Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Journalist, Defend Thyself

The question I'm most often asked at cocktail parties is, "Was that you rolling Swedish meatballs to the dog -- across my white carpet?"

The second-most often asked question is, "Do you think (the TV network I work for) really does have a liberal bias?" This assumes of course that they know exactly what I do for a living and where I do it.

My answer is typically the same; It's some variation of the word "no."

Let me set the record straight. Whether or not the people behind the scenes or in front of the cameras hold liberal views near and dear to their hearts is irrelevant. That's because there isn't a moment when these beliefs aren't superceded by something else entirely -- something large and unseen, but certainly felt, looming over their shoulders. I'd like to believe that -- as most people in this business were taught in J-school (the slacker presently at the keyboard notwithstanding) -- the awesome responsibility to be fair and impartial would be the priority that dogs journalists in their waking and working hours. Although some might argue that fairness IS the eventual byproduct of the specter to which I'm referring, it's not the specter itself.

What I'm talking about -- that feeling -- that motivating factor -- is fear.

Moreso than in any period I can remember, journalists have been demonized by right-wing demagogues, including those in the White House, and have been forced to play defense to a seemingly never-ending series of accusations of bias and outright dereliction of duty. The eerily synchronized cries of foul from these thuggish but obviously well-organized clowns have created a vast echo chamber which is responsible for helping to turn the supposedly free voice of the press into one voice -- their voice. The reason for this? We drank the Kool-Aid.

Rather than standing up for ourselves against the onslaught of bullshit accusations from the likes of hypocritical fuckheads like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Tom DeLay, we rolled over and -- for some completely unknown reason -- believed it. Contrary to the left-wing slant we've been accused of presenting, the result has been an over-compensation in the opposite direction. We're TOO careful not to offend those who accuse us of bias -- not to give them any more ammunition, so to speak. We do this as if something, anything, we do will appease our tormentors, when in reality it isn't a fair shake they're after in the first place. The creation of a perceived enemy bent on persecution as a means to foster unity and strength-of-will is older than Joseph Goebbels himself, and the "liberal media" has been a convenient boogeyman for the right and its cheerleaders for as long as we've allowed them to get away with it. Complain. Accuse. Repeat.

Indicted for campaign finance violations and abuses of congressional power so egregious they make the Kennedy car-crash controversy look like a fixed parking ticket? All your stated reasons for taking this country into an unnecessary war turn out to be complete horseshit? That same war claiming the lives of American soldiers and innocent civilians daily? Not a problem -- just blame the over-educated elitists on the coasts who control the airwaves and have decided to conspire to withhold the truth from you.

That's why more Americans turn to Fox News!

The rise of the Fox juggernaut has probably had a more adverse impact on responsible journalism than any single recent event short of Alberto Gonzalez threatening to throw reporters in prison. It would seem a simple task to avoid the nonsense that Fox foists on its acolytes, and it would in fact be -- provided Fox didn't have something all programmers and news directors covet and are willing to adjust their own coverage to get, often at the sake of the muckraking spirit of true journalism. That something, is ratings. It's only in the quest for the almighty "numbers" that networks will pursue the relatively small group of people who hang on every word of a laughably Vaudevillian buffoon like Bill O'Reilly, rather than writing them off as the kind of fucking idiots you just can't reach and therefore don't want watching you anyway.

The important point which today's news departments seem to forget is that, once again, those who accuse the responsible media aren't looking to play watchdog, they're simply looking to ensure that their war never really comes to fruition, let alone ends -- like the schoolyard bully who keeps shoving and taunting, safe in the knowledge that if he's imposing and boisterous enough, the target of his wrath will never dare to take the first swing that would start an actual fight. The reality is this: as long as the complaints continue from the right -- and they most certainly will because up until now, they've worked splendidly as a means of distraction -- news organizations, at least in television, will never... NEVER get Fox's audience. Network general managers can skywrite "trustworthy" above Topeka; news managers can hire Irving Kristol and shake him like a magic 8-ball for answers during political coverage; promotions managers can sponsor a network NASCAR team. None of it will make a goddamned difference to the "Fox Fans." NONE of it.

There's a sad irony to all of this; walk into any television newsroom in America -- cable or broadcast -- and you'll hear occasional rumblings from the adminisphere that Fox is at best a factor to be ignored and, at worst, one to be shunned and ridiculed. Put simply, this is trying to have it both ways. Either you ignore Fox, and forfeit the right to complain if and when they trounce you in the ratings -- or you admit that you're no different than them; you're simply the political flip-side of their coin.

That's when you can do what the bully isn't expecting you to do -- what he's praying you won't do. That's when you take a swing at him and knock him on his ass.

Just a note... the always brilliant Peter Daou helped to inspire this post with his own call for the media to finally stand up and grow a backbone. You can see it here:


Obtuse Lautrec said...

I disagree.

The reason the left loses these wars is because of rationality.

The reason the left is never as motivated as the right is because the left has faith. Not faith in a god or an ethereal being, but faith that in the not too distant future the right and the middle will somehow suddenly 'get it.' The left allows the right-wing zealots to potshot and run rough-shod over the media and most else because they honestly believe that no self-respecting human-being can fall for this crap forever, and while these pawns might be duped for this particular moment, it’s only a matter of time until they see the light (‘grow a brain’?) and get with the program.

Progressives never flip out because they don’t feel the urgency. Their belief being that common sense has to prevail; it can’t not. Liberals truly believe that as bad as things look, revelation is just around the corner. As bad as things might seem, the supporters of blind dogma and hatred are destined to see the light and reason. Unfortunately, it’s this ingrained belief in the human condition that might ultimately defeat the ‘human condition’ as we currently know it.

TheRightStuff said...

And here I thought the necrolibs were losing everything was because people, in general, were growing tired of their endless whimpering and ranting about thngs not being "fair".

dnico said...

You were close there obtuse, but your premise is based on the fact that all people think alike. They do not!
The real problem is that every news station is EXACTLY THE SAME except Fox News. I watch too much TV and I actually watch the news networks, and it's funny that they all pick up on the same buzz words such as describing Bush's gravitas. This was literally on the lips of every journalist that day except the for the obvious outlets.
Not only that, but all too often you hear the same questions repeated by different "jounalists" during press conferences. There are so many small things that add up. The way a "journalist" will snicker a little when talking about Cheney, or throw in an extra word like "supposed" in order to give doubt when they themselves never have answers.
Only questions. And not very good questions either, there is hardly ever any critical thought or logic put forth, just hersey and what if's?
whoopty doo! I'd rather just here some people state fact's about thing's that are known and certian.

Aaron said...

The definition of the word bias - 'A preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment.'

If your report is favorable to your views, which is not based completely on facts, you are offering a bias 'opinion' report. I just posted about a similar subject a couple days ago on my blog.

The Media Lead Me Around.

Aaron said...

The definition of the word bias - 'A preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgment.'

If your report is favorable to your views, which is not based completely on facts, you are offering a bias 'opinion' report. I just posted about a similar subject a couple days ago on my blog.

The Media Lead Me Around.

kaliman01 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
riley said...


can we get beyond the rhetorical knock-[insert institution here]-on-its-ass statements and get to some instruction please?

i'm wholly with you, but shit, what's the plan? (hint: blogging is not a viable plan.)

Petrock said...

My compliments on a well organized post, you explained your point of view well.

Speaking for myself, I think I can clarify some of your assumptions and at least explain to you personally, why I have little trust in “traditional” media. I also have a brief bone to pick with some folks reaction to people that have emerged as “challenging” traditional media. I apologize in advance if I seem blunt; I’m quite passionate on this issue.

My first observation is that your assumptions are coloring your perception of the issues at hand. We are talking opinion here so this is appropriate but I think this is causing you to miss some points.

Journalistic bias is too broad a topic to cover here but for myself, the reason for the decline of “old” media such as CNN / ABC etc is simply that I no longer trust them. I feel that they have an agenda that is not the interest of our country and they lie to promote it. Correct or not, it would seem that this point of view has gone mainstream. This is your “problem.” Frankly I see it as more of a reformation in journalism than a problem.

Yelling and screaming about various commentators like Limbaugh seems to me to be nothing but sour grapes. They make good straw men to blame your problems on, but that’s about it. People didn’t discover them suddenly; they were driven away from other sources.

Interestingly folks like Limbaugh never claimed not to be commentators. My impression of watching most news anchors like Tom Brokaw or the late Peter Jennings was that I was watching a commentator who was trying to appear to be a journalist. I wonder how O’Rilley got mixed in with the conservatives but that’s another topic.

Now when journalistic privilege is brought up my first instinct is to laugh. If such a privilege is to exist, those who exercise it must not abuse it. You can’t just make up a source and claim journalistic privilege when called on it. If you are going to pull that crap then there should be no refuge. In addition what part of classified is so hard to understand. Someone who reveals this information is not a source, but a criminal who needs to be reported to police, not reported on. Given the media’s propensity for reporting enemy propaganda in the war I would much prefer World War Two style controls on the media. We are at war and if we learned nothing from Vietnam we need to learn not to let the enemies within undermine our efforts. If the media can’t tell the difference between dissent and treason then that is one less reason to trust them.

Bottom line folks, if these groups hope to recover readers / viewers they will need to regain their trust, it a matter of that not of the package or delivery. It’s not about message it’s about trust and in my mind “journalist” is somewhat akin to “used car salesman,” not a title that brings much trust. It’s the “traditional” media that is bullying not Fox.

Obtuse Lautrec said...

The premise,dnico, is not that everyone thinks alike. The premise is that people with a brain in their heads will use it. Period.

Obtuse Lautrec said...

Petrock-- There is so much wrong with what you say that it's daunting to even consider. Your cut-and-dried worldview must indeed let you sleep well at night, but thank god you're not in charge of anything.

moderateworks said...

I disagree with you plain and simple. The other news networks are falling behind because they have failed to recognize something that Fox News has and is capitalizing on. And that something is the simple fact that Americans are not nearly as "liberal" as the liberals think they are. Most of America is still conservative and moderate or slightly liberal. Most Americans want to keep there old values but still allow others to bring theirs out. If you interrested in what I'm saying check for my blog post where I will go in more detail on this subject.

Anonymous said...

It's a nice rant, I'll give you that. But you're just wrong.

I know journalists. I work with journalists. And I'm telling you right now they are left biased to the core. They don't mean any harm, quite the opposite, but they hardly ever recognize their own bias.

It's a little disingenuous that you would talk about bias in reporting and then go off about O'Reilly. As you well know he's a columnist and as such he is paid to be biased, just like newspaper columnists. And like newspaper columnists, you're supposed to listen to their ideas and respond intelligently as to why they are incorrect. Your penchant for using the terms "fuckheads," "Vaudevillian buffoon," and "fucking idiots" tells me everything I need to know about where you're coming from.

I think you need to do a little less defending and a little more healing of thyself.

jacksprat1 said...

You betray your own prejudices and illustrate the smugness so reviled by middle America with your "cocktail parties", "Rush Limbaugh - as - fuckhead", and condescending tone. But hey, everyone has their own thing - you be you.

The issue here though, is that you've proposed a theory that is totally contradictory to your words and your tone. It's like you've asserted that the Media is NOT racist and bigoted, all the while dropping the N word and calling Catholics "papists". You illustrated, by your own expression, the opposite of the image you were trying to present as your theory.

Do you really want to know why people turn to Bill O'Reilly and Tony Snow and Michelle Malkin? Take a look in the mirror. We turn to those and the like because they are your antithesis - your antagonist and our protagonist. Do you think we really LIKE Bill O'Reilly? Come on. The attraction is that they punch you in the eye and you whine. They trip you on your way down the court and you complain to the officials. We love it. You think they are the bullies. What people like you will never get is that most of us think that you are the bully. We revile you and the Katie Courics and Moureen Dowds and the David Gregorys. The smug ass with a glass of wine in one hand, a copy of Breakfast at Tiffany's in the other, and a makeup and hair person on ready in case a camera is near. Your disconnect is at once laughable and sad. Your prejudices, bitterness, and intellectual immaturity is visible to everyone but yourself. THAT is what is killing the old wordsmiths. THAT is the elephant in your room.

The entirety of what is usually described as "liberal" mainstream media suffers from the same affliction. It is like the man with bad breath at one of your cocktail parties. He gets right up in everyone's face, talking and breathing and laughing. All the while blissfully unaware that he is offending everyone with his foul breath - thinking that he is the life of the party, well liked by everyone. Now, think of the Michelle Malkins and Bill O'Reillys as the hostess who finally, mercifully ushers the foul breathed man from the party. Now do you realize why we turn to them? In the final analysis though, you are so convinced your own breath is minty fresh that none of this really matters. Thing is, you can only be kicked out of so many cocktail parties before you stop getting invitations altogether.

Mark VandenBerg said...

I'll be succinct. You will never hear or read the headline "Republican Wins In Landslide." That will always be reported as "Democrat Loses In Landslide."

Anonymous said...

Obtuse, you're way off base.
Liberals don't win because they lack a plan. They are content to whine and complain about things without offerinag a viable alternative. Note: I said VIABLE. Communism and Socialism are useless, Bernie Sanders and Howard Dean.

Republicans suck ass, no doubt, but they are cohesive and they generally gloss over their disagreements easily. They horse trade well. Democrats backbite, whine, bitch and moan. Then they shoot each other in the foot. They don't agree on anything except "Bush sucks".

Liberals will make gains when they consolidate. But they never will. Why? Because most of their economic views (upon which they build their social views) are defunct and useless. In fact, the reason they hate Bush so much is the same reason the Republicans hated Clinton - He's increasing his power and control using the levers THEY want to do it by. Bush's major fault is that he is a fiscal conservative who acts like a drunken free spending liberal. Liberals are pissed because he is spending the money THEY want to spend on things they don't want it spent on.

Get over it. Get a plan. Stick to the plan. Make it work. Execute. Then the left will make gains. It has nothing to do with rationality or "faith". What crap. Keep spouting BS like that and the left will forever wander like the lost souls they are.

Anonymous said...

Absolute crap.
I've worked within the news media for the last 20 years. The Liberal bias is real...and I'm a moderate.

What is astounding is that people who HATE Fox don't realize most of the journalists there ARE Democrats. In fact, most employees in general are. is it right wing?
If what the author says is true, then there is NO WAY they would deny their thoughts and beliefs to go that far to the right.
Moderate them? Perhaps. But go rightwing? Nuts.

Fact is, Fox isn't Right Wing or rightwing or Right or anything. But CNN and MSNBC (to a lesser degree) are definitely left of center. CNN is practically far left. And I spent 3 years there. Unhappily (not because of political views, but because it is a shitty sweatshop started by a megalomaniacal bipolar shithead).

Now, Rush and his ilk are pains in the asses. But the ONLY thing I've ever agreed with those bozos on is the leftist bias of the media. I keep a running tally at home whenever I read a supposedly impartial article or watch a supposedly impartial segment and it includes comments like "Republicans did this" or "Bush sucks" or anything of that nature and isn't balanced. Because it happens ALL THE TIME. Those throwaway comments don't need to be added, BUT THEY ARE. THAT is BIAS. Bias is using an impartial tool to disseminate a viewpoint that is not impartial. And CNN, the New York Times and all the major network news 1/2 hours are chock full of it.

Anonymous said...

You are an idiot...quite a delusional one at that.

Anonymous said...

'Journalists' are cowards who lack integrity - so what, that's common knowledge these days.

Anonymous said...

My gosh, you're right! All republicans are either evil or stupid!!! If only there was enlightenment like those on the left felt.


The left has dominated mainstream media for years. Talk radio was the first break in the bastion of that control, and Rush was the symbol. Hypocrite? Umm, don't remember him bashing drug users that much - I would have heard about it. Entertaining? Yes.

Fox News takes news and slants it a different way, yes, more right. It's a choice of story selection and how they're selected. Most Americans want to feel good about being American. We like this country, democrat or republican president, and the common theme of mainstream media for my lifetime was how we sucked in comparision to say . . . the USSR . . . Cuba . . . and other vanguards of freedom in the world. Fox picks up on that. I'm an American, and I'm proud of America. I love the place.

Explain: Memorial day weekend, I woke up to stories about Marines potentially involved in atrocity in Iraq. Give it a day, please. Important story? Yes. Representative of what we're doing over there? No. Disrespectful of those that died so we can post our opinions on blogger? Yeah. A lot. CNN loved that story.

It is NOT irrelevant who holds what views in the newsroom. Bias is bias, and it seeps through in what you cover and how you cover it. Could a liberal reporter really, really understand what a conservative thinks? Nah. You've dismissed them as evil, stupid, or hypocritical.

Dude, there's more to America than NYC, Miami, and LA. They're watching Fox.

And they're not stupid.

Or evil.

Or hypocritical.

Nice placement job on Fark, btw.

Rube said...

Why am I reading this? Why is some lame-ass blogspot-jockey on the front page of Fark? I've searched your archives and haven't found on naked chick!

Anonymous said...

A fish in water doesn't know it's wet. A liberal watching the drive-by media doesn't know it's biased.

Even if you can make the stretch and claim that the stories themselves are only reporting the facts, the stories covered create a bias. You can't say they're not bias when you watch CNN,MSNBC,etc, and see nothing but doom and gloom in Iraq, but it doesn't seem too hard for FoxNews to find a positive story while everyone else fails

Anonymous said...

ensure instead of insure ... liberal

Obtuse Lautrec said...

I love the folks who continue to drag out the quagmire in Iraq as covered by the media as proof that the media is biased. Keep it up, as that's really the only

Obtuse Lautrec said...

the only way those on the right can distract from the fact that this historic, unilateral, pre-emptive war is one of the biggest fuck ups in the history of this country. As long as you moonbats on the right keep bringing up the media boogeyman as the real enemy, we can all just ignore the unmitigated disaster that is Chimpy McFlightsuit's legacy.

The media can't report on the opening of a school because as soon as they do, guess what gets blown up? Sounds like a helluva place, huh? You would think, listening to the deluded idiots on the right, that the media is responsible for the IED's. They're not.

There are a few facts that EVERYONE should be very aware of when it comes to the media:

1. You can't get a job in the media if you are a fucking moron. You can be an asshole, a pedophile, a dillweed, a slacker, a drug-addict and a million other things, but the one thing, in general, that you can't be, is dumb. Or uninformed.

I'm not talking about the dood who uses the Avid machine, I'm talking about production people-- the people who decide what makes it on the tube or in the paper. Those people have one thing in common: they are informed, well read and up to date. Nowwwwwwww........

With that said, my point is that the media is full of people who are informed. You cannot argue with that. Ergo, when they decide to cover certain issues it is with an eye to the whole picture. Unlike Fox News, they don't pick a side and slant the story. In fact, as this blogger was saying, they intentionally slant to the right to overcompensate for all the right-wingnuts who are constantly screaming that the media is biased.

Check out a site called on any given day. You will be amazed at how the right and the supposed left wing media skew to favor the right-wing. It's quite unbelievable. Is there a site like that that points out all the times the media skews left? Yeah, John Stossel, who is a raving lunatic.

Why do you think that anyone left of center can't post on It's because hte right doesn't want to hear the truth-- as they say in their rules- "We're all family here and if you don't want to play by our family's rules then leave." Quite the democractic forum huh? Kind of like Israel as a democracy.

Face it righties-- if you're informed and intelligent and have the ability to collate information and make an informed decision or opinion. If you like to spew idiocies like "all you left wingers do is walk around with a glass of wine in one hand and a copy of Breakfast at Tiffany's in the other" or that questioning authority is unpatriotic, or that wanting to leave our troops to be massacred in Iraq is somehow supporting our troops (ask them-- would they rather have your support to come home or have your support to stay in the most dangerous country on the planet. But of course, as a rightwing chickenhawk, the last thing you care about is what people really want-- you're happy to tell them what they want).

I guess what I'm saying is that unless you're getting rich because of the current administration-- unless you're actually benefitting from having the Republicans in power, and you still support the rightwing in this country, you're just fucking stupid. That's all.

dnico said...

dear obtuse, can you explain to be how the present administration and current military actions are effecting your life?
Are you losing money? Do the police stop you daily?
Why is it so important that everyone think like you? Why can't you celebrate the diversity of opinion and learn from it?
Why are you intolerant to other's with different experiences and thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Dnico—I’m going to pop in for a minit since I see an opportunity as large as JLo’s float in the PuertoRican day parade.

Your comment so clearly illustrates what is at the core of the right-wing by asking how the present administration affects someone—and then offering examples.

Before I begin—have you ever heard of the ‘reptilian brain’?

If so, forgive me, but I will outline the psychology behind the ‘reptilian brain’ only because it seems to be relevant.

A reptilian brain (traditionally encased in reptiles) that comes across something with which it is unfamiliar will immediately begin to ask itself three questions and will act on the responses it gets. The questions are:

1. Can it harm me?
If the answer is that the reptile believes the strange entity can do it no harm, it proceeds to the next question. (If it believes it can do it harm, it runs away.)

2. Can I eat it?
If the answer is that the entity cannot be eaten, it proceeds to the next question. (If it can be eaten, it eats.)

3. Can I have sex with it?
If the answer is that the entity cannot be copulated with, then the animal moves on. If it can, then it does, or at least attempts.

With that being said……
Dnico asks the third question first, since the accumulation of money is the right’s idea of getting laid—or at least they believe it leads to that.

He asks “Are you losing money?”

Now, to illuminate the fact that all social, moral and political issues must be evaluated in terms of financial consequence to Conservatives is just too stereotypical, but it is indeed a fact that drives much of their policy in every regard. They have a simple abacus: does it make you money: Good. Does it lose you money: Bad. Very simple—the ends justifies their means. You can see it to the highest levels of this government. The President of this country is touting an immigration policy that fully 90% of this country and 95% of the Congress is against, and yet the President is still backing it. Why? Because his corporate interests dictate that he do so. Simple calculus.

His second question is the first question asked by a reptilian brain—“Do the police stop you daily?” or, can this way of thinking hurt me?

Someone with the belief that being “stopped by the police daily” is A. relevant to having this administration in power, B. something that should concern the average citizen, C. an argument FOR this administration in lieu of AGAINST it, simply outlines the right-wing love-affair with fear-mongering. The position that this administration is keeping you from being stopped daily by the police is so asinine a suggestion (or is it?) that it doesn’t bear discussion. The idea that someone should back an administration because they aren’t being stopped by the police on a daily basis? That’s rich.

I can’t answer the other stuff re: why everyone has to think the same. I’ll let obtuse take up that cross. But it was nice to vicit.

dnico said...

Actually can you read?
obtuse actually said "I guess what I'm saying is that unless you're getting rich because of the current administration-- unless you're actually benefitting from having the Republicans in power, and you still support the rightwing in this country, you're just fucking stupid. That's all."

My point is that people do not have to directly benefit from supporting the administration, so I asked how it directly affect's him, knowing full well it does not have to. I just wanted him to perhaps think about his viewpoint that people who support Bush actually do read, and research, they just care about different things. that's all. we all care about different things. its just the big ones divide.