Press, Press, Pull: Failure of the Media

October 18, 2008

Only logic can save the day.

3 stooges

As a kid (and even now as an ‘adult’), I loved the insane violence, and memory brings up a little bit about the media.
In one of those The Three Stooges clips, and there seems to be thousands of them, the boys needed to get inside some official meeting.
After some brain-storming, the trio decide to pass themselves off as newspaper reporters, and in order to do so, go to a public bathroom and remove all the “Press” levers to use as official passes.
Of course, there’s a screw-up — two go with ‘Press’ and ‘Press,’ but the third dumb-ass used a ‘Pull’ insignia.
The result: Mayhem and chaos.
US media has a pull certificate.

And in the run-up to the Iraqi war, the US media pulled hard in the opposite, though decidedly unfunny, way.
A recent Nieman Foundation discussion panel found the media sadly lacking of backbone.
On this panel were Michael Massing, Charles Lewis, Florence Graves, Tom Rosenstiel, John Walcott, Jane Mayer and Gil Cranberg.
A complete report on the event can be found here.
Some snippets:

  • Covering one of the most important stories of our time – the run-up to war in Iraq — our nation’s top reporters and editors blew it. Badly. Their credulous, stenographic recitation of the administration’s deeply flawed arguments for war made them de facto accomplices to a war undertaken on false pretenses.

    The country was solidly behind Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the administration branded those who raised too many questions as unpatriotic, some of those who did buck the administration line found themselves subject to harassment, and too many mainstream reporters and editors were worried about losing readers if they swam against the political tide.
    Panelists said pressures were great in some newsrooms – particularly where the corporate leadership was concerned with appearing out of step with the country. Though there wasn’t any consensus about why some organizations were more susceptible than others – and why the most important outlets were among the most susceptible – there was a clear sense that the fearfulness of a newsroom is a management failure. The panel didn’t come up with a solution, but it did hold up Walcott and Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) as a model.

    And despite the explosion of blogs and alternate news sources, the panel also noted how the most elite traditional news outlets continue to set the nation’s political agenda. Indeed, Massing pointed out that “with all the cutbacks that have gone on at many papers, particularly these … once very good regional papers, like the Boston Globe and Newsday and the Baltimore Sun and so on, these sort of elite organizations have in some ways become more important, and the New York Times and Washington Post in particular.”

Add to the media’s thumb-sucking asshole-ness: Jackboot John McCain wouldn’t be where he is today without the media loving his lying guts and then covering up all those ugly faults.

Press, press, pull.

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