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July 29, 2009

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Is 'Eric Martin' a nom de plume for Thom Yorke?

What's a journalist to do in the post Bush/Cheney world?

Pretend the last 8 years never happened?

"Is 'Eric Martin' a nom de plume for Thom Yorke?"

It's been alleged.

Thank goodness the subject has changed. I find the collapse of real health care reform so depressing!

;-)

"the very nature of the Islamic Revolution" = lives (?)

"the very nature of the Islamic Revolution" = lives (?)"

Um, what are you asking/suggesting? Some torturers have better rationales? That those that defend the Islamic Revolution can't make the argument that lives are at stake in that defense? That they can't argue that selling out to American stooges will subjugate the people to dictators like the Shah who killed thousands?

What?

Shorter NYTimes: Republicans buy the paper too.

i wrote NPR a letter about this and they replied with:

    Dear [Cleek],

    Thank you for contacting NPR.

    We regret if our programming has not met your expectations. We strive to offer the highest quality of news and information available. Listener feedback helps us to accomplish this goal.

    We welcome both criticism and praise, and your thoughts will be taken into consideration.

    Thank you for listening, and for your continued support of public broadcasting. For the latest news and information, visit NPR.org.

pathetic.

cleek:

Yeah, that's all I got from NPR the four or five times I wrote to them.

"Shorter NYTimes: Republicans buy the paper too"

This actually gets to a pretty good point http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2009/07/the-audience-wants-justification-not-explanation-for-media-behavior.php
">Yglesias made about how we talk about the media.

So I take cleek or nate never got to hear their letters read on the air?

It's nice to see Andrew Sullivan bending his attention to topics other than Trig Palin.

Although it's not entirely clear what a "Cheney technique" is meant to be.

In recent years, however, the Timeshas begun to use euphemisms to describe those exact same techniques. What was torture was now "intense interrogation," "harsh interrogation and "detainee abuse" - though recently, and to much self-congratulation, the Times has mustered the courage to call what they once freely termed torture, a "brutal mode of..interrogation."

Well, the NYT and WaPo have to sell newspapers and advertising space to conservatives, and most (not all, of course, and not exclusively) modern American conservatives condone torturing suspected criminals, but which is politically incorrect. Insulting such a big part of your target market is bad business.

In more general terms, the mid-20th century on really seems like a dark age for journalism. This may seem odd considering that there are/were so many trusted and trustworthy journalists of the period, like Walter Cronkite, but even the real Dark Ages produced some important philosophers or artists here and there. It's been good for the business of journalism - or at least, good for whichever papers monopolize their local media market - but TV is a good medium for sensationalism and a bad medium for in-depth reporting, and those low standards bleed over into print media as well, and the pressure to remain inoffensive to such vast markets, let alone to please them, is stifling.

Hopefully that dark age is ending or has already ended, what with the rise of online media, but it's too early to say so for sure. For all I know, maybe we've traded one problem for another, and our current cacophony of media will be as bad as or even worse than a homogenous few, and the early-to-mid-20th century was a halcyon period unrecapturable. And maybe it's always been this bad, I don't know, but I doubt it. The Jungle was published in 1906, two sweeping consumer protection regulations were passed that same year as a result of public outrage, and that wasn't even Upton Sinclair's goal. Today, Radley Balko is ignored even when a Harvard professor gets arrested for disorderly conduct in his home. Sinclair's muckraking got much better results than Balko's, and I don't think that's Balko's fault.

To put it more succinctly, journalism sucks because the big established actors try to please everyone. There are business models that work just fine without doing so, but those big established actors decided they like the revenue that comes from national markets.

I thought we'd settled (via Rush Limbaugh) long ago that these were all just "fraternity pranks," and "people having a good time," and "blow[ing] some steam off."

"pathetic."

Would a form letter on their usage guidelines on the word "torture" be that much better?

Point, yer link to Matt is broken, and should go here. (A break tag got left in somehow.)

Thanks Gary.

"In more general terms, the mid-20th century on really seems like a dark age for journalism."

Why the mid-20th century compared to the early 21st century, or late 20th century? I'd like to see the argument for this.

"...but TV is a good medium for sensationalism and a bad medium for in-depth reporting,"

That's a choice, not inherent. Back in the fifties, Edward R. Murrow for some time famously did some excellent work on See It Now. During the Sixties, all three networks did a bunch of groundbreaking documentaries on important issues, such as the environment, or poverty, and thought nothing of their responsibility to present these as one hour, or two hour, specials in prime time.

It was in the Seventies that we began to see the growth of local tv news being seen as a source of real profit, and consultants being hired to revamp them into smiling always upbeat, chatty co-anchors, full of "good news," and from there it was all downhill into complete sensationalism ("if it bleeds, it leads") and irresponsibility, and from there, and with the acquisition of the networks by larger conglomerates, the same phenomenon, along with the pressures to squeeze out greater profits and lesser costs, has spread to the tv network news.

But none of that is inherent to the medium. The PBS Newshour is still pretty good. So are "American Experience" documentaries, and many other documentaries on PBS, and sporadically some of the other cable networks (though some of those range from mildly to completely irresponsible, as well, and the cable "news" networks are all complete cesspools that no one should ever waste a moment of time watching; and their same ethic has spread to once-reputable venues like "20/20," or the NBC equivalent, which are now pure exploitive crap, as well).

But those are all choices. Choices to see tv purely as a medium for profit, rather than as the public responsibility they were once mandated to be by the FCC, and for quite some time took quite seriously.

Although it should be noted that, in today's environment, the broadcast networks are essentially dying beasts, dinosaurs, becoming less and less able to compete with the lower cost margins of cable networks, anyway.

"The Jungle was published in 1906, two sweeping consumer protection regulations were passed that same year as a result of public outrage, and that wasn't even Upton Sinclair's goal."

Yes, but you can hardly give Sinclair sole credit for any of this; his work took place during a context of a huge Progressive reform movement, and admidst the work of dozens of other "muckrakers," all supported by many politicians and political movements, the most prominent of whom, of course, was Teddy Roosevelt. It was Teddy who coined the word "mudrakers." And this was also in the context of many journalist, such as Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens, Nellie Bly, Jacob Riis, etc.

And that was all in the context of other politicians and movements such as Robert La Follette, Louis Brandeis, etc. Sinclair was just a small cog in this great social movement responding to the injustices of industrialization and urbanization.

"It was Teddy who coined the word 'mudrakers'."

Er, "muckrakers." Someone else must have coined "mudrakers."

With all this equivocation don't you think it refreshing that a politician, a president would call someting stupid, stupid?

I didn't mind it really.

Gary: "Would a form letter on their usage guidelines on the word "torture" be that much better?"

Not much better, but it'd mean at least they're paying enough attention to know WHY people are complaining, rather than just sending the same form letter to everyone.

Not that they would have changed and contradicted the then-President on what was torture and not, but still.

"In more general terms, the mid-20th century on really seems like a dark age for journalism."

Typo; I meant to write "mid-to-late-20th century." And it might continue on well into the current one, but that depends on whether and when you want to start giving online media credit for turning it around.

"In more general terms, the mid-20th century on really seems like a dark age for journalism."

Typo; I meant to write "mid-to-late-20th century."

Ah. Thanks for clarifying.

"And it might continue on well into the current one, but that depends on whether and when you want to start giving online media credit for turning it around."

I'd start with the end of 2001 as the beginning. I vas dere, Sharlie. And I recommend Scott Rosenberg, and here's Chapter 9, which I briefly linked to here in an otherwise fascinating post. ;-)

One can argue for a later year, of course.

Credit where it's due: This American Life recently featured an wtory about Lynndie England (the dog leash woman in the Abu Graib photos) that referred without any remark or qualification to "the Bush administration's torture program".

So there are pockets of frankness on NPR, though not on the major news programs unfortunately.

wtory = story. Sorry.

Do journalism students get Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language(I'm not sure how to link to it) as an assignment in first-year? Because they really, really, should.

"Do journalism students get Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language(I'm not sure how to link to it)"

I am.

Everyone should read (or have read) it, and it bears rereading; not just journalism students, or people who write; everyone.

Selling newspapers is a business.

Something around half of the public approves of torture, especially when it is not called its rightful name.

Several commenters already noted these facts and did the math.

I think it re-eaches the lesson of 11/2004. We don't need a new government or different fournalists so much as we need a new public.

In the meantime we relay on the few officials and journalists who possess courage to do the hard and lonely work of inspiring the coming generation to reach a bit higher than their pathetic parents.

Obama's political caution especially rankles, because for the most part the enemies of civilization have higher pulpits and louder megaphones. Or civil degradation forces an unfair and especial obligation on those few with courage and the position to persuade our young.

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