Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: The Media (page 3 of 6)

The White House’s problem with Fox News

The brilliant John Scalzi offers his opinion on why the White House is publicly feuding with Fox News, but I don’t think he’s got it quite right. Here’s what he says:

Which makes it a low-risk ideological foil for the White House. Follow: The White House says Fox News is not a real news organization and is the propaganda arm of the GOP, Fox News throws a very public shit fit about it, which gives it higher ratings and an impetus to skew even more to the right in its presentation, and go out of its way to criticize Obama even further. Meanwhile the noise is all covered by multiple other news outlets, which in aggregate reach a much larger audience, which show Fox News anchors and personalities in the middle of ideological conniptions, confirming to the general population the proposition that, indeed, Fox News is more interested in politics than news, and reinforcing the impression that Fox News and the GOP are reading off the same page. Which makes the GOP look unreasonable in an era in which its popularity isn’t, shall we say, spectacular to begin with. To what end? Well, you might have heard there’s a health care debate going on.

I do think this is why the White House picked a fight with Rush Limbaugh earlier in the year, but I think there’s something else going on. Fox News’ purpose is to produce propaganda that reinforces the views of its audience. Lately they have taken to not only selectively reporting news to suit their agenda, but also creating news. They have gone all in on the tea party spectacle, for example. They worked with “protesters” who disrupted the August town halls and gave them massive exposure. Then something started happening — a lot of other media outlets started asking whether they were out of touch with the “angry White American” movement and needed to give it more attention. All of the media outlets started giving a disproportionate amount of attention to the town hall idiocy, even though there were town halls going on all over the country that didn’t include hecklers.

So I think what the White House wants is to remind everyone, especially everyone else in the press, that the crap Fox News flings is not real news. They don’t need to cover stories just because Fox News is covering them, and certainly they don’t need to cover stories that Fox News is ginning up. That’s the reason behind the White House is calling Fox News out — they can afford for Fox News to be what it is, but they don’t want the New York Times or CNN to factor the priorities of Fox News into their own editorial judgement.

Fox News is not a news outlet

Looks like the mainstream outlets are beginning to acknowledge what’s been obvious for a long time — Fox News is not a legitimate news organization. When they went all in as a network on organizing, promoting, and endlessly covering the “tea party” movement, they jumped the shark. They’ve been biased in an obvious and embarrassing fashion for a long time, but that was the moment that (to me) they committed to manufacturing news rather than simply reporting it. I’m glad the Obama administration has seemingly cut them off.

It’s a great time to be a news junkie

Matthew Yglesias has a very smart post on the news business that really captures the problem for people in the news business. Mainly, that the Web and Google are bad for the news business, but not really bad for people following the news. I honestly don’t know how good the national news coverage is in my local paper, much less the international news, but I really don’t care. The local paper does a good job on local issues, and for national and international news, I have the New York Times, the BBC, and whatever washes up on Google News. If I want to know what’s going on in Israel, I read papers from Israel. The structure of the news business that’s going away made sense when you had to go to the library to read national papers, but in this day and age, I can read anybody’s local paper. I’m with Yglesias, now is the best time ever to be a news junkie.

Christopher Kimball on the demise of Gourmet

Cooks Illustrated editor Christopher Kimball laments the demise of Gourmet in a New York Times op-ed today. Unfortunately, in the process of reminding us what was good about Gourmet, he decides to case aspersions of the darned old Internet along the way:

The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up. They can no longer be coronated; their voices have to be deemed essential to the lives of their customers. That leaves, I think, little room for the thoughtful, considered editorial with which Gourmet delighted its readers for almost seven decades.

To survive, those of us who believe that inexperience rarely leads to wisdom need to swim against the tide, better define our brands, prove our worth, ask to be paid for what we do, and refuse to climb aboard this ship of fools, the one where everyone has an equal voice. Google “broccoli casserole” and make the first recipe you find. I guarantee it will be disappointing. The world needs fewer opinions and more thoughtful expertise — the kind that comes from real experience, the hard-won blood-on-the-floor kind. I like my reporters, my pilots, my pundits, my doctors, my teachers and my cooking instructors to have graduated from the school of hard knocks.

I’m not sure why I’m linking to this, the latest in a huge long line of ignorant straw man arguments against blogs (and now, Twitter) by people whose lofty perch is threatened by the democratization of the media. In response to his argument, I’d make three points:

  1. There are a lot of people who’ve been able to build an audience by exhibiting real expertise and great writing ability on the Web who would probably have never gotten that opportunity anywhere else.
  2. There are a lot of so-called experts whose lack of insight and effort has not prevented them from being published and promoted in traditional outlets.
  3. 90% of everything is crap. Yes, it’s easy to find crap on the Internet, but it’s easy to find crap everywhere.

Enough with the ACORN crap

Columbia Journalism Review has a great interview with Rick Perlstein explaining why the media shouldn’t be all over the ACORN story. In short, conservatives want to raise ACORN’s profile because they are embarrassing. If you can get people to equate ACORN and the White House, then any dirt you dig up on ACORN tars the President by association. The current ACORN mania really isn’t any different than the repeated attempts to equate Barack Obama with Bill Ayers during the campaign.

Useful media criticism

Matt Thompson wrote a really good blog post a few weeks ago that I didn’t link to because I assumed everybody saw it, The 3 key parts of news stories you usually don’t get. It explains why people can watch the news on TV or read the newspaper and still not really understand the issues of the day. The argument is that the media tends to cover what’s happening right now without providing useful context or explaining the significance of the news.

I wanted to go back and link to Thompson’s article because it provides useful context for Matthew Yglesias’ explanation of why this is a big problem:

The bias toward process stories is not ideological in its intent, but it’s strongly ideological in its impact. Creating public confusion and ignorance while obscuring what’s really happening tends to favor elites versus people of modest means, it favors the status quo over change, it favors insiders over outsiders, and it favors narrow interests over the public interest.

This is why I read blogs. There are plenty of blogs that are just as focused on the day to day goings on of politics as any newspaper or cable news show, but I don’t read them. (It’s why I don’t subscribe to Think Progress any more.) I strongly prefer blogs that focus on digging into the substance of issues, and the good news is that there are plenty of them out there. Oddly enough, the newspaper that to me represents the worst journalism has to offer, the Washington Post, also employs one of the best public policy bloggers around — Ezra Klein.

Links from June 17th

Links from June 3rd

Links from May 31st

Two sides to the Dan Baum story

Dan Baum’s serialized account of his firing from the New Yorker is garnering a lot of attention, and rightfully so. The New Yorker is interesting, period, and Baum is an engaging writer.

But his side of the story is not the only one. Former Salon editor Scott Rosenberg speculates on the other side.

I really liked this bit, because everybody needs to understand it:

“The biggest disappointment was learning that, after all, it’s not only about the work on the page. That the writing life is not a pure meritocracy, or a refuge from office politics. All that crap still matters. Even at the top of the heap. Perhaps especially at the top of the heap. Who knew?”

My reaction to reading this observation is: If I were your editor and you ever said anything like that to me, I’d seriously consider firing you on the spot. No reporter can afford this level of naivete, and no editor’s budget should be spent on it. Reporters have to understand the world pragmatically, as it is, in all its mess and compromise; how can you trust a reporter who doesn’t even understand how his own profession works?

It’s not just reporters who have to understand the world pragmatically if they want to succeed.

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