Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Death of the Elite News Media; The Birth of the American News Media:

When shots rang out in Tuscon, an unfortunate familiar silence fell across the United States. Tragedy had befallen us again; A Congresswoman shot; others with her dead or wounded; a nation turned again to the elites of news, with one question “What happened?”

The story that ensued was a veritable page turner. A noble member of congress, just trying to do what is best for the nation, opposed by a racist, and now openly violent political movement, all while an opportunistic political party stoked the flames of hate, themselves a culpable accomplice to the violence and tragic slaying of an innocent nine year old girl; A gripping political thriller, worthy of the New York Times Bestseller List. It had only two major flaws. First, it was reported as news instead of being printed as entertaining fiction; second, it didn’t happen that way.

Looking upon it, it went far beyond framing a narrative, a practice common to an ever more politically active media elite. It was an entire storyline, complete with protagonist, antagonist, prologue, struggle, tragedy, conclusion, and an epilogue that concluded that free speech in politics should cease, especially conservative rhetoric, and that those conservative politicians brave enough to speak out against the liberal agenda should be held responsible for the violence. A story written before it was even known who might survive, before the facts, let alone the truth, could be known.

Then the facts came, one by one; each one fitting the story worse than the last. But did the story change? Well there were twists and turns introduced to the story already written to incorporate some early discoveries; then some facts stretched to the breaking point to make them fit the story, then others outright ignored. But that precious conclusion and epilogue never faltered. My favorite stretch: The stretch connection between a belief that the government uses grammar as mind control, stretched to a similar though far from identical belief of a fringe individual, himself only loosely connected with a small independent libertarian movement whose goal is to use legal argument to live under English Common Law, a movement despite anti-corporate beliefs stretched to be the “Far Right” of the political spectrum, the “far right” stretched to be the Tea Party movement, which although unabashedly independent itself is stretched to be under the control of major Republican political figures and conservative commentators, and therefore, the violence was the fault of major commentators and politicians who instigated it by using “heated” political rhetoric. See how that conclusion never falters as it hurdles all the facts in its way?

When the smoke cleared, the people of the US were left with a story that didn’t match the known facts, and known facts left out of the story. In the end Arthur Brisbane, the Public Editor of the New York Times, a position that serves as a retroactive content ombudsman for the Grey Lady, cited that the time pressures driving a need to get news published as soon as possible, and a disposition by reporters, ingrained deeply by their education and culture, to frame all news as a story, rather than an aggregation of relevant facts, is what drove the tall tale that we received.

Two major things about this incident are harbingers to the death of the elitist media as we know it. First, if the story they told sounded familiar. It is because the elitist media has been trying to find facts to fit the story they wanted to tell for a little more than year and half now; you know the one with the heroic Democrats trying to save the world from ignorant violent tea partiers and opportunistic Republicans? It is one thing to strive to make a piece of news into an interesting story, one might at least be able to make an argument for objectivity if the journalists mind was open, it is another thing to take every piece of news, every arbitrary aggregation of facts on a subject, as an opportunity to tell the same story over and over. This tells us that the preconceptions and bias, which even the most respected news sources in our country carry with them, is so strong, that the story that will be told has little to do with those facts, and everything to do with that bias. The heroes, the villains, the story that is so important that it must be written before the facts are known, is so obvious, the informed could tell you what the story outline would be the day before an event as easily as the day after. Ultimately my question back to the media is: what informative value is news framed as a story, if the story is already known and the story is independent of the facts related to the news? Answer: To the media, to ‘shape public opinion’.

This leads me to the second harbinger of death to our elitist media. The public doesn’t believe their stories anymore. They don’t want to know the media’s story, they just want the facts, and then they turn to their favorite bloggers for analysis, and finally they decide for themselves what the story is.

To be certain the traditional media keeps its importance in the discovering and reporting of facts, the job of the reporter; no replacement is possible for feet on the ground investigating critical events. But the elite of media have lost the ability to drive public opinion with their storytelling. We now see emerging the model of future news in America. Where the giants can do little more for the news than provide us with facts, to be aggregated analyzed by a kaleidoscope of critical thinkers and writers, and ultimately framed into a story by the American People themselves.

HT Ace
HT Hot Air

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