Sunday, July 10, 2005

"Professional Journalism"

Eschaton: While I'm Beating Up on CJR

Atrios sums up the sorry state of our corporate journalists:

"A not so modest proposal for those who consider themselves to be responsible reporters: stop appearing on TV roundtable segments where you're paired with opinion columnists or other people who are allowed to have an explicit agenda. If you think most viewers understand the difference between 'reporter for the Washington Post' and 'senior editor of the National Review' you're wrong, and if you want them to understand the difference you have to stop allowing yourselves to be placed on equal footing with them."

What will it take to bring back a responsible media? Conservatives have attacked the media in the same way they have attacked public education and those of us against the Iraq war: constant and consistent ridicule.

With continuous braying about corrupt teachers' unions and failed schools, echoed throughout the chamber without variance, the right has turned public education into a tired joke. The perception that the public and corporate media willingly accept is such education is only worthy of the dregs of our society... you know, blacks and the poor.

Similarly, anyone against the war for any reason is a traitor, terrorist, coward, anti-soldier, or actively hopes we get hit again. While this meme is not completely accepted by most corporate media, it is too often unchallenged by most outlets.

The existence of FauxNews is the ultimate attack on the legitimacy of journalism. While media consolidation and corporate lust for profits brought news divisions to their knees, it was FauxNews that planted respect for reporters six feet under.

The right wing gleefully watches Brit Hume "stick it to the Dems," with no expectation of any real news. Indeed, should Faux accidentally report on legitimate issues facing this country without commending Bush or blaming Clinton, it's viewers would call for Ailes' head on a platter.

What was the response of the media behemoths to this final degradation of journalism to yellow pundit wrestling? "Look at the ratings! Let's copy them!" Exactly what Ailes and the right hoped for (Murdoch, like a true capitalist, buys into the philosophy only so far as it makes mad cash; ethics be damned.)

Thanks to the short-sighted Faux competitors, mass media is pushed over the edge into caricature as MSNBC becomes Faux-lite and CNN strives for journalistic milquetoast. Descend into this cycle a couple years and voilĂ , we have an unwatchable media despised by everyone except those with an insatiable need to hear their existing views reinforced ad nauseam.

There are slivers of hope here and there: PBS and NPR. Unfortunately, the right is busy infiltrating and contaminating these venues with political agendas as well. A few newspapers? Hard to believe their relative higher quality isn't just a slower rate of decline.

The brilliance of creating an entire fake news channel is direct counter-attacks are impossible. Things like Air America, for which I have eternal thanks, do not address the problem. It is a place for the rest of us check in and hear that there is still some sanity left in the States. In the Big Picture, however, it doesn't reverse the trend because it isn't journalism.

The only remedy for FauxNews is for corporate news divisions to approach their jobs as traditional reporters. There needs to be a return to the natural antagonistic role that media is supposed to play. Ratings can not be the sacred cow.

The stakes are incredible. A stupid public will destroy the strongest democracy. We have already bought (and will pay for) an optional Bush war due in no small part to a failed media.

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