News, The Media: A Long Slow Suicides

Which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first objective should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth.  Thomas Jefferson

Sadly, that is not what we get.  Not for a very long time.  We get cut and paste journalism.  If you watch or even read the “news”, it is the same story, same words, from the same source.  Just cut and paste.  News anchors or window dressing.  Smiley faces that do nothing but read the teleprompter.  Katie Couric’s everywhere.  You get managed news, and then you really hit the jackpot:  Sex, lies and videotape.  They have drunk the kool-aid.  The New York Times has on its front page in the corner: “All the News Fit o Print”.  I think they keep that on the page as a remembrance of their past life.

It is has been a long and slow process that began in the late sixties.  Broadcast television has relentless trivialized, implicit in soundbite politics, the obsessive insistence that every political issue – regardless how complex – has only two sides and the tendency to treat every political controversy as if it were a baseball or football game and each election a horse race.  News agenda are driven not by some professional assessment of what is important and relevant, but by focus groups, what people like and respond to.  If it bleeds, it leads.  That is their slogan now.  News programming plays down politics and economics in favor of crime, celebrity and sports.  Real news story, investigative journalism is dead.  They have taught us what we want to see and read, as opposed to an opinion of what it should want or needs to know.

Political advertising is filled with lies.  The media knows this.  Instead of tearing them apart on the air for accuracy, they “report” only that there is an ad  Since so much of the impact of political ads lies in clever use of video footage, seeing these ads analyzed on TV enables viewers to see how they are being manipulated more effectively than print can or ever could.  To make quality journalism a ratings hit is something that many people believe is impossible.  Advertising dollars are so much important than telling the truth.  Stories impacting our lives is unimportant.  We want to know about Charlie Sheen’s latest outburst, or Lindsey Lohan’s latest drunken escapade.  Even we, at least some us, drank the koolaid.

We call them Twinkies.  You’ve seen them on Television acting the news, modeling and fracturing the news while you wonder whether they’ve read the news — or if they’ve blow-dried their brains, too.  “And So It Goes”, Linda Ellerbee

You can believe that these Twinkies are dedicated and work hard to become self-absorbed jerks  It took lots of hard work, and as anyone who has the courage to watch, knows it happens all the time in the news media.  It is easy to be smug.  Television is the candy story.  They get paid to read, to travel, go to parades, fires, conventions, wars, circuses, coronations, and police stations– all in the name of journalism–and they pay them well.

All one need do is check the papers, online news or television to see what they think is important to us.  Better yet, watch them tell us that this is more important than the economy or the hatred in Washington D.C.

Consider this:  CNN.com had a story”What is it about mid-April and violence in America?”  Now, I had to ask myself the question why is this important to me now?  It was a tragedy, I remember the dead, but I find it unconscionable to use those tragedies as a way to make money.  The more you click on the page, the more money they make.  Would it not have been better to investigate violence in America?  Instead they ask,”What is it about mid-April and violence in America?”   As if the month of April is at fault.  Next time the government decides to murder a bunch of weirdos for being a dumb religion – and how did they narrow that down?–or a student opens fire at a university or some such thing, CNN seriously would like to happen in another month.

Consider this:  MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Show interviewed the biggest liar of them all, Andrew Breitbart.  Breitbart reversed his admission of posting our-of context video of Shirley Sherrod.  Ratigan fawned over him throughout the interview, calling him a “sharpshooter who’s good” and an “incredibly passionate and effective man, ” and mysteriously saying he didn’t “even have an interest in debating issues” with Breitbart  It was an outrage.   Not a question about ethics.  It must have been a ratings ploy.

I guess they have all been taken to lunch by their superiors and told not to ask hard questions. They are too tough, and if everybody asked that kind of question, pretty soon no one in Washington would want to be a quest on their show.  It seems true.  I know it is.

How?  The Correspondent’ s dinner is coming up.  The annual party where Washington, D.C., media outlets desperately and passionately compete for attention from celebrities and flatter the people they are supposed to be covering.  It is not a dinner that honors the products.  It is not about rewarding good journalism.  Politicians wouldn’t show up, because good journalism makes politicians look bad.

Please remember that in television the product is not the program; the product is the audience and the consumer of that product is the advertiser.  The advertiser does not “buy” a news program. He buys an audience.  The manufacturer[network] that gets the highest price for its product is the one that produces the product [audience].  Businessmen own and run television stations or networks and all sorts of media  Journalists work for businessmen.  Journalists are fired and canceled by businessmen.  That is how it is now.  Democracy at its ugliest and most obscene.

I remember the old days when reporters fought for a story and then went out a got it.  When they were unafraid and reported the truth.  When they told you about things that were important to you and your life.  I long for those days again.  But for now, I’ll just watch TCM and enjoy the old movies.

It’s all right letting yourself go as long as you can get yourself back.  Mick Jagger


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