Monday, August 20, 2018

1985 We Are Not the Enemy

We the evil corporate liberal media have been getting a bum rap from a bum in Washington.  This is my answer, adapted and expanded from my answer to a question on the website “Quora.” It’s also a way to join those newspapers and other broadcasters who have begun to strike back.

The Question was “As a journalist, what do you wish the public understood.”

Reporting and presenting the news happens in a pressure cooker, not a vacuum.
Too many of today’s young journalists want to be TV stars, not reporters. There’s nothing wrong with working in TV news if you don’t forget the “news” part.
Public officials tend to be bullshit artists and sometimes filtering what they say for nuggets of fact is both hard and smelly.
For the most part, corporate owners of the media keep their hands off the product and concentrate on things like advertising, circulation and ratings. It’s rare for the owners of a major network or a large newspaper to effectively push a viewpoint. There are a few. Fox, Sinclair, Russia Today and MSNBC come to mind. But with these, there’s no attempt to hide a slant.
At the time I worked for NBC, no representative of the owner, General Electric, told us to spin a story. At the Associated Press, the slogan was “Deadline Every Minute.” Try working under those conditions. No one has time to contemplate ways to slant a story.
We are not generally lazy. We are not generally illiterate. With certain exceptions, we’re certainly not overpaid.
This is not to say we’re flawless. We’re human. We make mistakes. We have a duty to correct them, even small ones.
All-news radio and television are like sharks. They have huge maws to fill. Sometimes we fill them with stupid. Example: the moronic speculation panels of “experts” and former FBI agents or professors of statistics, psychology, engineering, sociology and basket weaving. They remind me of my college days when we sat at the bar with a pitcher of beer and a couple of shots and naively solved all the world’s problems. We had to pay to drink and dribble drivel. But now, it’s a job description and there’s no beer.
It’s like watching pro wrestling only it’s rare for the ref to be ignoring the action and even less likely that someone will get clobbered with a steel folding chair.
This puts a terrible burden on the public. It has several components. Among them:
—You have to evaluate what you hear, see or read.
—Sometimes there aren’t two equal sides to a dispute.
—You can’t rely on any one source no matter how lofty.
—You can’t rely on choosing only media that seem to suit what you want to hear or read.
Let’s look at that “two sides to every story” thing a bit. Yes, if there’s a dispute, it’s wise to present both sides of the argument.  In fact, it’s a requirement.
But if there is conclusive evidence that one side has facts and the other has fancy, that has to be reported, too.
To that end, let’s look at some of the nasties posted by our liar in chief:
Statement gist: The democrats forced cancellation of the proposed military parade in Washington.  Fact: The city cannot afford the millions of dollars it would be forced to pay as its share.  Sure, most if not all city officials are democrats.  And if they were big spenders, they’d find a way. But if republicans ruled, there’d be no blame for the same stance that small government types would take.
Gist: Omarosa is crazy and a dog.  Fact: Omarosa is not the nicest person you’ll ever meet.  And there are ways to point this out without name calling which only escalates the conflict.
Expanding this template beyond the president:
Gist: Global warming/climate change is a hoax. Fact: No it ain’t. And it isn’t a conspiracy, either.
Gist: Tax cuts for the rich will expand jobs. Fact: not so far. But they did clear the way for even more money to fall into the hands of careerist politicians with no cajones and no principles.
Gist: The economy is booming. Fact: yeah as long as you don’t count wage stagnation and underemployment.
You get the point.
Sorry, folks. Today’s news presentation environment forbids the passivity that you have come to embrace and love. You have to think.
I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

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