Journalists, Employees of Media Oligopoly

From Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism by Thomas E. Patterson (Kindle Locations 1270-1317):

“If truth were the test, the machinery of news would grind to a halt. Whole areas of public life would be walled off to reporters because judgments about them are speculative. When Woodrow Wilson said he had spent much of his adult life in government and yet had never seen “a government,” he was saying that government is a concept and not an object. 23 How can journalists claim to know “the truth” of something as complex and intangible as government? Political scientists spend their careers studying government without mastering the subject fully. How can journalists with much less time and specialized training somehow accomplish it?”

A very good question. The best journalists know a little bit about many things, but rarely do they know a lot about anything in particular. They aren’t experts in knowledge. Their expertise is simply in communicating, which means they translate and filter the knowledge of other experts. They are middlemen. Most of the time they don’t even understand what they are attempting to communicate, but they must always speak with the authority of the experts they claim to speak for.

“Journalists are asked to make too many judgments under conditions of too little time and too much uncertainty for the news to be the last word. “When we expect [the press] to supply a body of truth,” Lippmann wrote, “we employ a misleading standard of judgment. We misunderstand the limited nature of news [and] the illimitable complexity of society.” 24 3.”

The one thing journalists have little training in is how to communicate complexity. Most of them don’t even try. However, without complexity, there can be no truth.

“Almost alone among the professions, journalism is not rooted in a body of substantive knowledge. 25 The claim is not that journalists lack knowledge or skill, for that is far from true. Nor is the claim an entry into the perennial but ultimately fruitless debate over whether journalism is a craft rather than a profession. 26 The claim instead is a precise one: Journalism is not grounded in a systematic body of substantive knowledge that would protect its practitioners’ autonomy and inform their judgment. 1

“Medicine, law, and the sciences, even economics and psychology, have disciplinary knowledge that guides practitioners’ decisions, narrowing the choices and reducing the chances of error. Journalists have no such advantage. Although there is a theoretical knowledge of journalism, it is not definitive, nor is its mastery a prerequisite for practice. 27 Although a majority of journalists have a college degree in journalism, many have a degree in a different field and some have no degree at all. 28”

I’m constantly shocked that so many news reporters (I’m not sure the fancy word of ‘journalist’ applies to most) are seemingly ignorant about what they report on. Doesn’t curiosity ever get the better of them? You’d think they’d feel some moral compunction to inform themselves first. Instead, it seems like it is just a job to them. They go to the office and someone hands them a script. Or else they wing it and try to appear intelligent.

“Journalists are often in the thankless position of knowing less about the subject at hand than the newsmakers they are covering, a reversal of the typical situation, in which the professional practitioner is the more knowledgeable party. Only rarely do clients know more about the law than do their attorneys , whereas newsmakers normally know more about the issue at hand than the journalists covering them. During the Persian Gulf War, journalists who visited the Pentagon press office were greeted with a sign that read, “Welcome Temporary War Experts.” 29

“The knowledge advantage that newsmakers have over journalists is not simply that they are privy to what’s said in closed-door meetings or contained in briefing papers. 30 They are assisted by experts. The president would never rely on his own instincts across a host of issues without the advice of policy specialists; nor would any congressional committee chair, top bureaucrat, or lobbyist. To be sure, journalists acquire expertise as a result of being on the same news beat for lengthy periods, but this form of expertise does not compare with that of most professionals . Doctors, lawyers, and engineers are masters of their own house in a way that journalists are not.”

In some ways, it isn’t the fault of journalists. They are being asked to do the impossible. No one can know everything or even most things. That is why the author suggests that journalists should specialize and only report on what they are experts on.

“Journalists’ knowledge deficit does not appear to be a major concern within their profession. In 2008, the Knight Foundation created a blue-ribbon commission aimed at strengthening journalism so that it could better serve communities’ “information needs.” None of the panel’s fourteen recommendations spoke to journalism’s knowledge deficit. 31 Yet the public has a sense of it. In a Freedom Forum study, journalist Robert Haiman found that although the public “respects the professional and technical skills [of] journalists,” it feels that journalists “don’t have an authoritative understanding of the complicated world they have to explain to the public.” In the five cities where he held public forums (Nashville; New London, Connecticut; Phoenix; San Francisco; and Portland, Oregon), Haiman heard repeated complaints from local civic and business leaders who questioned reporters’ preparation. “We heard stories,” he writes, “about reporters who did not know the difference between debt and equity, who did not know basic legal terminology used in a trial, and who had little idea of how manufacturing , wholesaling, distributing, and retailing actually work and relate to each other.” 32”

Journalists know little about even the wealthy and powerful they report upon. It isn’t their job to understand because that might mean questioning. If the corporate owners and management of newsrooms wanted informed intelligent journalists, they would hire such people. The point is that news is about business, not knowledge and understanding.

These journalists live in their own media bubble. They know even less about those who aren’t wealthy and powerful. As a college dropout, I know more about many issues, from poverty to racism, than does the average journalist. Having a good looking face and speaking clearly, for the job of journalists, is more important than being informed and insightful.

“If journalists are, as has been claimed, “the custodians of the facts,” 33 their armament is sometimes akin to that of a palace guard. It is difficult to protect the facts in those instances when someone else commands them. 4.”

That is the whole point. Journalists, generally speaking, aren’t independent actors. Most of them are employees. And most of them are employed by big business. They work for corporations that are subsidiaries of a few holders of all of mass media. They are part of a media oligopoly.

“When it comes to a subject of more than average complexity, the truth in news typically comes from outside of journalism. The news media, Lippmann argued, “can normally record only what has been recorded for it by the working of institutions. Everything else is argument and opinion.” 34”

Journalists are just extensions of the organizations and mouthpieces of the institutions they are enmeshed in. Why would we expect anything different from them? Demanding higher standards of the employees of corporations is only meaningful if we demand higher standards of the corporations that employ them. The first higher standard we should demand is a breaking up of the media oligopoly.

My Dream of a Media Watchdog

I enjoyed this clip. It’s short and doesn’t go into enough detail, but I liked the comparisons made.

I’d appreciate a show entirely about keeping tabs on the media:

  • showing which stories reported and not reported by which news outlets and why
  • doing investigative journalism into who owns and manages each news outlet, the financial ties, the political donations
  • offering detailed biographies of all the major players working in media
  • comparing mainstream media to alternative media, US media to foreign media
  • pointing out the themes across all media and ferreting out attempts at propaganda
  • explaining historical info about stories beyond the mere superficialities of events and explaining how such stories have been reported in the past
  • analyzing how different schools train journalists, how journalists perceive themselves, and how journalists are treated by governments
  • ascertaining what makes good journalism and ethical journalism, comparing when journalism succeeds to when it fails
  • offering interviews with experts on media, propaganda, advertising, and astroturf
  • looking at the demographic data of the media and of viewers
  • exploring the field of polling, considering the public opinion about media and how the media reports on public opinion

The media, of course, loves to talk about the media. But usually that is just media people attacking other media people and ranting about who is better. I don’t care about those kinds of pissing tests. What I’d like to see is intelligent and well informed commentary such as seen with Noam Chomsky.

Not short segments.
Not video clips with little context.
Not sound bytes.
Not mere opinionating.
Not just a platform for talking points.
Not just simplistic portrayals of left vs right.
Not false equivalency presented as fairness.
Not just reacting to what is popular at the moment.

I want high quality investigative journalism, detailed analysis, long panel discussions, professional debates, et cetera. There is so much info out there and so many agendas. It would be nice to have one outlet that had the single purpose of sorting through all of it in order to determine the actual facts.

There are media watchdog websites like FAIR, but I want something that is a more major operation. It would be difficult to do. It might have to follow a non-profit model or at least an alternative media model. The Young Turks is the biggest internet news show that built up its audience without initially having any advertisers, just making profit through membership fees. My idea of a major media watchdog would probably be most likely to succeed if it targeted an international audience, along with content targeted for more specific audiences. If they offered a high enough quality product, people would be willing to pay for it. Also, they could build their brand by working together and combining resources with other alternative media, especially when doing major investigative journalism projects.

I’m sure such a thing is unlikely to ever exist, but it’s nice to dream.

FOX ‘News’ Viewers Again Found Significantly more Disinformed and Misinformed

I posted this for two reasons.

First, it’s further evidence that Fox News is not a reliable source of information… or else that Fox News attracts a very low quality viewer (and doesn’t manage to increase their quality)… not that this should surprise anyone who has been paying attention.

Second, it’s further evidence that Fox News is not “Fair and Balanced” for how could a truly fair and balanced news organization do such a miserable job of informing their viewers (or correcting the misinformation their viewers already have from other sources)… not that this should surprise anyone either.

Fox News not a reliable source of news? Fox News not fair and balanced? Oh my! LOL

December 2010 Survey:

http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pip…

Wall Street Journal Poll found FOX viewers the the most disinformed and misinformed:

http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/MSNBC/Sec…

The Pew Research Center found FOX viewers are the most disinformed and misinformed:

http://people-press.org/report/537/

October 2003 Survey:

http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pip…

The Three Questions:

Evidence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda have been found. (A: No)

Weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. (A: No)

World public opinion favored the US going to war with Iraq. (A: No)

Take the quiz and find out: http://bit.ly/glhzkb

 

Media, Race and Obama’s First Year

I think this is what fairly could be labelled as institutional racism.

http://www.pewtrusts.org/our_work_report_detail.aspx?id=60139

As a group, African Americans attracted relatively little attention in the U.S. mainstream news media during the first year of Barack Obama’s presidency — and what coverage there was tended to focus more on specific episodes than on examining how broader issues and trends affected the lives of blacks generally, according to a year-long study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and its Social and Demographic Trends Project.

From early 2009 through early 2010, the biggest news story related to African Americans was the controversy triggered by the arrest last summer of a prominent black Harvard University professor by a white Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer. It accounted for nearly four times more African American-related coverage than did either of two biggest national “issue” stories covered by the mainstream media during the same period – the economy and health care.

The study finds that 9% of the coverage of the nation’s first black president and his administration during Obama’s first year in office had some race angle to it. Here, too, this coverage was largely tied to specific incidents or controversies rather than to broader issues and themes.

Read the full report, Media, Race and Obama’s First Year on the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

Cantor Lying with a Straight Face

Here is a boring and stupid video. There isn’t much point in watching except it’s a representative example of Republican behavior (see commentary below).

Cantor, with a straight face, does nothing but lie and mislead. This is common behavior for Republicans because they know the facts don’t support their ideology and their own self-interest.

There are two other things about this video.

First, it sounds like he is talking down to a child. I’ve noticed that some Republicans talk this way when they’re trying to get a message to the voters. It sounds mean, but it seems like Republicans such as Cantor think their constituents are lacking in intelligence and have a child-like mentality.

Second, this video sounds like a campaign ad. I’m wondering why the mainstream media airs campaign ads for free. Why is it rare for the media to confront politicians about their lies and misinformation?

Basically, no useful facts are being shared in this video, no rational argument is being made, no insightful criticism is being offereed. It’s just typical GOP talking points.

Segregation in 2010!

This is the type of issue that libertarians have no practical answer for. If government was smaller with less tax funding and with less power, incidents like this would happen all of the time and there wouldn’t be anything that could be done about it. If our country had been libertarian from the beginning, it’s possible (highly probable even) that slavery could still exist as it still does exist in some parts of the world.

This incident proves beyond a doubt how easy it is for institutionalized racism to exist even now. Conservatives like to pretend racism limited to the past and so we should act as if it doesn’t exist. Of course, anyone who has looked at the actual data wouldn’t be surprised by this report about segregation. The laws on sentencing drug crimes are notoriously racist in that drugs that are popular among whites get lower sentences. Also, racism is institutionalized in our culture itself. Research shows that juries and judges are strongly influenced by racism (whether conscious or unconscious).

What You Should Know About Roger Ailes, President Of Fox News

I don’t know if I’ve posted the following video before, but I just came across it again.

It’s a very impressive analysis of Roger Ailes and Fox News. This is the only news show I’ve ever seen which mentions Roger Ailes’ “Orchestra Pit Theory”. Cenk is correct in this video that, what ever else can be said, Ailes is a genius… a genius without a conscience but still a genius.

Pro-Israel: Narrative vs Reality

Here is an interview discussing the Israeli two state option. Most people who are pro-Israel support a two state solution. Most American Jews support a two state solution. However, a minority of hawkish Jews, neocons, & white end-times evangelicals dominate the political discourse, control the media narrative. A minority position gets presented in the media as if it were the majority position.

This is another success story in how conservatives have been very effective in controlling narratives. Their greatest narrative success is that the media is liberally biased. If that were true, then conservatives wouldn’t be able to control the narrative about Israel.

Democrat Corruption? Liberal Scandals?

I’m an unrepentant liberal with strong interest in liberal views and interests. I do, however, go out of my way to try to see the world from other views as well. I check out the views of anarchists, libertarians, Tea Party protesters, rightwing bloggers, intelligent conservative news (such as Wall Street Journal), etc. I even stay moderately informed of what comes from Fox News reporters and pundits.

Still, I’m biased and I don’t hide my bias. Despite my liberal rants and complaints, I do believe that truth matters more than ideology. I consider my liberalism as more of an attitude than a specific position on political issues. I want to be fair and I try to be fair… but am I being fair?

I’ve recently noted many scandals involving Republicans and conservatives in general. Just this past week there has been some doozies. In order to be fair, I was trying to think of what recent major scandals have involved Democrats and liberals in general. Over the past year, there has been endless criticisms of supposed associates (past and present) with people deemed by rightwing pundits as socialists, communists, terrorists or whatever. These allegations have had some real world impact on the careers of certain people, but they’re not exactly scandals on the level of it being revealed that Bush covered up the fact that many Gitmo detainees were known to be innocent.

The two biggest alleged liberal scandals involved ACORN and the Climategate e-mails. However, both of those incidents were investigated and officials determined that no illegal or immoral activities happened with either. The real scandal about ACORN turned out to be the guy who made it all up by editing and splicing video. His moral character was made evident when he was caught doing some other illegal activities that sent him to jail for a time (the judge released him but required him to live with his parents).

So, where are the liberal scandals? Ignoring the empty allegations of a socialist conspiracy, where are the concretely proven failures of liberal and Democrat leaders? Am I missing something? Or have Republicans become more corrupt than Democrats?