Politicians vs. The Media

Hail the Angel of Newt

HE'S A SWEET, SWEET ANGEL - Newt likes to say stupid things and then blame the media for reporting on them. Click photo for more Newt Nudes >>

One by one, the Republican presidential field has come to ruination and they’ve blamed the media, or mainstream media (MSM), or Lamestream media in Palinspeak – at every turn.  They are apparently of the mistaken opinion, as was US Senate candidate Sharron Angle, that journalists should only ask questions candidates want to answer. As news consumers and master media manipulators themselves that belief alone should be a disqualification for lack of critical thinking skills.

When faced with proof of their objectionable behavior, they vigorously deny it. Even a world-class nimrod can see that is a surefire strategic loser. In taking that position politicians deny the existence of videotape, reporters’ notebooks, and public records. Oh, and any lick of common sense too. Without these contradictions in their truthy narratives, The Daily Show and Fox News would starve for a lack of comedy gold. And, Newt Gingrich would still be unstoppable and not a fast-sinking nitwit outfitted with concrete overshoes.

When repeated denials collapse under their own weight the fraidy-cat graftmeisters often blame the media for gotcha journalism. The Half-Term Schoolmarm was a master practitioner of this craft – even if it is the least successful strategy of all. When Katie Couric asked her which newspapers or magazines she regularly read she stammered, “All of them”. Unsurprisingly, Couric and the general public didn’t buy that. If you’re running for President of the Free World and you’re tripped up by a question you could have answered with Time, the Wasilla News Weasel, or Reader’s Digest your mind is as nimble as a saguaro cactus with one of its quills on the “noo-cu-ler” football.

She whined and stamped her sensible pumps and said something on the order of, “That was gotcha journalism, you betcha. They wouldn’t have asked Barack Hussein Obama that.”

In fact, they probably wouldn’t have, although he got plenty of equally dangerous questions too.  However in this case, she was rumored to be aggressively incurious, much like George the Lesser. Since escaping his Reign of Error was nigh, it’s a legitimate question to ask about that uncuriosity. After all, you could accuse The Messiah of many things, but being incurious or poorly spoken wasn’t one of them.

I don’t always buy the flip-flopper angle either. There are numerous legitimate reasons to change a position and if you can reasonably explain them you can minimize their damage. But, changed too often – Mitt Romney, I’m talking about you – you are either extremely hypocritical at best or a pander bear at worst.

The media – Hannity, Rush, O’Reilly, and Maddow you are the media too – makes its share of mistakes. But they share a kinship with all politicians and others they cover. When they make a mistake it’s in full view of the public just like when politicians act like stupid lunkheads. Both careers need a certain amount of aplomb that all too often is sorely missing.

And one other thing: perceptions of media bias are one of the few bipartisan things left in America. If the same story, with reasonably consistent facts, gets complaints from both left and right it’s a sign that the bias may be more between your ears than splashed across a screen or paper.

So quit yer bellyachin’ and act like rational adults.

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AP to Credit Bloggers: The Headlong Rush Into Media Overload

The New Media

NEW MEDIA? - Bloggers can't get no respect, except at the AP.

The Associated Press is starting to credit bloggers as sources. On the surface, this seems like an uncontroversial idea. There are some damn good blogs out there and their reportage is the equal of any traditional media outlet. On the other hand, not all traditional media outlets are as good as they used to be, so that’s a pretty low bar. And for every good, well-run blog, there are 10 million hacks like me.

The nut of this usually centers on the notion of credibility. No doubt that’s important, but the issue is as much about technology and a rapidly changing society as it is about credibility.

“The News” – with a capital “N” – is being pulled every which way by dozens of brand new technologies becoming obsolete as we speak. Sadly, newspapers and magazines are in their death throes. Uncle Walter’s nightly news has been supplanted by the Giant Screaming Heads on cable. As they shout into the ether, their day is coming to an end too – even if they don’t know it yet. Heck, even blogs, despite AP’s big leap into the future, are on the way to the dust bin. The abomination that is Twitter – operated by drunken Hollywood starlets or pinned-down insurgents in 140 character bursts – is the new wave of media. I expect news via telepathy in 10 years … no, let’s make that 6 months.

Oops, there it is now.

Oooo, I Gotta Have That
Our society has a great affinity for the new and the splashier and faster, the better. This is what drives cable companies to tout Internet service that saves milliseconds over DSL. Heaven forbid we have to wait another second to see which jail LiLo has checked into now. The rapid pace of technology has far outpaced the human ability to use it wisely.

There’s no longer anyone that isn’t part of the media – not withstanding Rush Limbaugh‘s and Sean Hannity‘s claims they aren’t. The impact of an Anderson Cooper, Brian Williams, Gene Robinson, or even (Dear God) Bill O’Reilly is big, but at a fire or flood or in a war zone, a scared kid Twittering and sending live video from his iPhone can be bigger.

It seems we’ve lost sight of the nature of news and failed to realize that a little time delay is sometimes a good thing. It gives humans time to digest information at a comfortable pace, rather than being distracted by their perpetually attached Bluetooths (Blueteeth?) It gives reporters time to collect their information and thoughts and news consumers time to actually understand what they’re absorbing.

Pffft, What Does the AP Know?
I don’t know if AP’s decision is a good or a bad thing – and I don’t think they do either. Their journalistic bell is being beat silly with a hi-tech, six-axis, robotically-controlled hammer … installed in a cellphone. Lost in all that God-awful racket is the other dimension of the issue – credibility.

What the hell constitutes as good blog? How reliable is reliable? Are they credible because some government official tells them so or does the AP reporter have to run a fancy checklist to see if the blog owner is on the up and up. Does he have to find at least 5 blogs that all say the same thing to before he can cite them?

Those are pretty tall orders for a reporter in search of news that’s spread around dozens of blogs at the speed of light, each with a particular ax to grind, and that change in real time to the “facts” on the ground.  By the time the fact checking is done, the story is already over and we’ve all moved onto the next catastrophe du jour or Hollywood breakup.

Credibility? Yeah, we have an app for that.

A Tip of the Hat A big tip of the hat to Jr. Poobah Ari Cohn for the idea for this post.

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Good Night and Good Luck…You’ll Need It

Infotainment Rules

WHAT'S THE DIFF? - With today's oversaturated media market and constant demands for more and more entertainment, the news has become just one more Big Show.

Americans are an easily bored lot. We demand everything be ripe with entertainment possibilities. We’re a nation addicted to 24X7, 500-channel television – which we nevertheless claim has nothing worth watching – on which we gorge ourselves on a never-ending supply of reality shows promoting the most fame-crazed and mentally defective of us to open their lives in the most voyeuristic fashion. Real life made unreal by the millions of gawking rubberneckers tuning in.

And, the most unrealistic reality shows are the news shows.

Television news was once a place where networks expected to lose money on the public service of covering the news. Now ratings make newsrooms just like any other Disneyesque entertainment outlet. The Edward R. Murrow/Walter Cronkite newsroom was a place where serious people investigated serious topics, regardless of their inherent profitability. Today, there’s little distinction between the Daily Show bullpen and the CNN newsroom.

Once profit became the news’ primary MO focus-grouped, ratings-pregnant drivel stepped in as a sort of news lite where interviews are ‘booked’ and ‘talent’ eggs on the most disgraceful, but oh so entertaining, shout-fests. As much as everyone likes to complain about the ‘mainstream media’ – which is curiously deemed both too liberal and too conservative at the same time – we’ve got no one to blame except our infamously Nielsen-rated selves.

Because of our national, self-absorbed entertainment obsession, we’re killing the geese that laid our golden First Amendment eggs. We’ve abandoned print media altogether. Once-vibrant publications like Newsweek are going the way of the dodo because of the printed page’s inability to adapt to our real-time, excitingly manufactured, multimedia entertainment extravaganza demands.

But even e-media is slipping away. We’ve begun sucking the marrow from infotainment’s bones and it’s not long on this Earth because of it. Real TV news has been supplanted by screaming mimis like Glenn Beck. Even the ‘serious’ Sunday news programs are pale imitations of professional wrestling – all faux drama and glittery costumes bumptiously pontificating on the national debt or latest job numbers. We’ve molded the news to our ravenous need for entertainment and are in a rapidly quickening race to put it out of business too. It seems that as we’ve consumed reality shows like Big Brother we’ve unwittingly given ourselves over to Orwell’s Big Brother…

…and become a nation of scandal junkie couch potatoes minus the skills to tell the difference between Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart.

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