certainty. As long as Big Journalism is able to control the standard of proof, the fatuous conceit that Big Journalism is objective will be unassailable. The fact that it has no basis in fact is irrelevant.
The question is, "Is there any significant venue in which Big Journalism does not control the standard of proof?" There are two possible avenues. First, the Internet has been eroding the business model of the Associated Press. The logical conclusion of which is that Big Journalism no longer has any real niche of information unavailable to the rest of us. The Wizard of Oz is being exposed as a mere mortal behind a curtain. Besides FR and the rest of the Internet, there is Rush and the rest of Talk Radio. And ultimately, the composition of SCOTUS remaining unchanged or improving, there is hope of success in not merely turning back further impositions such as McCain-Feingold and the revival of the Fairness Doctrine but of overturning McCain itself.
In any court case touching on the objectivity of journalism, the issue of the Clarence Thomas - Anita Hill hearing and the objectivity of Justice Thomas could be raised. But to raise that question against Justice Thomas would be to turn the issue on its head. The question is not, or certainly not so much, whether Thomas can be objective seeing that he does not read the newspapers as it is whether any of the other justices can be objective seeing that the do read the newspapers. If SCOTUS can hear the issue fairly, there is no question that the First Amendment not only does not assure that journalism generally and Big Journalism as we know it specifically is objective. The First Amendment forbids the government to require journalism to be objective.
Another question which naturally arises is, "What is the alternative to the status quo of journalism?" The status quo is, as I have pointed out, that journalism is:
- motivated by a common interest - the interest of promoting talk, and their position at the peak of the propaganda power pyramid. That means that journalism naturally tends to denigrate action and promote criticism. When Theodore Roosevelt noted that "it is not the critic who counts," he could have been looking straight at the press gallery.
- unified. It is Big Journalism; its members are linked via the Associated Press and by their common agenda noted above. Questions could rightly be raised about conspiracy in restraint of trade.
- Prone to sophistry. The question is not, "Why should they" engage in sophistry; the question is why anyone would assume that they would not engage in it.
There is a classical reaction to the position the Sophist. "You claim to be wise, and presume to denigrate anyone whose supposedly inferior wisdom you can ridicule. But you cannot prove your own wisdom, and your claim is therefore arrogant. I do not claim to be wise, but I admit that there is such a thing as wisdom and truth, and I am open to facts and logic because I love wisdom." The Greek word for someone who loves wisdom is philo (brotherly love) soph (wisdom, again) - "philosopher."
Who then is the sophist, and who the philosopher? Anyone who uses an advantage of power to control the debate and keep certain facts off the table (in the style of the "objective" journalist) is a sophist. Anyone who eschews ad hominem attacks and other propagandistic techniques, and who is open to the facts and logic pointed out from any quarter, is a philosopher. Your average FReeper, lacking any ability to control the debate, must perforce be a philosopher.
Of course the moderators of FR, and Jim Robinson, are in a position to be able to control the debate on FR, and actually they do. But their control extends only to FR in particular, and not the Internet generally - let alone to any of the so-called "mainstream media." And FR succeeds as a forum because in fact the moderators are not interested in manipulating the discussion but in appealing to what is in America conventionally called a "conservative" audience. Likewise Rush Limbaugh and the rest are in a position to be able to be what Rush calls "a benevolent dictator" of what is said on their shows. And likewise, those shows succeed or fail as they exercise that power in such a way as to appeal to a wide audience, or fail to.
Rush calls his format "the long form," by which he obviously means that the format does not depend on hit and run tactics. "The News" by contrast is a very stylized, stilted view. You are basically given the word, whether you like it or not. Nothing is on the table for discussion. Rush on the other hand takes calls, and debates with callers. His listeners would hear it if he were being manipulative with his callers, and he succeeds because his listeners do not hear that. A talk show host who allows a wide range of views to be expressed, and who focuses that discussion on current affairs, is addressing the "market for conservative-based news."
You are right-—Lincoln did co—opt the AP, but the change was broader (obviously, the Confederate news services were doing it too). And Leonard’s history of newspapers, “News For All,” suggests that change was slower and less far-reaching still. Even after the CW, for example, you still had the “penny press”/”yellow press” which MOSTLY covered scandal and crime, but was still anything but “objective.”
Steve Boriss frequently mentions the late Walter Lippmann as a proponent of a failed notion of objective, fact based, scientific (if you please) journalism. Boriss recently commented on the veracity of journalism's formalized ethics.
Octogenarian Helen Thomas, known by some as the "Dean of the White House press corps," whined the other day that "bloggers and everyone...with a laptop thinks they're journalists...They don't have our ethics." Given that journalism never established itself as a true profession with features such as governing bodies, licensing procedures, continuing education requirements, or an official code of ethics, it’s fair to ask what exactly are the ethics that journalists practice that the rest of us don’t. Sure, you can find some lists that purport to be codes of ethics from journalism enterprises like the Society of Professional Journalists or the NY Times. But if you actually take the time to read them, you will see that they are completely useless in day-to-day newsroom decision-making, providing virtually no firm definitions of clear violations, other than obvious abuses like plagiarism and fabrications that any blogger concerned about his reputation and credibility would follow.
In fact, several ethical principles that many bloggers follow simply because they are decent human beings are frequently violated by the mainstream media. Let’s start with an obvious one — do not break the law. The NY Times is actually proud when it shares classified information. It defends its behavior not upon whether it may harm the country, but on the tautology that the public has a “right to know” — which is always conveniently whatever the Times wants to publish. Do nothing to encourage criminal behavior? Too bad that NBC didn’t have that ethical rule handy when they decided to show footage of the VA Tech sniper presenting himself as a heroic martyr. How about treat your news subjects as if they are innocent until proven guilty? Tell that to the Duke lacrosse team. Respect the privacy of the grieving? Here’s an article (see bottom paragraph) where the Times admits to being the first to tell an aunt, already grieving from the 9/11 death of her pilot brother, that her niece died, helpfully adding “She burst into tears on the phone and would not comment further.”
Admit, correct, and apologize for errors immediately and publicly? We’re still waiting for Dan Rather to come clean on the forged memo about President Bush’s service in the Texas National Guard. Courageously expose evil? CNN’s Eason Jordan admitted to covering-up Saddam Hussein’s atrocities to keep his Baghdad bureau open. And, that’s actually better than the NY Times’ Walter Duranty who, without remorse, accepted a Pulitzer Prize for stories that covered-up the millions of Ukranian lives snuffed-out by Stalin.
As usual, you keep your eye on the ball and inspire a good discussion! Thanks.
Great post, should be posted as an article on FR.
You are right-Lincoln did coopt the AP, but the change was broader (obviously, the Confederate news services were doing it too).
Not only so, but southern states had been restricting the deployment of telegraph lines long before the Civil War. There simply weren't that many telegraph lines in the South. Hardly any, compared to the North.
I haven’t seen these #s, but it would be interesting to find out the total # of telegraph miles in the U.S. in 1860.
I also agree that a better way to go is a "biased" partisan press so that people can make up their own minds. However, I do think journalism went through a period of about 100 years (1860-1960) where the majority of reporters and editors tried to be "objective" and adopted codes of conduct to try to ensure objectivity (always get more than one witness; get the other side of the story; no unsourced stories; etc.) In other words, I do think for a while most reporters attempted to be "fair and balanced" and "objective." Whether they succeeded is a different question.
One of the problems is that if you ALWAYS get the "other side of the story," it does introduce the notion that there always IS another "side of the story." What was the other side of the story to the Holocaust? Should we "get Hitler's take?" In other words, it legitimizes falsity.
What it actually legitimizes, IMHO, is the smuggling in of the reporter's own perspective on the issue, framed as "objectivity." And IMHO that not only is not actual objectivity, it is the very definition of subjectivity, the very opposite of what we supposedly can take for granted from journalists.
Hence the conundrum that FoxNews faces with its "fair and balanced" refrain. The dilemma, I suppose is, is there a better slogan; maybe drop the balanced??? The MAJOR problem arises when any news agency/reporter/humble correspondent has to deal with whoppers! I've stated this before, but I think it bears repeating. It's akin to and old saw from Mark Twain; something like: "A lie travels halfway around the world while the truth is putting its socks on!"
"Whoppers", if not dealt with immediately, are able to begin their journey without so much as a dumb look from most journalists. Rebuttals, when and if finally rendered, rarely seem to carry the same weight as the original terminological inexactitude, with some rare exceptions. The journalist, if inclined, who doesn't have facts, figures, charts, graphs, etc. at his fingertips to confront the charlatan is automatically at a disadvantage. The liars know this and use it to their advantage to achieve their goal -- misleading the unwashed.
I suspect fully one third of the electorate, if they pay any attention at all, are cheering on these frauds they call their leaders. They believe as their leaders do that the ends justifies the means -- it's for the common good doncha know.
That said, we should use the information and knowldege base we gain here on FR and elsewhere and somehow concentrate our efforts in educating the people on the fence; the probably 15 - 20% of the population that doesn't have any particular axe to grind, but want to actually do what's right for the country, for themselves and their posterity. Preaching to the choir is not a bad thing because it reinforces and supports the message we need to carry to our work, church, social groups, etc.
He shows that attempting to separate "facts" from "values," whether in history or journalism, is impossible, and that "objectivity" was one response---but the other was outright bias against the "status quo," whether it was society, tradition, or whatever. In part, then, that explains the inbred liberalism of reporters.
You might carry that a step further and include editors, managers, and even owners? Without the complicity of management and, at best, the apathy of owners, the bleeding hearts would never write a news article or editorial for publication. In defense of owners, they were milking the cash cow for all it was worth - if it ain't broke; don't fix it. When the wheels started falling off, they were left without a clue why. That is, the anti-everything-good-about-America manure they had allowed their charges to spread around the country AND the world.
Ever wonder why there are two things you're not supposed to talk about at work - religion and politics?
These are absolutely irrelevant to the moguls who run these companies. Even if they say differently, they don't mind subsidizing a "progressive" news outlet at the cost of a few million a year---which they siphon from their much more profitable enterprises---if it allows them to go to their cocktail parties and golf games and appear "with it," "concerned" and not part of the "right wing" establishment. So here is an example of where Marx was clearly wrong: they constantly go against their "class interest" because they would rather fit in socially than make more money or even beat the competitors.
As for "whoppers" and "fair and balanced," what is wrong with "Truthful?" "Honest?" "Accurate?" Presenting ALL sides may include the "right answer," but it also ensures several "wrong answers" will also get an airing. Why not endeavor beforehand to find out the truth, and report ONLY that? Jesus never gave Satan "equal time."
I havent seen these #s, but it would be interesting to find out the total # of telegraph miles in the U.S. in 1860.
As I say I'm not exactly sure which of my two references contains it, but one of those references shows a map put out by the Census Bureau in the mid-1800s - and while the North shows up as a veritable cobweb of telegraph lines, the South had one major line up the east coast - and little if anything else.
The South didn't want it, for ideological reasons. They didn't even allow railroads to cross state lines. And, BTW, railroads were the "killer app" of telegraphy - railroads owned right of way which they could provide to the telegraph company for free, and the telegraph company had the ability to send valuable messages of command and control of the railroads as their top-priority traffic, also for free.
someone (don't think you) gleefully reports the "death" of the "Dinsaur media" based on falling subscriptions, viewership, or profits.
Ping to abb and Milhous.These are absolutely irrelevant to the moguls who run these companies. Even if they say differently, they don't mind subsidizing a "progressive" news outlet at the cost of a few million a year---which they siphon from their much more profitable enterprises---if it allows them to go to their cocktail parties and golf games and appear "with it," "concerned" and not part of the "right wing" establishment.
I think that the truth of that observation is limited - IMHO the leftism of journalism is explicable in terms of economics, and that the leftism of journalism is what makes leftism the easy way to get along in politics. Take away the profitability of journalism, and IMHO the barriers to entry of competitors will be equalized. Most especially when (Congressman Billybob assures us it's not if, with the current composition of SCOTUS) McConnell v. FEC gets overturned and McCain-Feingold falls.
Reverend Sun Myung Moon losing a few million to subsidize a boutique operation such as the Washington Times is one thing. Losing tens of billions of dollars at an accelerating pace is quite another. Greed eventually constrains billionaire ego. Zell bought the Tribune Company to try to profit while riding it into oblivion.
But that they are dying is not arguable, by any reasonable measure. Broadcast - both news and entertainment - is funded by advertising and always will be. Advertisers pay broadcasters for the number of eyeballs (or ears) that will view their sales pitch. Eyeballs are leaving broadcast television and broadcast newspapers. The numbers are undeniable. Broadcast's business model that has worked for the past 75-100 years or so is gone forever.
As far as funding news operations as loss leaders so as to appear PC, I'll agree that is happening now. But no business can afford to do this indefinitely. Within a very short time, television networks will be just another url on the internet competing against millions of others. Large metropolitan newspapers will be gone, with a few exceptions.
What business model in the future will support the new information distribution system is not known. I sure don't know.
But I think the internet is as much of a change agent as was the invention of movable type by Gutenberg. Information is power. Centralized control of information is power. Much as Gutenberg's Bible helped spawn Protestantism, the internet will democratize information sharing and education.
I think it is progress.
so it plans a buyback of $30 million.
Then again, one man's truth is another man's trash? To coin a phrase ;^)
Also, add to the equation, some time ago(who knows when?) some in the journalism community discovered sensationalism sells newspapers. And later, broadcast discovered a similar phenomenon. WHO of the journalism industry were the most likely candidates to pursue the attention getting stories? Limp wristed bleeding hearts or conservatives? WHO were likely the better at creative writing? That is, add a little pizzaz to a story to make it better? Conservatives? I don't think so.
Capture the industry; capture the audience, then feed them what will actually keep them dazed and confused. Throw in some warm and fuzzies about big government being available to tackle their delicate condition and voila. In other words, just buy the soap and hamburgers and let "us" handle things.
If that were true, you would already be seeing SOME erosion of the drive-bys. I don’t see it. It’s true we have now a conservative media, and the drive-bys no longer get away with their lies. But in terms of any of them “going away,” show me the evidence. Where is the CBS News that has folded? The WaPo that has closed its doors?
I think you guys keep expecting them to have to show a profit, whereas I contend that their purpose is to act as propaganda mechanisms for the Dems, so it will won't matter how long they lose money.
Heck, the CIA supported Greenview Press for decades while it lost money, because that wasn't the purpose: the purpose was to turn out favorable studies for the U.S.
There is truth to some of that; but the partisan press of the 1840s/50s was not concerned in the least with advancing God's kingdom, only that of Andrew Jackson! It is not debatable, though, that today's journalists, as shown by survey after survey, are non-religious to the extreme. (The last survey I saw showed that only 8% of journalists go to church or synagogue on a regular basis).
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