Our News Media is Failing this Nation
Everyone wants to have a bogeyman they can point to and blame all the problems on that. Some say it’s universities. Others say it’s Democrats (while others say Republicans). More than a few lambast unions, whether public or private. There are even some crazies that continually blame Jews (or gays, or immigrants, or…) I generally shy away from these sort of “analyses,” because they are far too simplistic and don’t understand that many things have many causes.
But today, I’m going to do just that, and lay down hard on who I think are truly screwing this country over: our news media.
This year has been utterly disgraceful for them. There has been a litany of failings that I have not witnessed before; perhaps I was too young and didn’t understand, or they really weren’t there. But 2012 seems to be the year that the media has just totally, utterly, dropped the ball across the board, and in doing so they are doing this nation a monumental disservice.
Perhaps the first and most egregious entry was when an NBC news team edited the tape of the 9/11 call of George Zimmerman, in a very deceptive fashion. The editor who made that decision was later fired, but NBC botched their apology by doing it in an email to the Hollywood Reporter and not coming straight on TV to apologize, as it is their medium.
There was the terribly—yet utterly predictable—botch of the coverage leading up to and surrounding the Wisconsin recall election, particularly over at MSNBC (which had this hilarious line from Lawrence O’Donnell: “Tonight, the really big winner in the Wisconsin recall election is: President Obama.”) This also led to many pundits saying the election was the most important EVAR before the results were announced, and then said they meant nothing afterwards. (Oh yeah. Really truthy there.)
Then we had the botched reporting on the Supreme Court decision, which hilariously had CNN and Fox saying the individual mandate was struck down—totally incorrect—while Twitter was providing the real, accurate, information.
CNN misrepresented Chick-fil-A’s president, Dan Cathy, when it said he was against gay marriage, when in fact, that’s not what he said. Of course, one can extrapolate that he is against it, but I think that’s dubious.
A notable entry from last year was when CNN deliberately edited its interview with Ron Paul to make him look like he stormed off the set after a stupid question, when that didn’t happen at all.
And now, we have ABC’s Brian Ross jumping to conclusions and smearing the name of a Colorado Tea Party member when, instead of actually doing his job, just did a Google search and found a guy with the same name as the Aurora shooter. Jon Stewart has ripped apart Ross on this, which is something you really need to see:
Erik Wemple over at the Washington Post has a longer list of media flubs (including himself), and it’s the kind of thing that makes one very, very depressed. Particularly for me.
I went to journalism school. I studied under old-time professors who weren’t all that into bias (except for one self-described Neo-Marxist who had a second house in Paris.) This sort of “journalism” would have caused the offending student to immediately fail the class. Why? Because it falls into one or two categories:
- Lazy “reporting” which isn’t reporting at all
- Fitting things into a preexisting narrative
Which, as you can clearly see, is really just one category: laziness.
Reporters these days don’t even bother trying to figure out the truth. They see something that matches a preconceived story in their heads, and they go with that. They don’t bother trying to find out what’s really going on. They never ask the questions that dive under the surface, they never try to dig. And especially in the case of Brian Ross, ABC’s “investigative reporter,” they never actually investigate anything.
There are a couple of things the media has to change for it to become trustworthy again:
- First, actually do your reporting. Ask questions. Get to the bottom of things. Don’t be lazy.
- Second, vet things before you put them out. Factcheck before publishing. No one remembers you if you’re first and right, but they will remember you if you’re first and wrong.
- When you screw up, apologize—on air. Make it very big and say, “Look, we’re sorry, we frakked up big time. We should not have done that and we should have been more careful.” These “corrections” printed at the bottom of the page or otherwise minimized do not engender trust in the media and make them look like stuck-up, pigheaded idiots who can’t recognize when they’re being fools.
- Enough with the narrative. Forget the narrative. Just do your jobs.
- Stop trying to be entertaining. Forget all about the ratings. You’re not a reality TV show. You’re news. You’re not meant to be entertaining. You’re meant to be informative. Now act like it.
Do I think they’ll listen to me? No. In fact, I don’t expect them to listen to anybody, since they seem to be (as a whole) so far out in left field that they’ve created their own reality bubble. Fortunately, we have blogs and social media to inform us; they aren’t the gatekeepers of information anymore.
And that may be the best freedom we’ve had in a long, long time.