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Integrating the Press.

In comments to an earlier post, I was asked what I am proposing in order to integrate the press politically.

What I do NOT suggest for the press is a "Fairness Doctrine."

1. I suggest shaming the press into hiring journalists who have different points of view — in other words, diversity, something that news organizations have given lipservice to for at least a decade.

2. If I were at CBS or NBC, I would call James Taranto and ask for names (or hire him).

3. MEDIA WATCH. If I were at any of the networks, I would start an hour-long news media show — Media Watch. I would hire two staffs, one mostly (though not exclusively) Republican and one mostly (though not exclusively) Democratic. Each one would critique media bias stories each week, followed by a panel discussion including both staffs and outside reporters who covered the story. There might even be a five minute segment for each side to critique the other side's report from the prior week. I think it would get relatively good ratings for a news show and would be great fun with the right people. To head up the Republican team, I would try to hire Tim Blair or Mark Steyn, someone with a sense of humor.

4. Last, if I were a billionaire, I would try to buy CBS, NBC, or ABC. I would point out to the news division that such strongly biased reporting is, at bottom, BAD journalism. No matter how competent the staff may be, the ORGANIZATION can't do a good job of political reporting in an atmosphere of political uniformity — even if the individuals try to be fair, which most of them do most of the time. I would encourage them to do what any news organization should do anyways: hire staff who would improve the overall quality of the reporting. That means that, if I were heading up Fox News, I would hire more Democrats.

I am reminded of something a prominent conservative once said to me: You can't have an all-white police force policing a largely African-American neighborhood. No matter how competent the individuals might be, it just doesn't work. Nor can you have an almost all-Democratic press setting the political agenda and policing the accuracy of the statements of candidates a politically mixed country. No matter how competent the individuals might be, it just doesn't work.

UPDATE: One more thought: It could have been worse. Imagine how the press would have performed if Hillary Clinton hadn't been running against Obama in the primaries. The ABC reporters with Clinton ties were the ones who brought the Rev. Wright story into the mainstream, and they were the first (and nearly the only) ones to ask Obama about some other aspects of his past.

Leo:
I love when people mention CBS, NBC, or ABC as if they were anywhere close to as biased as Fox News. They are news outlets that yes, might be a subtly biased at times. Fox News is an outright propaganda outlet whose very existence is devoted to partisan zealotry. Everytime they are equated, America collectively gets a little dumber.
11.4.2008 2:41pm
TPJ (mail):
I don't think those that complain about Fox News get it. Fox News was borne out of the bias of the Big 3. If their biases had not been present, Fox News would never have come to pass.

Also, the last analysis of media bias actually had Fox News as being the most fair to both candidates--as far as news reporting goes, which is different than the commentary shows.
11.4.2008 2:43pm
cboldt (mail):
-- 4. Last, if I were a billionaire, I would try to buy CBS, NBC, or ABC. --
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You'd get a better return on your investment if you bought National Enquirer and the like.
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-- strongly biased reporting is, at bottom, BAD journalism --
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The issue is whether or not it's profitable, not whether or not it's accurate, complete, or even honest. I think they all do a great job of [biased] political reporting. Hats off to 'em!
11.4.2008 2:43pm
Rupert:
the main difference is that FOX tacitly admits that it is biased to the right. CBS, NBC, and ABC continue their charade that they are unbiased. Big, big difference.
11.4.2008 2:44pm
Observer:
Leo: You are right that CBS, NBC and ABC are not the equivalent of Fox News -- Fox News presents both sides. For every minute of Hannity, you get one minute of Alan Colmes. By contrast, who is there to balance Keith Olbermann?

Incidentally, I have heard that 70% of Fox News employees are Democrats. How many more do you need to get to the perfectly balanced ratio?
11.4.2008 2:44pm
Pon Raul (mail):
Leo, Fox is less biased than CBS, NBC, or ABC. Eye of the beholder and all. Don't worry about America becoming collectively dumber, you seem to have already hit a floor.
11.4.2008 2:45pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
I suggest shaming the press into hiring journalists who have different points of view...


Wouldn't that plan require that the management of those organizations possess the capacity to feel shame?

I love when people mention CBS, NBC, or ABC as if they were anywhere close to as biased as Fox News.


You're absolutely right. They are MUCH worse than fox news.
11.4.2008 2:46pm
TPJ (mail):

The issue is whether or not it's profitable


True. I think MSNBC's ratings went up once they presented themselves as the liberal alternative to Fox News.
11.4.2008 2:47pm
JB:
There is no partisan media bias. There is media bias in favor of (a) the story they want to tell, (b) the story they think will sell copy, and (c) the story they are already telling.

This leads the media to often be incorrect, and in an election like this where the actual events were inconvenient to the narrative, it led to major bias. Specifically, (a) McCain and Palin were portrayed as angrier, less competent, and farther out of touch than they are, and (b) more credence was given to ultimately absurd reasons why the race was close.

What is needed is better reporting from people who are more knowledgeable about the issues. I would like to see bloggers published under syndication agreements in major papers. The level of analysis on blogs is significantly higher than that in the MSM, and if I could read a VC piece, or a Fivethirtyeight, or whatever, as a news article or see a VC commenter on TV as a pundit I would feel much better about the media.
11.4.2008 2:48pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
So, Leo, you want to claim that colmes gets the same amount of airtime and publicity as HANNITY? Ha, ha, ha.

What bothers me about suggestions like these is that they promote false equivalence, suggesting that Truth is midway between the Democratic and Republican positions. How about if we hire just a few intelligent cross-examiners to take on the bloviating journalist/pundit class? I'm willing to bet that the liberal inquisitors are going to have more fun, although for the rump GOP, looking for Obama's birth certificate, just getting them out of their tinfoil hats will be hard enough.
11.4.2008 2:50pm
GMUSOL05:

Fox News was borne out of the bias of the Big 3.


Fox News was born (without an "e") and rose to popularity as the liberal-bashing industry gained market share and profitability in the 1990s.
11.4.2008 2:50pm
Matt_T:
They are news outlets that yes, might be a subtly biased at times. Fox News is an outright propaganda outlet whose very existence is devoted to partisan zealotry.

The unexamined premise: Blatant propaganda - which intelligent people can generally spot and avoid, discredit, or adapt - is nonetheless less harmful than more subtle forms of persuasion that masquerade as objectivity. To be clear, I can't stand to watch Fox. But this argument doesn't get enough critical examination.
11.4.2008 2:54pm
Randy R. (mail):
I suppose if you were a billionnaire, you would have to hire some conservative people for the Daily Show, just to balance it out. Afterall, they get their biggest laughs at Bush and Palin.

I'm sure those funnymen over at the Weekly Standard would love a job with Jon Stewart.
11.4.2008 2:56pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):
There is no partisan media bias. There is media bias in favor of (a) the story they want to tell...


And of course, they are perfectly nonpartisan in their choice of the stories that they wish to tell.

Do you even read your own words before posting them?
11.4.2008 2:57pm
cboldt (mail):
-- ... false equivalence, suggesting that Truth is midway between the Democratic and Republican positions. --
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"Truth" is whatever the listener decides to believe. Viewed as "mass persuasion" (meaning some individuals don't fit this paradigm) the superior appeal to emotion will prevail in the "truth contest."
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See comments on VC. There is disagreement over the "truth" of some basic observations. Read jukeboxgrad and rebuttals to jukeboxgrad for examples of disagreement over the substance of "truth."
11.4.2008 2:58pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
It seems to me that audiences have clearly voted with their eyeballs: regardless of their own views, they'd rather get their news from people they agree with than from people trying to be "neutral". This shouldn't be surprising--the notion of objective, "professional" journalists providing nonpartisan news coverage is actually fairly recent, and (as you seem to agree) didn't really last very long.

To no small extent, it was a side effect of the regulated oligopolies dominating broadcast radio and later television: without the veneer of nonpartisan objectivity, the major networks would likely have risked the wrath of one or the other political party, with inevitably ugly regulatory consequences. Thus arose the concept of the unbiased journalist--an attractive one to journalists, since it transformed them from tawdry hacks into quasi-scientific professionals. The neutral ethos soon spread from broadcast to print journalism, although even today most newspapers haven't shed their original partisan characters.

But by the 1960s, the network news divisions' reputation for objectivity had already begun to fray. And the expansion of more forthrightly partisan alternative media since then, cutting heavily into their once-overwhelming market share, has obviously undermined still further their commitment to the ideal of objectivity. By now, surely, it's time to recognize the era of non-partisan journalism for what it was: a brief, not-particularly-successful experiment that has outlived its reason for being tried in the first place. Once it's understood that MSNBC and Fox--not to mention Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow--are the norm rather than the fringe, we can all stop arguing about "wither journalistic objectivity?", and get back to getting the information we want from people we trust.
11.4.2008 2:58pm
Leo:
I guess I can forgive this site for being an echo chamber for right wing hacks on this day of all days...

Let me see if I can summarize the main arguments here:

1) Fox news isn't biased! It's less biased than NBC/ABC/CBS! Nobody is more insitutionally liberal than news divisions controlled by billion-dollar media conglomerates!

2) Of course Fox News is biased, but that's okay because Alan Colmes' rotting corpse is an effective counterpoint!

3) Of course Fox news is biased! But that's okay because NBC/ABC/CBS were biased first, so Fox has the right to be many times more biased!

4) Of course Fox News is biased, but it's okay because they admit it! Everyone knows "fair and balanced" is nothing more than a sly, tacit admission of bias.

Really, folks... It's a propaganda outlet. It's Drudge for TV. And for being so liberally biased, the big three networks sure were complicit in the buildup to Iraq...
11.4.2008 2:59pm
hawkins:

Fox is less biased than CBS, NBC, or ABC


Im a fan of Fox News, but its hard to take seriously anyone who makes this argument.
11.4.2008 3:05pm
JoshD:
Have any of you complaining about FOXNews actually watched their news coverage?

Of course their political commentary is biased, that's the point. But their straight news is far less biased than CBS/NBC/ABC. Britt Hume is one of the best in the business. He anchors their political news coverage compared to Olbermann and Matthews on NBC.
11.4.2008 3:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I suppose we can keep arguing. Might cover up the sounds of another layoff in a bigtime MSM company.

I asked earlier, not claimed as the dishonest insisted I had, if there was as much coverage of the Obama/Ayers et al's pissing away $150m on school reform as on Palin's per diem issue or McCain's houses. Nobody answered. We learn about Obama's aunt, illegal immigrant, reportedly, subject to deportation, whom he claimed not to know much about, living in a project in Boston, from a UK paper.
Is there as much coverage in the MSM of the Obama/Ayers connection as of Troopergate? Is it accurate?
The issue is not only the lies, like Rather and CBS and TANG, but the choice of stories to ignore, to emphasize, and to cover minimally.
11.4.2008 3:10pm
Anon411 (mail):
Other than structurally, how do you see Media Watch as different from Reliable Sources on CNN?

What about On the Media on public radio?
11.4.2008 3:11pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
I would hire two staffs, one mostly (though not exclusively) Republican and one mostly (though not exclusively) Democratic.

Start with a green team, a socialist team, and a libertarian team, and you'll get a lot more diversity. There are more sides than R and D.

I would point out to the news division that such strongly biased reporting is, at bottom, BAD journalism.

Is it? Can anyone really write an unbiased story? Wouldn't it be better to have reporters with different biases cover the story, and let competition sort out the results?
11.4.2008 3:12pm
TPJ (mail):

Have any of you complaining about FOXNews actually watched their news coverage?

Of course their political commentary is biased, that's the point. But their straight news is far less biased than CBS/NBC/ABC. Britt Hume is one of the best in the business. He anchors their political news coverage compared to Olbermann and Matthews on NBC.


Bingo. Pay attention to the news coverage.

Fox News didn't have O'Reilly and Hannity lead the discussion immediately following the conventions, etc. MSNBC in all of their wisdom lets Olbermann and Mathews run wild with it.
11.4.2008 3:12pm
TPJ (mail):
Fox News' coverage according to the PEJ:

Positive Obama Stories 25%
Positive McCain Stories 22%
Negative Obama Stories 40%
Negative McCain Stories 40%
11.4.2008 3:15pm
JohnK (mail):
"There is media bias in favor of (a) the story they want to tell, (b) the story they think will sell copy, and (c) the story they are already telling."


That is simply not true. We have seen several instances in this election of newsoutlets refusing to run stories that would have sold papers because it would hurt their candidate. The LA Times refused to run the story on John Edwards' love child and mistress. Does anything sell papers like a good political sex scandal? The SF Chronical had an interview with Obama saying he wanted to bankrupt the coal companies. But they didn't find that statement newsworthy in the story about the interview. The LA Times currently has a tape of Obama toasting a PLO grandee but won't release it.

If there is anything the "right wing media" has in common with each other is the fact that they make money and are willing to run any story that sells. Foxnews isn't conservative as much as it is a bit tabloid. Contrast the racous NYPost to the NYTimes. Post may be a bit rougher on the edges, but it sells papers and makes money.

There are any number of stories about OBama this election cycle that would have sold papers and brought in viewers had they been covered. Why is it that it took bloggers to figure out that the credit card security system had been disabled on Obama's campaign site. Boy that is a interesting story. What do you think the ratings for 60 minutes would have been if they had done an interview with Jerimiah Wright back in Feburary? Or how about an interview with Bill Ayers and his wife and a good look into the Chicago Annenberg Challange? That would be interesting TV. The kind of interesting TV the media will do if there is a Republican involved. They wouldn't do it because it would have harmed Obama, not because it wouldn't make money.

What ought to scare people is that if Obama wins today, this very same media, people like Oberman and Matthews with the thrill running up his leg, will be watchdogging not a candidate but the government. Isn't a free and independent press supposed to keep taps on the government in a Democratic society? Ask yourself if you were a government employee who wanted to blow the whistle on corruption or abuse of power in the Obama administration, who in the media would you turn to? Further, if you did get someone to publish it, couldn't you expect your life to be investigated and your privacy compromised and held up to ridicule like Joe the Plummer? All of this kind of stuff is fun and games in the campaign. It gets a little more serious when it involves actually governing.
11.4.2008 3:18pm
A Law Dawg:
But their straight news is far less biased than CBS/NBC/ABC. Britt Hume is one of the best in the business. He anchors their political news coverage compared to Olbermann and Matthews on NBC.


Brit Hume and Anderson Cooper are the only two nightly news figures I can stomach. Special Report's panel is pretty good (but really needs to ditch the conservative caricature which is Fred Barnes) and Cooper's AC360 is excellent.
11.4.2008 3:19pm
cboldt (mail):
-- Isn't a free and independent press supposed to keep taps on the government in a Democratic society? --
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No. That function is up to the people. The people should trust the press the same way they trust the government.
11.4.2008 3:22pm
markH (mail):
Fox News is partisan, not biased.

Regarding the bias of the others: they tend to be biased when the stories don't affirm the beliefs of the viewer. Otherwise the networks are neutral.
11.4.2008 3:23pm
josh:
Funny how libertarians (or so-called libertarians) only support the notion of the invisible hand/free market when it results in outcomes they approve of. Setting aside whether Lindgren, Reynolds et al are correct about the librul media bringing about the End of Times, isn't that just the free market in action? Or is the allegation that the media is behind the curtain somewhere affirmatively pulling the strings that control global events? If readers don't like the news they're consuming (Palin spends $150,000 on clothes while stumping for Joe the Whomever; not enough reporting of Obama's associations over the last two years; what have you), won't the market correct to provide the "facts" that these consumers seek?

In the words of Stephen Colbert, "Facts have a well-known liberal bias."
11.4.2008 3:24pm
DNL (mail):
Professor Lindgren,

Your dream will never become a reality. The publishing business and specifically the newspaper industry disallows for diversity of thought. This is true not because of ideological design but rather the economics of the industry.

Here are the givens I wish to float:
1) In general, as a city's cost of living goes up, so does the influence of its leading paper.

2) Journalists and specifically editors and reporters are paid a fraction of what a similarly educated and experienced professional (e.g. lawyer) or other urban worker is paid. This is true even at the penultimate level (e.g. Deputy Editor) of rank.

Those two givens, combined, suggest that the more influential the paper is, the less economically able the reporters and editors are. It is rational for them to support government programs which increase spending (and in a non-Bush universe, taxes) because of rational economic self interest. Take the McCain health care plan, which allows people to shelter their health care money from the tax man. If you aren't paying much in taxes anyway, it's of limited utility; and if you are but are faced with high costs of living, you may not have enough pre-tax dollars to stow some away. On the other hand, an Obama plan which takes money out of the pockets of Pinch Sulzberg works for you, economic theory of incidence irrelevancy be damned.
11.4.2008 3:25pm
JohnK (mail):
"No. That function is up to the people. The people should trust the press the same way they trust the government."

How are the people supposed to keeep taps on the government if they can't believe anything in the media? Where is the information supposed to come from?
11.4.2008 3:25pm
JohnK (mail):
"If readers don't like the news they're consuming (Palin spends $150,000 on clothes while stumping for Joe the Whomever; not enough reporting of Obama's associations over the last two years; what have you), won't the market correct to provide the "facts" that these consumers seek?"

They will and are. That is why the New York Times is going broke and the major networks are losing millions on their news divisions. They are so biased and partisian that they are willing to commit economic suicide rather than correct their biases.
11.4.2008 3:28pm
josh:
JohnK

"What do you think the ratings for 60 minutes would have been if they had done an interview with Jerimiah Wright back in Feburary? Or how about an interview with Bill Ayers and his wife and a good look into the Chicago Annenberg Challange? That would be interesting TV. The kind of interesting TV the media will do if there is a Republican involved. They wouldn't do it because it would have harmed Obama, not because it wouldn't make money."

Do you really think that the reason the media didn't do interviews with Wright or Ayers was to protect Obama? Isn't it a least slightly plausible that they didn't do so because ... oh, I don't know ... Wright and Ayers refused to sit for interviews? Kinda like Palin has refused to hold a single open press conference?

This issue certainly comes to a stalemate if one side honestly believes that the vast majority of all journalists in the world wouldn't have (and still wouldn't today) jump at a chance to hold an interview of Wright and Ayers.
11.4.2008 3:29pm
Passerby:
How about the FoxNews webpage? Fair and Balanced? LOL.
11.4.2008 3:29pm
deenk:

There is no partisan media bias. There is media bias in favor of (a) the story they want to tell, (b) the story they think will sell copy, and (c) the story they are already telling.


I also would add that there is bias in favor of superficial repetition, conventional wisdom, and he said/she said reporting. All of these biases exist because they make journalists' jobs easier.
11.4.2008 3:31pm
josh:
JohnK:

"They will and are. That is why the New York Times is going broke and the major networks are losing millions on their news divisions. They are so biased and partisian that they are willing to commit economic suicide rather than correct their biases."

Then I guess Lindgren's proposed sollution is entirely unnecessary, right?
11.4.2008 3:33pm
JohnK (mail):
"Do you really think that the reason the media didn't do interviews with Wright or Ayers was to protect Obama? Isn't it a least slightly plausible that they didn't do so because ... oh, I don't know ... Wright and Ayers refused to sit for interviews? Kinda like Palin has refused to hold a single open press conference?"

Where is your evidence that they wouldn't sit for interviews? They are both publicity whores in the extreme. I find it difficult to believe that a blow hard like Wright or a has been like Ayers wouldn't love to be on 60 Minutes. You assume they wouldn't but there is no evidence of that.

Further, how do you explain the refusal to cover the Edwards story or the SF Chronical not thinking that Obama wanting to bankrupt coal companies was newsworthy? You may not think he would really do that, but his statement taken at face value is certainly a good story that would sell papers, yet they refused to run with it.

Further, Palin is very open with reports daily and is known to be very accessible to the media. It is Obama who refuses to have a press conference. He won't even commit to one after the election. Joe Biden is so stupid and become such an embarassment, they won't let him talk to reportors and have limited his stump speaches to 15 minutes. Find a new liberal talking point. The Palin won't talk to the media one is stale.
11.4.2008 3:34pm
Sarcastro (www):
[Okay then, what about MediaWatch idea. I'd be down for that, and I actually think the broadcast media is unbiased.

I also think we need more partisan media. Before the invention of the objective press in the late 1800s, we had like 80% turnout.]
11.4.2008 3:36pm
cboldt (mail):
-- How are the people supposed to keeep taps on the government if they can't believe anything in the media? Where is the information supposed to come from? --
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I don't say "believe none of it." My point of view is the media sometimes gets the facts right, usually has some good leads (e.g., the name of the judge in a case, etc.), and rarely provides honest summary, complete context, or valid analysis. The people are able to obtain the raw source material, and without the baggage of the media's preferred take, can come to their own conclusion without being led by the nose.
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I'd keep the media there as a venue to leak classified information, but even there I tend to seek out the source material.
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I track Congressional activity on THOMAS. It's accurate.
11.4.2008 3:36pm
JohnK (mail):
"Then I guess Lindgren's proposed sollution is entirely unnecessary, right?"

No because the death of the big media will not be good for the country. The media can still do investigations and fact finding that the amateurs on the web can't do. It is not good for the country that one side of the political divide hates the MSM and doesn't trust them. It would be better if the MSM would reform and concentrait on unbiased reporting.
11.4.2008 3:38pm
cboldt (mail):
-- It is not good for the country that one side of the political divide hates the MSM and doesn't trust them. --
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From my observation, both sides think the media is biased, and in opposite directions. I think it's bad for the public to come to trust the media as "unbiased," because trust is a risky proposition that leaves one open to being manipulated against self-interest. The media will be better off in an openly partisan configuration, and the public will be too.
11.4.2008 3:42pm
JohnK (mail):
"From my observation, both sides think the media is biased, and in opposite directions. I think it's bad for the public to come to trust the media as "unbiased," because trust is a risky proposition that leaves one open to being manipulated against self-interest. The media will be better off in an openly partisan configuration, and the public will be too."

That is a good point. Given that, we would be better off then if the major networks and newspapers just come out and admit their biases and stop pretending otherwise like they do in the UK. Everyone knows the Guardian is leftist and it admits as much. Why can't the NY Times just do the same? Also, the sad part of that is that the major media when it is no reporting on politically charged issues can be really good. The science section of the Times is a good as the politics section is a partisian cesspool. I think the Times would be better off having its entire paper be like the Science section than the political section.
11.4.2008 3:45pm
hattio1:
Regarding media bias.

Several prominent bloggers on the right (not on VC that I recall) criticized the major media for taking so long to pick up on the Edwards adultery affair...even though it had originally been printed in the Enquirer, which does not have a reputation for being absolutely accurate. About a month ago they printed a story that Palin had an affair. It has yet to hit the mainstream press, and if McCain/Palin loses, probably won't
I realize that The Enquirer had pics with the Edwards affair, but it also claimed to have evidence in the Palin affair. Personally, I could care less about either one. But come on, the bias there was NOT to the left.
11.4.2008 3:45pm
Houston Lawyer:
There is no bias, they just don't report the news they don't want you to hear. They also don't go looking for information that they don't want to find.

If Fox News bothers you, imagine how conservatives feel about CNN/MSNBC/ABC/CBS/NBC/The New York Times/ The LA Times etc.
11.4.2008 3:45pm
elim:
how about simple little things about Obama, like his actual grades at his various schools. he's the intellectual candidate-weren't his grades of interest (of at least as much interest as Trig's maternity?). how about obama's friends/roommates at columbia, occidental and harvard-couldn't they have provided some insight into his character, goals and aspirations? anybody track them down ie. do the things that journalists do?

the interesting thing is the "journalists" are not reporting the news as their businesses swirl down the toilet. when they hit the unemployment rolls, what skills will they have to offer?
11.4.2008 3:56pm
smitty1e:
Shag it. Just watch PJTV.
11.4.2008 3:56pm
Sarcastro (www):
Houston Lawyer is right. If one assumes equivalence between FOX news and everything else on television, you can understand why Conservatives are mad!

Why are people arguing about something I have assumed? Just start from my assumption and then agree with me!
11.4.2008 4:04pm
PersonFromPorlock:
The basic function of journalism is to provide cheap, entertaining filler to go between the ads. As the ads disappear from the MSM, so will the need for journalism and the problem of bias will eventually become moot.

Oh, you thought journalism had something to do with reality?
11.4.2008 4:09pm
A Law Dawg:
how about obama's friends/roommates at columbia, occidental and harvard-couldn't they have provided some insight into his character, goals and aspirations? anybody track them down ie. do the things that journalists do?


What about McCain's college friends? Perhaps the media concluded, rightly, that such things are not relevant?

Obvious joke: McCain's friends all died of old age already!
11.4.2008 4:11pm
JohnK (mail):
Yesterday on the frontpage of the Times there was a real story about GUITMO. A real news story about the actual people that are there and how many of them are actually dangerous and what a difficult issue it is to determine what to do with them. That story could have and should have been written five years ago. Instead it gets published the day before the election when the Times thinks their guy is going to win and have to deal with the issue. If they were interested in reporting and selling papers and making money, that story and many others like it would have been published years ago.

If their guy wins today, expect the major newspapers to all of the sudden discover Obama's past and the nuances of the war on terror and all sorts of other stories they never would write before in an attempt to try to engraciate themselves to the half of the country that hates their guts and doesn't trust them. It won't work, but they will try.
11.4.2008 4:14pm
JohnK (mail):
Obama should do for campaign finance reform what Bill Clinton did for sexual harrassment. Really, at this point can the media say anything about the need for clean elections and public financing of such after their guy just spent 600 million dollars mostly coming from sources they won't release? Is there any position the media actually beleives in and won't roll over and take it if a Democrat asks them?
11.4.2008 4:16pm
elim:
wrongo-we heard from a lot of his fellow academy graduates and a few of his "roommates" from Viet Nam. heard all sorts of things-they could be found and talked about the candidate. I would think knowing the candidate is kind of relevant, don't you? sounds like the kind of things a journalist would do-go and talk to the people around him in his formative years. why didn't they do that for Obama?
11.4.2008 4:17pm
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
"I suggest shaming the press into hiring journalists who have different points of view "

I'm down with that, as long as we also shame the media conglomerates and their subsidiaries into appointing board members, senior executives and managers with different points of view.
11.4.2008 4:18pm
Ventrue Capital (mail) (www):

What I do NOT suggest for the press is a "Fairness Doctrine."

Why not? I'm all in favor of affirmative-action and diversity regulations to force ABC, CBS, and NBC to hire more conservative and libertarian reporters, commentators, and hosts. After all, the airwaves are "public property" and "a public trust." (Gack!)

Perhaps we should start out relatively small, requiring that 25% of broadcast network employees (at each rank) be conservatives and another 25% be libertarians.

Of course, if there aren't enough conservatives and libertarians to go around, the broadcast networks will have to fire leftist employees in order to achieve the necessary ratios. However, I'm willing to do my part by accepting a six-figure salary to work in Hollywood. Who's with me?
11.4.2008 4:19pm
Rock On:
Do y'all have any idea how crazy you sound? Seriously. I'm not just saying this because my side's winning this time; I said it when the liberals spent five years whining about it and I'm saying it again now... the media is not nearly as smart as the conspiracy-minded think it is. The media tells the public what it thinks the public wants to hear. So in 2000, you had the major networks nitpicking Gore to death because they felt the voters were sick of the Clinton machine, and this year, you have the networks nitpicking McCain to death because they think (evidently accurately, if the polls are any judge) that the voters are sick of the Republicans for the moment.
11.4.2008 4:24pm
elim:
that is true-we haven't heard a great deal of weeping or wailing about the corrupting influence of money during this cycle. hey, speaking of media bias, might that be because the Dems are way ahead in collecting the money?
11.4.2008 4:24pm
JohnK (mail):
I would just like to have control over a major Hollywood studio. Let's see The Passion made $500 million dollars world wide. How many period piece knock offs could I make? The Acts? Paul? John the Baptist? Constantine? They all might not make $500 million but I bet each on of them would make more money than all the anti-war flicks combined.
11.4.2008 4:25pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):

Before the invention of the objective press in the late 1800s, we had like 80% turnout.



what do you have against women ! and non-whites!


[sarcasm/]the sarcasm of sarcastro is clearly a facade to hide his/her real nature...intolerance! [/sarcasm]
11.4.2008 4:29pm
JohnK (mail):
"Do y'all have any idea how crazy you sound? Seriously. I'm not just saying this because my side's winning this time; I said it when the liberals spent five years whining about it and I'm saying it again now... the media is not nearly as smart as the conspiracy-minded think it is. The media tells the public what it thinks the public wants to hear. So in 2000, you had the major networks nitpicking Gore to death because they felt the voters were sick of the Clinton machine, and this year, you have the networks nitpicking McCain to death because they think (evidently accurately, if the polls are any judge) that the voters are sick of the Republicans for the moment."

Oh so they are going to be so hard on a President Obama? Give me a break. No, what you are going to see is that they are all of the sudden going to be free to tell the truth on any number of issues because they know that Obama is going to have to act like a President. The story in yesterday's Times on GUITMO is just the start. All of the sudden, NSA data mining will be just that data mining as opposed to warrentless wiretapping. The media will discover that there really are terrorists in GUITMO. They will discover that the war in Iraq has been won and it might be a good thing to hang around for a while. All of the sudden, aggressive interrogation techniques won't be so bad.

What ought to bother anyone who cares about the country left or right is the media all of the sudden being so in love with a President of any stripe. What happens when obama wants to go to war? I can see Chris Matthews right now asking if the US will follow a black President to war in the same way it will a white President. A compliant media, a majority in Congress and a flat out creepy cult of personality combined with an international crisis or desire to go to war is downright scary.
11.4.2008 4:30pm
Sarcastro (www):
astrangerwithcandy
I say my correlation is more causal than your correlation! So there!
11.4.2008 4:32pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):

MEDIA WATCH. If I were at any of the networks, I would start an hour-long news media show — Media Watch. I would hire two staffs, one mostly (though not exclusively) Republican and one mostly (though not exclusively) Democratic. Each one would critique media bias stories each week, followed by a panel discussion including both staffs and outside reporters who covered the story.


Fox and CNN already do this. They're both part of their Things We Stick On Saturday Afternoon When No One's Watching programming.
11.4.2008 4:32pm
Not Really (mail):

I realize that The Enquirer had pics with the Edwards affair, but it also claimed to have evidence in the Palin affair.

They had anonymous sources (last I checked). Any reasonable look at the evidence the Enquirer had on Edwards would lead one to conclude there was something there. He didn't deny being caught at the hotel in the middle of the night. They eventually even had pictures and *still* they would not report it.

There is nothing comparable on Palin.

The Enquirer is not a reliable source - don't take their word for anything. But double check the facts and report it if it pans out.
11.4.2008 4:34pm
luagha:
My favorite moment ever on Hannity and Colmes was when an interviewee complained about bias and Hannity said, "Haven't you been watching our format? I get two minutes to do an interview, then Colmes gets a minute to counter, then Colmes gets two minutes to do an interview then I get a minute to counter. They time us with a stopwatch. It's our formula."

I did time it, and it's laughably true. You may consider Colmes to be less effective than Hannity, but you can't complain that he's not getting equal time. (But when we complain about effectiveness, we get into other questions, and we wonder why liberal talk radio failes and conservative talk radio succeeds.)
11.4.2008 5:01pm
eyesay:
Richard Aubrey wrote, "The issue is not only the lies, like Rather and CBS and TANG, but the choice of stories to ignore, to emphasize, and to cover minimally."

That's a strange rewrite of history. What actually happened:

1. Because of powerful family connections, George W. Bush was able to serve in the Texas Air National Guard instead of risking his life in Viet Nam like less-connected citizens.

2. In an unusual act of favoritism, Bush was allowed to serve in Alabama so that he could work on a political campaign there. It is disputed whether or not he performed his required service in Alabama.

3. Bush did not have his mandatory physical exam, stopped flying, stopped showing up, and was suspended from flying.

4. Bush's flight training cost the taxpayers in excess of $1 million, but because Bush never completed the training, the taxpayers lost their entire investment.

Fast-forward from 1973 to 2004. The Killian documents arrived at CBS, whose employees believe them to be authentic. CBS's trust in these documents, and the question of their authenticity, became red herrings that served to distract the public from the real issues, which I outlined above. These red herrings then spawned a third red herring, to wit, the allegation that CBS in particular and the media in general were biased against George W. Bush. As a result of hysteria over these red herrings, and a lack of interest in the real story that I outlined above, George W. Bush squeaked by in his reëlection bid.

The worst that can be said about Dan Rather in this episode is that he trusted the authenticity of documents he should not have trusted. This failing pales in comparison to the media hysteria over this failing rather than focusing on the real story, outlined above.
11.4.2008 5:15pm
Eddiehaskel (mail):
For all of the years that the press was in the tank for McCain, I heard nary a complaint.

But I would really like to know what everyone is thinking when they talk about biased reporting. So here's a little test:

1. Katie Couric interview of Ms. Palin (biased/fair)
2. Fox News (biased/fair)
3. He said she said journalism (useful/banal)
4. "McCain's claim that Obama wants to teach 5 year olds explicite sex education is false." (biased/fair)
11.4.2008 5:17pm
elim:
fair/fair/??/true if you actually read the statute which most folks didn't.
11.4.2008 5:30pm
MarkField (mail):

I would just like to have control over a major Hollywood studio. Let's see The Passion made $500 million dollars world wide. How many period piece knock offs could I make? The Acts? Paul? John the Baptist? Constantine? They all might not make $500 million but I bet each on of them would make more money than all the anti-war flicks combined.


You'd lose the bet. According to this site, Passion made almost $423 million. However, MASH made $380 million. It wouldn't take very many others to make up the difference.
11.4.2008 5:56pm
Sarcastro (www):
[MarkField I think he means the ploddingly serious recent ones like Lions for Lambs and Stop-Loss, In the Valley of Elah and Redacted.

M*A*S*H* was awesome, those were not, or so I am told.

Christian movies may make good money, though I wonder how much of it is the novelty effect.]
11.4.2008 5:59pm
Jim Hu:
I thought it was interesting that Prof Lindgren chose an Aussie and a Canadian to head up the GOP team. Or am I thinking of the wrong Tim Blair and Mark Steyn?
11.4.2008 5:59pm
cboldt (mail):
-- CBS's trust in these documents, and the question of their authenticity, became red herrings that served to distract the public from the real issues ... --
.
LOL. CBS defended the authenticity instead of having a minimum amount of skepticism. CBS set the path, it could have made the case you find compelling, without resort to the documents.
.
-- The worst that can be said about Dan Rather in this episode is that he trusted the authenticity of documents he should not have trusted. --
.
And then he attempted to spread his dumb-assedness around as though it was unvarnished truth. What's the frequency, Kenneth? Rather, Mapes, and the whole sorry lot deserve to be a laughingstock, and I'm happy to lump you in with that bunch of discredited shysters.
11.4.2008 6:59pm
MarkField (mail):

MarkField I think he means the ploddingly serious recent ones like Lions for Lambs and Stop-Loss, In the Valley of Elah and Redacted.


Oh, sure, in that case he'd win easily. Of course, what qualifies as an "anti-war" film is subject to debate. Personally, I think Gone With The Wind was anti-war. It certainly was anti-Civil War.
11.4.2008 7:06pm
Floridan:
This fixation on the so-called liberal media reminds me of my son's youth soccer team losing a game and crying about how unfair the referees were.

The refs must have been biased since they called most of the fouls on them!

Fortunately, most of the lads matured.
11.4.2008 7:07pm
eyesay:
cboldt: Thank you for your insightful comment. It could not have proved my point better. The red herrings drowned out the real story of AWOL Bush. I don't know who Kenneth is. My name here is Eyesay and I approved this message.
11.4.2008 7:18pm
cboldt (mail):
-- It could not have proved my point better. The red herrings drowned out the real story of AWOL Bush. I don't know who Kenneth is. --
.
Not only did CBS's ridiculous defense (these aren't -proven- forgeries!) overcome the story they wanted to peddle, it also cost them gobs of credibility. The evidence lent heft to the story (or would have, if it wasn't fake), and they were reluctant to admit the obvious truth about the evidence. In fact, last I heard, the position was "Fake, but accurate." Fitting, for a shyster operation.
.
"What's the frequency, Kenneth?" is something Dan Rather said to a complete stranger - I don't believe Rather knew who Kenneth was either, and I have no idea what sort of answer "What's the frequency" was supposed to elicit.
11.4.2008 7:59pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
eyesay.
Actually, not to start it over again, but the family connections didn't help him. I'm going to tell you what you already know so you'll know that others know it, too.
Getting into the TANG was difficult except for potential pilots. If you looked good, there was no waiting. You know it. I know it. Now you know everybody knows it and you won't be wasting our time.
Ditto your other stuff.
But, anyway, since this was a post about the media, the fact is that the media got smeared by CBS' attempt to throw an election during wartime with forged documents. I haven't talked to many non-news junkies about this, but, to a person, they can't remember which network did it. They know Rather, but they don't know his network. Presumably, since the invention of the remote control, it's hard to keep track of which network you're watching when avoiding laxative ads.
IOW, the attempt has spread, without complete justice, to smear all the networks. But the other networks do their own autosmearing, and it spreads, too.
IMO, too late for them to reform, even if there were a mechanism for them to survive until they got the public trusting them again.
11.4.2008 8:03pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
You will note, if we're talking about TANG and networks, the considerable difference between that coverage and the coverage of Kerry's Winter Soldier scam, or his meeting with Hanoi's representatives. He was even at a VVAW meeting where one subject was whether to look at assassinating US senators. His defense was that he'd left the meeting before that happened, but the guy who did broach it was one of his advisors later on. Hard to insist it didn't happen when he said he left before it did.
Point is, whatever the case was, the MSM didn't come close to touching that. Not even a good-faith investigation to discover there was nothing to it.
11.4.2008 8:07pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
As a real newspaperman, I don't think of ABC, NBC, CBS or Fox as 'the press.'
11.4.2008 9:03pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Actually, we know that Kerry was at the VVAW meeting where assassinating Senators was debated because the FBI was monitoring him (and it's in the files).

Admirably, Kerry argued vigorously and successfully against murder. He then immediately resigned from VVAW, an organization that he effectively led as its main public spokesman.

Years later, Kerry lied (or somehow forgot) about when he quit, claiming to have quit before the meeting.

When this was revealed during the campaign, the mainstream press focused not on the VVAW debating the murder of Senators, and not on Kerry lying about when he quit, but on the scandalous FBI monitoring of Kerry and VVAW when he was an idealistic anti-war demonstrator. I would think that seriously plotting murder would justify the surveillance aspect (though not other FBI activities, eg, COINTELPRO).
11.4.2008 9:12pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I know what COINTELPRO stands for, but what documents are there demonstrating its existence?
I know the hippies I had known in college believed it was happening, but then they believed a lot of stuff.
11.4.2008 9:43pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Professor Linbgren, your complaints sound especially awkward and ill-informed, coming as they do simultaneously with the exposure of the falsity of Palin's latest anti-press slurs.

Phil Bronstein has fun with her. A soft target, so to speak, but she asked for it.
11.4.2008 10:02pm
cboldt (mail):
-- I know what COINTELPRO stands for, but what documents are there demonstrating its existence? --
.
Church Committee Reports - Volume 6
11.4.2008 10:05pm
courtwatcher:
Prof. Lindgren,
I don't understand the premise of your post. Are you saying that the media has a normative obligation to report the news in an unbiased, or even non-"BAD journalism" way (as you put it), even though the companies that run them are profit-making enterprises? If so, on what do you base this opinion? Do you think that your ideas will make them more money? And if not, from what principles do your suggestions flow?
11.4.2008 10:21pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
cboldt.
Thanks. I thought that was it. I think I started in in 1969, all by myself. Man, to think the feds went in for it and failed any attribution.

Courtwatcher.
I think one of the parts of the premise is that by reporting badly, the companies are no longer profit-making enterprises. That there is a connection.
11.4.2008 11:24pm
David Warner:
MarkField,

"Oh, sure, in that case he'd win easily. Of course, what qualifies as an "anti-war" film is subject to debate. Personally, I think Gone With The Wind was anti-war. It certainly was anti-Civil War."

You've got it nailed. The problem with the Iraq War films wasn't that they're anti-war, that's an old American, heck, Anglo-American (likely human) standby. The problem was that they were, literally, anti-American. That's not an adjective I use lightly.
11.4.2008 11:31pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
"The Victors" with Eli Wallach.
Can't think of who wrote the novel.
11.4.2008 11:39pm
used-to-be-a-reporter:
The element that is missing in your analysis is that the general "media" has no obligation whatsoever to be fair, balanced, or even truthful. Today, they are an entertainment business -- nothing more. Your idea has been proposed many times in various flavors, and has failed to be adopted because it contributes no business value. It will not increase revenue nor decrease costs. Reputation, trust, etc., are no longer necessary elements to an entertainment media. Those attributes still have value in certain niche markets, such as financial media, but w/r/t general media, they are anachronisms.

That said, now watch the media turn on Obama like a rabid dog. The dream of every reporter is to "take down" a president. Their patron saints are Woodward and Bernstein. They will give him a bit of a honeymoon, and then the claws come out. Controversy is what they want.

The thing that got me out of the business was the insistence that we, as reporters, produce work that "raised emotions" regardless of what emotion... they were just as happy to anger readers, as to make them happy, because the psych studies the PHB lived by said that if you make readers/viewers' emotions, even hate, they will come back... and that sells advertising.
11.5.2008 10:58am