Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Journalists? Get a rope!

It's a bad time to be a journalist in the United States.

Seemingly everyone hates them. The Republican National Convention featured speaker after speaker complaining about the "liberal elitist press", this when they weren't bashing Barack Obama, community organizers, urbanites, or anyone who drives a Prius. Democrats, meanwhile, are equally convinced that the media is controlled by Karl Rove, Fox News, and some sort of mind-control ray held in a redneck compound on the grounds of Liberty College in Virginia; irritatingly, they see any legitimate question about their candidate as "swiftboating". In other words, conservatives are sure the press is controlled by liberals; liberals are sure the press is controlled by conservatives.

The campaigns have, shamefully, played off this essentially anti-democratic, anti-press animus: the Obama campaign has issued idiotic "action alerts" to get their supporters to harass a Chicago radio station that has given airtime to an anti-Obama author; meanwhile, the McCain campaign has stopped holding press conferences altogether and can't seem to get through a choreographed, telepromptered speech without whipping up anti-"media" frenzy. I remember hearing one fan claiming that, when McCain is elected, the government will "reform" the press- something that should never, ever happen in a democratic country.

My fellow Americans: grow up!

Ultimately, "the media" is us- they represent you and me. They ask questions on behalf of the populace. We should want them to be tough on all politicians. The fact that both parties are equally convinced that the media is against them should tell you something: they are doing their jobs.... at least, as much as they can in such a weird and hostile environment.

In other words, Republicans asking for "deference" for their moose hunting tyro or Democrats taking "action" against anyone who criticizes Mr. Hopey Change are all working for the same goal- a press that works in the interest of the government against the rest of us. The campaigns need to study the history of the free press in America; the electorate needs to accept that their "team" is not going to be coddled like the nobility; and the press desperately needs to "grow a pair", as the fake Hillary put it.


Brian Dunbar said...

It feels to me like journalism has strayed from simply reporting the news to having opinions on it.

Journalists can have opionions - but I don't expect them to leak into their news story.

I yelled at the TV yesterday (well, video from CNN on my laptop) to "stop telling me what you think, just give the f***ing news."

Opinions are fine - but keep them in a box labeled 'editorial'. News is facts and what happened. The only people who actually _read_ the news (news, not tabliods) are bright enough to form their own opinions.

Holly said...

Now, now... when it's what THEY think, it's called editorial. When they're telling you what to think, it's called analysis...

rufus said...

They never used to spout off on any of the stations. What happened was that FOX News started editorializing during the news and their ratings went through the roof. So CNN decided to follow suit. I remember when the station made the decision to give opinions during the news. Now, like you've said, it's pretty much like watching Lou Dobbs and these people getting drunk in a bar and spouting off.

What I'm getting at is the anger people have when their candidate gets grilled. A few months back, there was a debate where Obama got a number of really tough questions. The next day, I kept reading on Democrat blogs, and getting emails about how we should all boycott ABC and the right wing media. Now they ask Sarah Palin a bunch of tough questions and I'm reading about how we should all boycott ABC and the left wing media.

But, for me, there's something a little insane about saying that these people should hold some of the most powerful offices in the world, but they can't handle being grilled by the press. The media should be "attack dogs"- this is not a monarchy. I mean, if they had asked tougher questions- or frankly any tough questions- in the run-up to the Iraq war we might not be in the strange situation where, a few years later, people start thinking it wasn't such a great idea.

So I want them to hammer Obama, and McCain, and anyone who wants to hold high office in this country. Even if it means their ratings take a hit.

But, yes, I don't need to hear their opinions either. It's amazing to me that the BBC, for all of its own problems, manages to be both much drier in tone, and a lot tougher in its interviews than any of the cable news media.

The Pagan Temple said...

Media objectivity is actually a fairly recent phenomenon. The older newspapers used to be blatantly in the tank for first one party or another. Some of them even named their papers the "Republican" or the "Democrat" and so on. They openly advocated for or against candidates and sometimes engaged in the most outrageous libels imaginable.

Objectivity in news reporting, especially in political coverage, was as much a business model as anything. Publishers wanted to increase their subscription rates by trying to appeal to everybody, and radio and news followed suit.

It doesn't really bother me that they have an opinion and express it. It gets annoying sometime, but I can live with it. What really irks me is when they are obviously not objective, yet try to pretend that they are.