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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Friday, February 12, 2010

Vandehei speaks the beginning of the truth

Normally I try to avoid these "narrative" articles, where the author presents a narrative and then uses it to selectively generate quotes from both sides of the asserted "truth," but I link this one on Sarah Palin because no one else in the major media has written the beginning of this truth so clearly.

The media loves Sarah Palin because she generates traffic. She is treated more "seriously" than she should be because the mere mention of her name generates revenue. She is the news equivalent of showing nudity during TV's sweeps week.

The extension Vandehei doesn't make is that this self profiting sensationalism by the media also serves to overrepresent the crazy political positions that Sara Palin and her supporters assert. Because of the traffic they generate, the "Tea Party convention," 600-1,000 people gathered in a ballroom, get days of front page coverage while much more impacting organizations, national union meetings or even the RNC meeting in Hawaii, get far less press.

This significantly impacts the political discussion. By overrepresenting what is, for the most part, a fringe position. It changes the political discourse, tilting the results of elections and changing the policies and laws of this country.

In their pursuit of "buzz," the media is collaborating to make this country far more "conservative" than it really is.

Afterthought. How differently would all of this be treated if the "tea party folks" weren't white and christian? Imagine if this were a black or Latino organization calling for "secession," or was carrying weapons or signs implying violent action against the government?

Think the media would cover nationwide gatherings of black men, some carrying guns, as the "heart of America?"


  • I'm wondering how his is different -- or similar -- to the days of William Randolph Hearst.

    I agree with your assessment of modern "news" media. I just don't think we're going to see a change in this sort of manipulative reporting until -- like an alcoholic -- we hit a point of dysfunction where we can no longer stomach a diet devoid of reason and normalcy.

    By Blogger -epm, at 8:03 AM  

  • I don't see a change on the horizon either.

    The real end of "yellow journalism" didn't come until the post world wars, especially WWII. There were a number of folks who really began in WWI, and came back to fill news departments and journalism schools with an almost monastic sense of journalism.

    From that, with the advent of the way network TV news was originally set up, we had the closest thing we've ever had to a true facts first news.

    (Network TV news was originally required by the Congress and FCC as a "public service" which created a rather unique way of doing business. There was a "chinese wall" between the network and the news division. The netowrk would supply a budget of x amount and then just stand out of the way.

    It wasn't until CNN that this started to crumble. CNN showed that news could be profitable, that there was a market there. So, slowly, news turned into profit bith at the major networks, and then at channels competing with CNN.

    Now, that profit drive, that first wasn't present, then only present in the financial and corporate folks, has trickled all the way down to the reporters. They're under pressure to generate buzz as much as report stories.

    In fact, we're probably in the second iteration of that where the reporters now do buzz because it's "fun" not because of pressure from editors.

    Political gossip. We now have a generation who genuinely, personally love it. They are the TMZ of the political world, and they're present in almost every political editorial room.

    So, no, I don't see what fixes it unless there's a major event that reshapes a large section of the reporting world. After all, it took Congressional structuring of an industry and a world war to produce the last major ethical generation.

    By Blogger mikevotes, at 8:28 AM  

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