Articles

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Dying Media Writes its Own Obituary

Most people think of the news media differently than the participants in it think of themselves. While most people think that the job of newspapers, news radio stations and television newscasts is to report on events, those on the other end of the wire, the printing press and the cable, think that their job is not to report, but to advocate.

The high cost of producing a widely read newspaper, a television station or a radio station, has traditionally limited ownership and injected the owner's biases into the outlet. But the rise of a professional media class in America has made the owner's views almost redundant, in the same way that unions have ensured that every business they work for will be used to serve the interests of the Democratic party. While some reporters may still report, overwhelmingly the members of the professional media class do not report, they advocate.

That is why the rise of the internet has only accelerated media bias, as advocacy journalists are less worried about owners and working for a single outlet, and instead focus on maintaining political solidarity with their professional colleagues. A journalist no longer thinks in terms of working for the same newspaper for 20 or 30 years. He knows that by then there probably won't even be any newspapers. A month from now he'll be in a different outlet. Two months from that, he might be printed in three others, one of them a media blog. Three months from now he may be doing video blogs for Time Magazine. The unstable nature of the market means that the journalist is less concerned with the owners, and much more with his professional standing with the colleagues who will hire him or recommend him for jobs. And today professional standing means political reliability, just as it did in the Soviet Union.

Jornolist is only one of the more public revelations about that private political solidarity, which these days determines the content of the news we are allowed to read. That boys and girls media club serves as an unofficial union in an unstable marketplace that is bounded not by accomplishment or educational credentials, but by pulling together for a common political cause. Whether it was plotting to bring down Bush or raise up Obama, to push nationalization of health care or internationalization of national security-- that unofficial fraternity and sorority of advocacy journalists has turned media bias into their reason for being. They have turned into the definition of what a journalist should be.

The difference between a reporter and an advocate, is that the former reports on events, while the latter uses events as props in his message. Where a reporter tries to learn what happened, the advocate tries to understand how he can use that event in his narrative. The advocate has less in common with the reporter, than he does with an ad executive. Like the ad executive looking at a box of chocolate, the advocate looks at an event and decides how he can use it to sell his message.

That is why news reports and articles have become commercials for liberal products. One news report might try to sell viewers on the idea that the War on Terror is a bad idea, another will encourage them to view bank bailouts positively, and a third will try to make them feel bad for opposing amnesty. And then the news commercials will pause, to allow that ad executive to run a commercial selling viewers a new brand of dog food of chocolate, before returning back to more news commercials. Or to music and dramatic television programming that is likely to be selling some of the same political messages as well.

The politicization of all forms of media is the result of an understanding that places political advocacy above any notion of objective truth or individual rights. It is fanaticism and propaganda in a suit and tie, sometimes even with an American flag placed around the border. Its not so secret belief is that the American people are stupid, that their culture is stupid and that their opinions can only be improved through direct programming from newspapers, books, radio, television, websites and any other source that can deliver political messages to them, whether they are disguised as news or entertainment.

Americans today are living surrounded by as much propaganda as any North Korean. The difference is that the propaganda is subtler because it is less standardized by any regulatory body or fear of prison sentences. But that too is beginning to change. The Obama Administration has defined its idea of the media's role as being the purveyor of its talking points, nothing more. Obama's avoidance of press conferences, and unwillingness to grant access to the media, makes it clear that he wants to keep them on a short leash. Like most totalitarian organizations, the Obama Administration is not interested in being asked questions, only in making sure that their propaganda is distributed in a timely and consistent fashion.

The Obama Administration is a major reason why the media has become dumber lately. Where attacking Bush gave the media a challenge, the Obama Administration leaves them with nothing to do except praise the Beloved Leader and condemn his critics as ignorant racists who hate America. Being an assassin requires more brains than being a herald, and much as the media struggles against it, their only function anymore is to blow the trumpet and repeat what they've been told to say, off the record, by their contacts in the White House.

While the media tries to paint the Tea Party protesters as extensions of the Republican party, it is actually they who have become extensions of the Democratic party. By advocating a polar political agenda, the media has come to be identified with liberalism, and with the country's primary liberal party. Distrusted by much of the country, yet taken for granted by the ruling political elite in Washington D.C., the media is reaching the end of the road. As the media organizations that employ them are becoming financially unsustainable, the ranks of reporters that came out of college firmly believing that their mission was to politically indoctrinate Americans are realizing that they are nothing more than bloggers working for dinosaur media outlets.

The media has poisoned its own well. Its survivors are increasingly political bloggers who satisfy the left's taste for blood, e.g. Andrew Sullivan, Joe Klein, Glenn Greenwald, Ezra Klein, who survive by pushing radical messages in the most abrasive way possible. But all this really does is turn Time Magazine and the Washington Post into Firedoglake, the Huffington Post and DailyKos. And radicalizing media outlets also marginalizes them. The media has successfully alienated conservatives and independents. Now it is alienating even mainstream Democrats who are sick of childish rantings and conspiracy theories taking the place of serious journalism.

The blogsphere has not only defeated the media, it has remade it in its own image. Conventional reporting is vanishing, and what remains of the media exists only to push talking points, repackage memes, launch attacks at the opposition, and furiously cover the asses of their own pet politicians. Unlike printing presses, radio and television stations; websites are relatively cheap. And that put the media into the uncomfortable position of trying to compete with free blogs. Paywalls have not worked, and so newspapers are folding and media outlets are trimming their staffs to try and stay competitive. And as the Time Magazine website shows us, the end result leaves you with something that has the Time brand on it, but reads like the Huffington Post.

Advocacy journalism has traveled a long from the posturing of a Walter Cronkite pretending to be your favorite uncle, to Keith Olbermann mimicking him with spittle flecked rants about the "Worst Person in the World". Dan Rather's takedown marked the end of the news broadcast. MSNBC and FOX are the logical result of cable news networks surviving by finding a political demographic and catering to them. But what works for FOX and MSNBC won't work nearly as well for media outlets that depended on a general cross-section of readers and viewers, rather than on preaching to the choir.

And that is the irony of advocacy journalism, whose politics helped kill their own jobs. Media arrogance and entitlement polarized media coverage at a time when media outlets had to make a compelling case why their readers should support them. And so they did. They made a compelling case to liberal readers, and told everyone else to take a hike. The result is all around us. The jobs of a small media elite will be preserved, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of jobs, from the circulation department to production assistants, from producers to designers, from delivery truck drivers to ordinary hard working reporters who legitimately covered non-glamorous events. Their jobs have had to die, so that a few thousand angry liberals will be able to keep on ranting on the websites that will be all that remain of once great newspapers and publications.

Now there's talk of a media bailout, which would recognize the media's new status as a government propaganda department. It isn't likely to happen though, except in a small and very selective way, because the Obama Administration's hostility to the media makes it rather clear that they view it as dangerous and redundant. Dangerous because even a heavily biased media can cover stories they don't want, and redundant because a government media would just do what the government already does, without actually being any more trusted than the government. A few political bloggers providing their opinions, subsidized by Soros funded organizations, would suit the Obama White House much better.

Dictatorships always consolidate the press, because they want to control the entire story from start to finish. Not just what is said, but when it is said, and how it is said. Control is the only mandate of tyranny. And political tyrannies are the worst, because the dogma of ideas creates constant mini-debates which are settled through repression and purges. The push to the left radicalizes and destroys what is left of the media. And what remains can be easily scooped up by the same people who paid for the current White House.

By embracing advocacy journalism, the media wrote its own obituary. It stopped being biased as an aspect of its reporting, instead bias became its identity. There ceased to be a media apart from the biased narratives, the attacks aimed at everyone who disagreed with their politics and the shameless slobbering over their favorite politicians. The media made political indoctrination in support of government control over every aspect of people's lives into its goal, and discovered why there is no free press in totalitarian countries. Because the people won't buy them and the government doesn't need them.

The media has reached the end of the road. It still makes noises about public service and informing the public, but everyone knows by now that these are buzzwords that mean op-eds and talking being run as news stories, commentaries being run as broadcasts. No one is buying it anymore, and no one cares. The culture of political conformity has destroyed the media. Its war on the Bush Administration and anointment of Obama were the last gasps of political propagandizing from a collapsing brontosaurus that once defined how Americans got their information. What began as great edifices of journalism that served information coast to coast and around the world, now come to their end as shoddy political blogs ranting about who dares to disagree with them. The media's obit is written, and there's no one even around to read it anymore.

27 comments:

Keli Ata said...

Great article. Advocacy journalism is the name of the game with the mainstream media these days. The Sunday morning talk shows don't have actual political analysis expert but journalists with opinions who are PR bent.

Print outlets either give us charticles or long-winded hard news with plenty of bias and preaching.

There's bias in the smaller print alternatives but since they focus on target readerships you can recognize the slant. The MSM is more subtle and devious.

Lemon said...

It is like the time of the Aurora in Philadelphia where journalism was just an excuse to control politics and people.

Akiva said...

Does the administration and congress's responses to try to gain control over blogs and websites (internet kill switch, various bills to require balance or classify unaffiliated articles or opinions on candidates as political campaign materials as examples) concern you? Or does that fall in line with press control (new press that is)?

Akiva said...

Also, how would you compare that to Israel where Knesset members were freaking out about news site Talkbacks and comments over the last few years (and attempting to create laws to control those)?

Anonymous said...

Excellent article.


The NYT, once the paper of record, is now a broken record, which explains why the publisher and readers are tone deaf.

Edgar Davidson said...

Very good analysis, especially of how all the many non-reporter jobs associated with the media "have had to die, so that a few thousand angry liberals will be able to keep on ranting on the websites that will be all that remain of once great newspapers and publications."

But in the UK things are MUCH worse than the US. For example, there is no longer any main stream newspaper that is prepared to offer objective news analysis about Israel and the Middle East and things are even worse with TV News. The ONLY news channels offered on Freeview digital TV are the BBC, CNN and SkyNews (the latter of which is increasingly trying to outdo the BBC as the vanguard of leftist/anti-American/anti-Israel propaganda). If you are a cable subscriber then they also throw in the following news channels (I kid you not): PressTV (that's the Iran government news channel), Al Jazeera and some European state funded news channels (all of which present essentially the same biased narrative as Al Jazeera). In fact, I have often found myself having to tune in to Al Jazeera as the least bad option (for example, any international news stories that cast Muslims in a bad light, such as suicide bombings in Arab countries, are almost uniformly ignored by any news channel other than Al Jazeera). The only way to get Fox News is through Sky satellite subscription.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Akiva,

Israel is a good deal worse. Mainly because of a small number of ownership, out of control courts and no one taking freedom of speech seriously, easy libel lawsuits, the ability to arrest someone for incitement, etc...

Re, Obama. The recent takedown of Blogetery should be rather ominous.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Edgar,

Yes, though the Telegraph doesn't seem that bad, despite Black no longer owning it.

Keli Ata said...

The media is putting itself out of business. Readers enjoy the opportunity to exchange opinions with those commenting on blogs where as traditional media outlets are clamping down on this (ie. Buffalo News policy on commenting on their blogs, which will soon require pre-authorization and use of one's real name and town).
***********

Latma TV is interesting. You Tube yanked their We Con the World video but many people downloaded it first and reposted the video. Now You Tube can't control the video. And it's in English, opening up the truth of what happened in Israel to people in the west who don't speak Hebrew or normally follow what happens in Israel.

Brilliant!

Mutany on the Internet. Actually an interesting phenomena someone should look into.

Sometimes we can put the traditional media out of business. Other times, hijack it and put it in our control. Sounds like a sci-fi movie but it does seem like it's happening.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

indeed, we can use social media to get the word out there

Miriam said...

Wow, I have to reread this piece by piece. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Edgar:

My exposure to UK journalism is limited to Abrose Evans Pritchard's articles. You give a very dismal rundown. Where do conservatives and let us say traditional-minded Jews turn to for news?

Akiva

Mikec said...

Where do conservatives and let us say traditional-minded Jews turn to for news?

Sultan Knish of course (along with Atlas shrugs and a few more....)

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

There are some conservative Jewish UK based blogs. The Jewish Chronicle seems a lot like its US counterparts, but not as bad.

Edgar Davidson said...

In reply to Akiva, Mikeac and Daniel:

Agree that the blogs are the place you can find out real news - the point I want to stress is that I don't see it as being a conservative v liberal split unless conservative means simply having access to the full story. For example, on the Israel/Palestine issue the fact is that the UK media will simply NOT print or show any news information that contradicts the narrative "Israel bad Palestinians innocent victims".
Regarding the Jewish Chronicle I'm afraid that they too are increasingly moving in the same direction as newer/younger journalists (who are similarly brainwashed at UK Universities) come on stream (and yes I know some of these personally). In fact I recently wrote up some stuff about the Jewsih Chronicle on my own blog:

http://edgar1981.blogspot.com/2010/06/jewish-chronicle-gets-it-all-wrong.html

Tracy W said...

Don't forget OBAMA'S RADIO PRAVDA

AKA NPR - National Public Radio

Speaking of leftist propaganda, we should not forget NPR. During the Obama's presidential campaign NPR went out of its way to portray his candidacy and agenda favorably AND to repeatedly broadcast news items and commentary around the subject of White-against-Black RACISM.

Their not-so-subtle message was: If you don't vote for Obama, you're a RACIST!!!

Once Obama got elected, NPR's focus turned on the main item on his agenda: Health care.

NPR partnered with some organization whose name I forgot (and whose funding we'll probably never know) that produced daily features of clear propaganda in favor of Obamacare, complete with interviews of suffering Americans.

It was nothing less than indoctrination, showing all the negative aspects of the present system and how Obamacare would fix every one of them.

NPR covered all the angles and possible aspects of the new policy. This went on DAY AFTER DAY, MONTH AFTER MONTH.

NPR is funded mostly by private donations.

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), however, is just as leftist as NPR but is fully funded by taxpayers.

CBC Radio has been severely dumbed down lately. Classical music programs were all but eliminated. They are trying to appeal to an audience of new immigrants - perhaps in the belief that they are not sophisticated enough for complex issues or good classical music.

I did not touch on the subject of Middle East reporting by NPR and CBC because they are a complete disgrace.

D'n said...

David said: "Israel is a good deal worse."

And how. Why is there still only one English-language newspaper in the country? Simply because every time a competitor arose, the existing journal (along with collaboration from the hebrew papers) told its major advertisers, if you go with them, they'll be your only outlet.

Starved for advertising sheqels, the newbies folded in a matter of months.

Craig said...

Hey there, Sultan Knish, love your work as usual...

Re, Blogetry, I've been keeping my eye on it and following that blog The Jawa Report, and my observation and patience have paid off...
http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/203350.php
To quote them...
'1. A site hosted by Blogetry was distributing Inspire magazine from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

2. The FBI asked for nothing more than information about the particular site, one of 73,000 hosted by Blogetry.

3. BurstNET, acting on their own initiative, and in accordance with their own Terms of Service, pulled the plug on Blogetry.

The FBI did not shut down 73,000 blogs, period.'

There's more on the subject at CNET, if you want me to get those articles...

Avi said...

I'm a bit surprised at the conclusions here, I actually mentioned in my last post here, how the internet was reshaping thinking in the US, so i'm glad to see this.

On the one hand Greenfield, you make it clear that the internet is reshaping and giving people freedom to voice their opionions, away from corporate and government controlled news. That is true, and is happening.

and on the other, you say Obama is controlling the media and internet, or something to that effect and you're blaming the Democrats for the people rejecting the tea party movement.


It's worth mentioning here, that the Americans were turning to the British for news, long before even Obama was running for the Presidency. So it's not fair to blame him for the left turn.

anyway, the contradiction is that if people are blogging and not bothering with the MSM or no longer believing and voicing their own opionions, and if the majority ARE left wing, then it's not because they're maniupulated by Democrats or Obama, it's because they are leftists.

No matter how much money is pumped into an election campaign ultimately, it's up to the people to reject if they so want.


The obvious point here, is that why are not the Republicans or their supporters equally aggressive in putting their message out? Is it because there aren't any?

If so, you can hardly blame the Democrats for that. What is stopping people from turning right if they want? Nothing! They can be ardent Republicans or rightists if they want.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Craig,

I wasn't aware it was terrorism related, the report I read said that it was a copyright crackdown. Burst.net claimed they had been told by the government to shut down the server. So the story seems to be changing.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Avi,

I don't know where you got all that, but it wasn't from my post.

Avi said...

Apologies Greenfield, the comments above were made by others.

What i'd like to know if anyone here can enlighten, is how much of the MSM in the USA is conservative and how much is liberal.

The comments above indicate that it's liberal, but it depends on what you mean by liberal. Certainly compared to Europe it's not liberal. The general perception is that the media in the USA is conservative (or used to )and controlled either by Republicans or churches/religous groups. Fox news was the mouthpiece of the Republican party, I don't know if it still is.

Even so, with blogging power, it's now probably more the peoples choice than ever before. Anyone can shape and influence if they so choose, that is only good news, the bad side is of course, that all the nuts will come crawling out of the woodwork too, witness the rise in anti-semitism, all due to the internet.

As far as Israeli media is concerned, I think the problem is that not enough is done or said that is positive about Israel. Rather than waste time highlighting and kvetching about what others are saying Israel media should put out good positive promotion type of information. That is what is needed.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

the american media is well to the left of the american public as a whole, and perceived by the public that way in poll after poll

europeans consider americans to be conservative, but that testifies to how far gone europe is

the internet is anyone's game, but that is an improvement over a media where it was only a few people's game

much of the israeli media is not interested in being positive, it wants to bring netanyahu down and push peace at any price

Avi said...

H'mm, interesting. The reason I asked was because though I have seen many reports that show Americans turning to Europe for news, i've included some links below, but the reverse is not true, most Brits and Euro's see American media as inferior and Americans as ignorant. Only Hollywood is taken seriously in Europe. Therefore, if Americans are conservative, why is this happening if the American media is already left wing, and most Americans are conservative?

Tim Montgomerie thought that the British media would turn the US elections in 2007. I'm not sure if you could credit Obama's election as being British influenced though, it's probably sign of the poor quality of media in the US. Run by profits, and not information.


There is a link between 9/11 and this trend, and since then, more and more American's are questioning their media.

Though the latest polls show Americans as being conservative numerically (40%), i'm not sure that numbers translate to influence here. The liberal minority include the academia, the business community, the wealthier and better educated populace and thus more influential minorities, in other words, the backbone of the country is the left wing.and certainly the younger Americans are left wing,

The right wing conservatives by comparison are centered in the lower income areas and they include the religously inspired (Bible Belt) crowd which forms the basis of the tea party movement.



For the scoop, more Americans turn to the Brits
November 15, 2001
For the scoop, more Americans turn to the Brits

US public turns to Europe for news
21/02/03
http://www.journalism.co.uk/2/articles/5576.php

The British Invasion
From AJR, December/January 2004
http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=3503



British media could swing the next US election
28 May 2007
By Tim Montgomerie, Editor of BritainAndAmerica.com.
http://britainandamerica.typepad.com/britain_and_america/2007/05/british_media_c.html


Americans turn to Al-Jazeera for coverage of Gaza conflictAl-Jazeera English saw a 600% jump in its online viewership, with 60% of that growth from US viewers
26 January 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jan/26/israelandthepalestinians-gaza-al-jazeera-us



Most Traffic Growth To UK News Sites Is Coming From U.S.
Sep 21, 2009
http://paidcontent.org/article/419-most-traffic-growth-to-uk-news-sites-is-coming-from-u.s/

Anonymous said...

Regarding where to go for news:

Try Gates of Vienna.

Arutz Sheva is a good source of news about Israel, despite the self-censorship they have to engage in to avoid being shot by the Shabak.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

American national and international news is an echo chamber, so it's not surprising that some Americans do look elsewhere. But a lot of this is simply the product of an internet environment where people link and index news sources regardless of country.

Those on the left and the right are more likely to also use European media that cover stories the US media doesn't... but that's a small section of the US population that actively seeks out foreign sources, as opposed to just clicking on interesting headlines.

Anonymous said...

"in other words, the backbone of the country is the left wing."?

"The right wing conservatives by comparison are centered in the lower income areas and they include the religously inspired (Bible Belt) crowd which forms the basis of the tea party movement."

Are you by chance a Newsweek editor? Or just a thoughtless snob?

Sorry, but this is the total opposite of America.(Check election results AFTER obama got in, waking people up.)The backbone of the country are Americans who are largely white, middle class, and living in rural areas and small towns and the smaller cities.

The big city elites, who pander to the radical left and relatively powerless minorites, are not taken seriously by the average American.

The Tea Party is not a religous party; it is economic. We are sick of the government wasting our money on frivolities, waste, and fraud. Religous people are the majority of people who live in places other than the urban areas. It is not considered a negative, but a positive (a sign of dependability and character) to be a religious person. Leaders of the communities and of the states here are all proudly religous and conservative.

You seem to buy into the "ignorant,white, racist redneck" picture the elite media paints. Take time to travel the country by car; you'll be surprised. Talk to the religous, conservative Americans you obviously look down upon. We even have universities, and many of us hold advanced, multiple degrees!

I live in pretty much the middle of the country in a city of 50,000. I have also lived on the West Coast and up near Chicago. Believe me, people who think the urban leftists represent the "backbone of America" do not realize the thousands of miles (and millions of people) that exist between the coasts and outside the urban areas. (P.S. I am a H.S. teacher and trust me on this, the young in "flyover country" are routinely conservative and detest the Left.)

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