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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 441216  
Subject: An unfair and unbalanced media rant Date: 9/22/2004 12:21 PM
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I just posted this on PA by mistake. Kind of appropriate, I guess, but that's not where I wanted it. So if you see that post and then it gets pulled, it was because I asked to get it pulled myself.

I've been reading about right wing media and it got me thinking about creationism. AGAIN.

I'm reading a book called "The Republican Noise Machine" by David Brock, who formerly worked for an affiliate of the Washington Times and is now a regular on the Al Franken Show. The subject of this book is the so-called "echo chamber effect" that occurs in the right wing media. To quote the book's introduction:

Because technological advances and the race for ratings and sales have made the wall between right-wing media and the rest of the media permeable, the America media as a whole has become a powerful conveyor belt for conservative-generated "news," commentary, story lines, jargon, and spin. It is now possible to watch a lie move from a disreputable right-wing Web site onto the afternoon talk radio shows, to several cable chat shows throughout the evening, and into the next morning's Washington Post -- all in twenty-four hours. This media food chain moves phony information and GOP talking points -- manufactured by and for conservatives, often bought and paid for by conservative political interests, and disseminated through an unabashedly biased right-wing media apparatus that follow no rules or professional norms -- into every family dining room, every workplace, and every Internet chat room in America.

I'm not very far into the book, only 60 pages or so, but I see kind of a pattern being outlined that looks very similar to the way modern creationism is trying to worm its way into our education system.

It seems that in the late 60's, some of the best and brightest in the Nixon administration decided that the press was being unreasonably hostile towards them. Those annoying reporters were always running stories claiming that Vietnam was a disaster (which it was) or that Nixon authorized illegal activities to get himself reelected (which he did). So they started to form think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation that would try to push their way into the public consciousness and demand that the conservative side of every story be heard on every possible occasion. The charge that the media is liberal didn't just come from nowhere; it was a meme that was intentionally dreamed up and pushed out there.

Fox News uses the slogans "fair and balanced" and "We report, you decide." It seems that they are trying to appeal to some mythical gold standard of journalism whereby you report both sides of every story, with no comment or bias whatever, and then let the audience decide for themselves who is right. Not only does Fox (obviously) fail to achieve this lofty goal, but in my opinion, the goal itself is crap.

You can't inform the public by just presenting everything that could possibly be presented and then saying "Well, decide for yourself." When presenting a blatant lie, journalistic integrity would imply that you should state that it's a lie. The media isn't there to post non-judgmental stories like "Adolph Hitler: was he right?" If George Bush and Karl Rove issue a press release stating that the earth is flat, it's not the media's responsibility to run a "fair and balanced" headline screaming "Shape of earth in question! Is it really a globe? Our studies reveal that many people disagree." Of course that would be dumb. People can disagree all they want, but the shape of the earth is an irregular sphere.

As Dan Rather recently demonstrated, it's really important that the media check their sources and decide whether a story is credible BEFORE they run with it, rather than just reporting "We heard that blah blah blah". But there is a major double standard at work, because CBS has a reputation for having journalistic ethics, while Fox does not. When Fox runs a picture of John Kerry at a podium with Jane Fonda, which later turn out to be an extremely clumsy Photoshop job, people say "Oh, that's just Fox." When Matt Drudge breaks the story that someone is having an affair with an intern, and we learn that he pulled the story completely out of his butt, nobody cares. When Rush Limbaugh cites "statistics" that he totally made up, he pleads "I'm not a news show! It's just entertainment!"

But the line between entertainment and news has really gotten blurred, and I think it's at least partly due to this very deliberate effort that the Republicans have made since the 70's to demand that the media show no "bias", not even a bias towards being correct. (I think it's very revealing that Fox News' slogan is NOT "Fair, balanced, and accurate.") All that matters is that it be "balanced", meaning that if you have one person on TV saying that we really landed on the moon, you must have a crackpot appear at his side claiming that it was all a government conspiracy. And furthermore, the program must not identify this guy as a crackpot, because that would be biased.

Now relate this to what we went through here in Texas last year. Creationists go from state to state, demanding what? That we teach creationism? No no no, that is so eight years ago. What they want us to do is "teach the controversy." They want us to teach our students that SOME people disagree with the theory of evolution, and the jury is still out. Never mind that the "jury" are not scientists who do research; they're ideologues who are openly pushing a religious agenda. But to point that out would not be "fair" and "balanced" because it's passing a value judgment.

But that's bull, because science is all about passing value judgments. It's important and necessary for scientists to come up with crazy ideas that MIGHT be true, but then those explanations have to be tempered by reality and experiment. This is the part where you filter out the ideas that are crazy because they're innovative from the ideas that are crazy because they're ridiculous. Science will always be beset by crackpots who believe that they've invented a perpetual motion machine or "proven" the existence of ESP that mysteriously vanishes when somebody tries to measure it. But because science is a selective process, ideally the enormous number of crazy ideas are supposed to get winnowed down to the ones that are true. Same thing that evolution does in selecting for traits that have survival value.

That's how science is supposed to work, and in my opinion, that's also how journalism should work. Journalism is not, and should not be, about being a mouthpiece for every lie, every slander, every conspiracy theory that happens to be in the public consciousness. It should be about wading through the marketplace of ideas and selecting the ones which appear, to the best of our investigative understanding, to be accurate. Journalists should NOT be fair to con artists and hucksters. They should NOT be balanced by giving an interview to one liar for every truth teller.

What journalism should be doing is the science of information. It should find out the truth and report it. This is obviously an idealistic goal. Science doesn't always "work" the way it's supposed to because you have bickering and internal politics and desire for personal glory among scientists. And also because human knowledge is always going to be limited, so what we regard as "true" will only be the best guess given the available evidence. Likewise, I don't expect journalists to be infallible; only that they do more than pay lip service to reporting on real stories.

Journalists need to quit worrying about being fair and worry more about being right.
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Author: tedhimself Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 119270 of 441216
Subject: Re: An unfair and unbalanced media rant Date: 9/22/2004 12:27 PM
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Please go back and rec Kazim's post (if you haven't already). It needs to be on "Best Of" Thanks.
Ted

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Author: overspent Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 119285 of 441216
Subject: Re: An unfair and unbalanced media rant Date: 9/22/2004 3:15 PM
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Kazim, I think you should submit this essay to every single newspaper in the country. Hell, it should be a chapter in every Journalism 101 book. Particularly this part:

You can't inform the public by just presenting everything that could possibly be presented and then saying "Well, decide for yourself." When presenting a blatant lie, journalistic integrity would imply that you should state that it's a lie. The media isn't there to post non-judgmental stories like "Adolph Hitler: was he right?" If George Bush and Karl Rove issue a press release stating that the earth is flat, it's not the media's responsibility to run a "fair and balanced" headline screaming "Shape of earth in question! Is it really a globe? Our studies reveal that many people disagree." Of course that would be dumb. People can disagree all they want, but the shape of the earth is an irregular sphere.

And this one:

That's how science is supposed to work, and in my opinion, that's also how journalism should work. Journalism is not, and should not be, about being a mouthpiece for every lie, every slander, every conspiracy theory that happens to be in the public consciousness. It should be about wading through the marketplace of ideas and selecting the ones which appear, to the best of our investigative understanding, to be accurate. Journalists should NOT be fair to con artists and hucksters. They should NOT be balanced by giving an interview to one liar for every truth teller.

Oh, and of course, this line:

Journalists need to quit worrying about being fair and worry more about being right.

YES! Something I've been beating my writers over the head with for a good three years now. This old-school journalist thanks you from the bottom of her cynical little heart.


overspent

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Author: millerpim Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 119287 of 441216
Subject: Re: An unfair and unbalanced media rant Date: 9/22/2004 4:59 PM
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What journalism should be doing is the science of information. It should find out the truth and report it. This is obviously an idealistic goal.

I don't see this as an idealist code. I see it as the way things are, among the good journalists anyway. I come from a family of journalists, and I am married to a journalist. When asked why he became a journlist, my husband (whose late father was a well known reporter for the Chicago Sun Times) says it's because he feels compelled to uncover the truth and report it. It's a burning passion with him, as it is with a lot of people who enter the journalism profession. Those who don't own up to that burning desire to uncover the truth don't last very long and generally quit to become teachers or used car salesman. Ha, ha.

But seriously, good journalists practice this kind of reporting.

Now, I don't call FOX news journalism. In fact, most newspaper reporters chuckle when talking heads (television media) call themselves a journalist.

What's becoming alarming in this country is the fine line that's being drawn between paper advertisers and the newsroom. When CEOs threaten to pull advertising from a paper unless a reporter backs off on a story that could be harmful to the advertiser and publishers buckle under, half the newsroom reporters quit. If they don't quit, they are part of the problem.

There are honest, hardworking and truthful reporters out there, but the system is making it much more difficult for them to perform.

And that's really scary.

elizabeth

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Author: JDCRex Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 119296 of 441216
Subject: Re: An unfair and unbalanced media rant Date: 9/22/2004 6:36 PM
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FoxNews is basically pure pornography. It is so unbelievably biased and partisan that many people have a hard time admitting that it is, simply due to the fact that to do so requires the embracing of a very ugly truth. So they trot out the mantra of "well, it's just like the others, only in a different direction".

This is complete and utter crap.

The other networks definitely have their slants. But they are nothing like FoxNews's outrageous, ridiculous, would-be-comical-if-it-wasn't-so-influential drumbeating for the radical right wing. It is like a 24 fundamentalist madrassa for reactionaries, spewing out vile nonsense from a limitless reservoir of pus. There's a constant stream of people to hate: the French, the UN, godless Liberals. Honestly, it's able to be used a basic sanity test: put someone down in front of FoxNews for an hour and if by the end of it their jaws haven't dropped, they are mentally deficient.

At an assessment like this, the more sober National Review type of conservative gets highly amused and says "look how riled up it's getting you, they must be doing something right". But the joke's on them, because FoxNews is just another heavily branded, heavily positioned Rupert Murdoch vehicle designed to make money off of slack jawed yokels. The man really is an Evil Genius©. He'll put over whatever garbage he needs to to capture a market. If it's right wing hateporn, fine, he'll provide it.

So what's the problem, you ask? Isn't he just being a good business man? Well yes, he is. A brilliant business man. But he is permanently upsetting the balance of a very delicate institution: the press. And here's the rub. A free press is a plank of democracy, but it's also a money making venture. It informs, but it also entertains and influences. That is always to be expected. However, when abominations like Rupert's nightmare comes along, a ceaseless right wing talking points memo reading machine masquerading as a "news" channel, a certain compact of understanding is broken. The understanding is that there are some techniques and methodologies that shouldn't be used, because proprieters realise that the influence that they wield is so utterly enormous, and their numbers, kept low by cost-of-entry, are too small to allow a true free market of ideas. However, FoxNews has completely dispelled any notion of self restraint, and has managed to convince the absolute god damn morons who gorge on its lies and rubbish that it is, indeed, "fair and balanced".

The hubris is so stunning, so brazen, that it beggars belief. Welcome, welcome to the United States of FoxNews.

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Author: WatchingTheHerd Big red star, 1000 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 119306 of 441216
Subject: Re: An unfair and unbalanced media rant Date: 9/22/2004 9:39 PM
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Great post.

I call this "The News Hour Effect". The News Hour on PBS has lapsed into a news approach that simply involves finding two hacks on the absolute polar extremes of any "issue" being discussed, asking them questions (and interrupting them while they talk to make pointless clarifications to the question), then letting the "guests" rattle off their talking points from their extremist agenda that have NOTHING to do with the question being posed, then running out of time for the segment.

They seem to presume that providing the truth is as simple as calculating a mathematical average. If truth=5, as long as a guest from the right screams truth=0 and a guest from the left screams truth=10 for 8 minutes in a segment, viewers are exposed to the average and somehow might land on truth=5.

That's so much easier than being a real journalist and actually RESEARCHING the facts and attempting to portray one coherent viewpoint that illustrates all the shades of gray between the extremes.

The ultimate example of this is the regular appearance of Mary Matlin and James Carville as guests on Meet The Press where she portrays the cool, sophisticated conservative and he portrays the half-mad pit bull democrat. If they really believed what they spout, could they really be married? It reminds me of the old Looney Tunes cartoon with Wile E Coyote and the sheepdog who get along fine "after hours" but clock in from 8-5 and assume their biologically destined antagonistic roles as predator and protector. It's just their job five days a week.

There's a comedian (Seinfeld?) who has a bit about how American culture is boiling everything down so that everything will become one thing.

We now know what that one thing is.

Your high school newspaper.

Instead of covering the Student Council election and parking privileges for seniors, they cover debates over WMD, implications of monetary policy and other vaguely important topics. However, the level of insight and expertise being applied to the story is about the same.


WTH


That's how science is supposed to work, and in my opinion, that's also how journalism should work. Journalism is not, and should not be, about being a mouthpiece for every lie, every slander, every conspiracy theory that happens to be in the public consciousness. It should be about wading through the marketplace of ideas and selecting the ones which appear, to the best of our investigative understanding, to be accurate. Journalists should NOT be fair to con artists and hucksters. They should NOT be balanced by giving an interview to one liar for every truth teller.

What journalism should be doing is the science of information. It should find out the truth and report it. This is obviously an idealistic goal. Science doesn't always "work" the way it's supposed to because you have bickering and internal politics and desire for personal glory among scientists. And also because human knowledge is always going to be limited, so what we regard as "true" will only be the best guess given the available evidence. Likewise, I don't expect journalists to be infallible; only that they do more than pay lip service to reporting on real stories.

Journalists need to quit worrying about being fair and worry more about being right.


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Author: MATZOID Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 119334 of 441216
Subject: Re: An unfair and unbalanced media rant Date: 9/23/2004 11:19 AM
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That's so much easier than being a real journalist and actually RESEARCHING the facts and attempting to portray one coherent viewpoint that illustrates all the shades of gray between the extremes.

Easier meaning "cheaper". It's not left media or right media, it's corporate media. Like everything that becomes coporatized, all things take a backseat to profit. Just look at all of the previously honorable professions - law, medicine, journalism. All now profoundly corrupt in subservience to the bottom line.

No longer does it matter if a person is innocent or guilty. How much money can they afford to pay for a defense?

No longer does it matter that all people have access to the very best medical care. Manufacture a drug to cure AIDS? How much money will it bring in?

No longer does the truth get outed. What story brings in the money?

There is nothing wrong with making a profit, and obviously, you can't do anything, even save lives, for long if the activity continually loses money. But profit always needs to take a backseat to people, and only be a priority in the sence that it is needed to continue the activity of serving people, not as an end goal in and of itself.

Newspapers used to be the people's friend, the tyrant's foe. But once the tyrants own the papers, it is reversed.

How do we ever get back to a people's press? The internet is probably our best bet, but, just like TV, the masses watch what is entertaining, not informative. How do you get truth into people's faces?



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Author: AngelMay Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 119338 of 441216
Subject: Re: An unfair and unbalanced media rant Date: 9/23/2004 11:48 AM
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How do you get truth into people's faces?



Make them view it through their pocketbooks.

AM

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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 119339 of 441216
Subject: Re: An unfair and unbalanced media rant Date: 9/23/2004 12:24 PM
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I don't see this as an idealist code. I see it as the way things are, among the good journalists anyway.

When I said that it's idealist, I didn't mean that other people don't also hold this as an ideal. I'm simply trying to acknowledge that to some extent, it's always going to be an unrealizable goal. This is because people are fallible, and so no matter how reliable the news seems to be, we cannot and should not EVER take them as the final authority on truth. Everybody makes mistakes.

Fox News, Drudge, Limbaugh, and their ilk seem to alternately push two messages which are both wrong. One is "You can trust us! We're the only ones who really tell the truth!" And, "Yeah, we make mistakes, we're just like everybody. So what? You can't trust NY Times at all, look at Jayson Blair. You can't trust CBS at all, look at Dan Rather."

In some logic puzzles, there's an imaginary "Island of knights and knaves" where there are only knights who always tell the truth, and knaves who always lie. When the right wing media gets caught lying, they point to an example of somebody else from the other side either lying or making a mistake, and then they say "Look, we're all knaves. You know that. We're no less trustworthy than them."

But this is simplistic because it doesn't acknowledge that knights and knaves don't exist. The ability to tell the truth or not tell the truth is not a binary value. All people tell the truth sometimes and lie sometimes, but there are different degrees in the amount that people try to stick to being accurate and objective. Making a catastrophic mistake once every few years, and then apologizing for that mistake, is very different from constantly saying whatever you can to hurt the opposition and then lying about having no scruples.

I come from a family of journalists, and I am married to a journalist. When asked why he became a journlist, my husband (whose late father was a well known reporter for the Chicago Sun Times) says it's because he feels compelled to uncover the truth and report it. It's a burning passion with him, as it is with a lot of people who enter the journalism profession.

I do believe that there are lots of people out there who, like your family, TRY to always tell the truth, occasionally screw up, and are honest enough to admit the screwups. They should not be compared to people who make it a point to repeat lies as a policy.

Now, I don't call FOX news journalism. In fact, most newspaper reporters chuckle when talking heads (television media) call themselves a journalist.

IMO, newspaper reporters laugh at Fox News at their own peril. Fox News and other like them have a long term goal of undermining people's trust that objective reporting exists. "Look," they say, "every news source spins their material as much as they can get away with. You might as well get our spin instead of theirs."

Real journalists mock this as simple minded, and they're right, it is. But Fox News does entertain people, and people who didn't go to journalism school pay attention to it. And in the long term, that WILL undermine the credibility of real journalists.

I related the fake media to the creationism movement last time. Most legitimate scientists tend to completely scorn and ignore creationists. "I don't have time to waste on this nonsense!" they say. "I have real science to do, I don't want to talk to a bunch of uneducated yokels!"

Unfortunately, those yokels vote. And if legitimate scientists don't act serious about educating people, then those yokels will eventually be persuaded by uncontested creationists that it's in their best interest to put creationism in textbooks.

It's the same thing with journalism. Fox News is not a real journalism outfit, but people have to be educated to understand that, or else they'll vote with their feet for whatever network displays the most thrilling headline teasers and the most vibrant colors in their promo spots.

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Author: MATZOID Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 119345 of 441216
Subject: Re: An unfair and unbalanced media rant Date: 9/23/2004 2:49 PM
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How do you get truth into people's faces?

Make them view it through their pocketbooks.


That doesn't seem to work, either. Note the popularity of SUV's and Hummers in the face of $2+/gal gas prices (let alone the price of the vehicle!).

Bringing it to their door step seems to work, as in a military draft. But even that can be spun so deftly you can get the "I regret I have but one son to give for my country" mentality.

Maybe we turn the elections into a TV courtroom show, totally unscripted. We'll call it "Prove It!". The candidates takes turns each week being the plaintiff or defendant, and the plaintiff's charges must be proven beyond reasonable doubt by standard court procedures. A randomly selected jury from across the country would be chosen to decide the verdict. Fabulous prizes and hijinks ensue. I think Clarence Thomas should have about the right professioanl stature for this job.



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Author: linellen Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 119856 of 441216
Subject: Re: An unfair and unbalanced media rant Date: 9/30/2004 1:27 PM
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This is brilliant. It has the ring of truth.

Lindsay


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Author: 2old4bs Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 119862 of 441216
Subject: Re: An unfair and unbalanced media rant Date: 9/30/2004 3:12 PM
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Journalists need to quit worrying about being fair and worry more about being right.

It seems to me that television journalists are not worried about being fair, or right--they are worried about ratings. You single out Fox News, but in my view (and I watch a lot of TV news), being fair or right are just empty 'talking points'. Because of the poliferation of news stations in the broadcast industry, all they care about is getting 'the story' on air as soon as possible, so their viewers don't feel like they've missed out. This leads to many situations in which the broadcast media grab and air each other's stories without bothering to check their accuracy--in effect, the broadcast media themselves have become the inventors and spinners of 'news'--with hardly a thought to checking the accuracy or validity of anything they air. "If another station broadcast it, it must be true" seems to be their attitude. And if it turns out that it's not, their fall-back position is "We were just repeating what had already been broadcast elsewhere--don't blame us."

I'm not familiar with what goes on in the print news media--hopefully it's better, but television 'journalism' would better be termed "gossip".

2old



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