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Old 01-16-2012, 08:33 PM
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The Lone Ranger The Lone Ranger is offline
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Default Re: Why the Mainstream Media Really Sucks

Remember the old Bloom County strip where Opus was applying for a job as the movie reviewer for the local newspaper? In the interview, the editor kept asking Opus questions about the movie-making industry, and Opus' replies indicated that he knew exactly nothing about movie-making.

Finally, in frustration, the editor asked for some examples of his vocabulary. Opus replied, "putrid!", "it stinks!", etc.

The editor immediately replied, "You're hired!"

[This is from memory; I don't remember the exact wording.]

I sometimes suspect that most news organizations hire their science reporters on that principle. On at least two occasions, I've been interviewed by local newspapers for my expertise on some subject or other. In both cases, I tried to explain the answers to the questions being asked of me, and in both cases, I pointedly told the reporters that their questions were sufficiently complex that the answers could not be reduced to simple, one-sentence sound bites.

In both cases, that's more or less exactly what they did, however. And so the articles were at best misleading, if not downright false in some of their claims.

Another problem with the "mainstream" media is that they're so terrified of being seen as "biased" that they bend over backwards to report "both sides" of any remotely "controversial" story, even when there aren't two sides.

As the late, lamented Molly Ivins once pointed out, if a reporter quotes someone as saying that under Hitler, the Nazis did some bad things, then -- in the interest of "fairness" -- the average newspaper will hunt up some Nazi apologist to insist that Hitler was really a great guy who loved all people (especially Jews) and was simply a victim of bad press.

In this way, the mainstream media often seriously mis-inform people.

Take the "controversy" over Global Warming. On the one hand, you have 99% of climate scientists saying one thing. On the other hand, you have a handful of people (most of whom have no relevant training whatsoever) who are heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry saying something else.

By treating "both sides" as if they have equally valid and well-supported claims, the media seriously misrepresent the issue.

Another important point that Molly Ivins once made is that you've got to pay as much attention to what is not reported by the mainstream media.

For an illustrative example, she brought up a UPS strike in Tennessee. All the reports in the mainstream press focused on how much the strike was costing UPS, and on how this would inconvenience people who were waiting for packages to be delivered.

Lots of the articles included quotes from interviews with UPS executives who were bemoaning how much money the strike was causing the company to lose.

What the articles didn't include were any serious examinations of why the workers were on strike. Instead, they treated the strike as being exactly like some sort of natural disaster -- just one of those things that happens from time to time, but has no detectable causes and is not anyone's fault.

None of the mainstream media made any serious effort to interview labor leaders to find out why the workers were on strike.

As Ivins pointed out, this is the norm when it comes to reporting on labor issues. The mainstream press almost always focus on the concerns of the owners and almost never on the concerns of labor.

I remember reading a fascinating report from FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) a few years ago. In it, they showed that the Press Releases given out by the Bush II White House were being run as-is by numerous news organizations.

That is, a great many of the "articles" being printed in the newspapers regarding Administration policies and other goings-on in the White House were literally just re-typed White House Press Releases. If I recall correctly, AP was one of the biggest offenders.

I doubt that too much has changed since then.
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-- Socrates
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