22 Jan 2006
A Lost Struggle
“An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve the public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. . . .” Joseph Pulitzer, 1912
The famous words of Pulitzer, he of the renowned ‘Nobel equivalent’ prize in journalism, have an ironic meaning today as the old fashioned media struggles to maintain itself as a force in the USA. Hugh Hewitt has a brilliant, even elegiac piece, on a brave attempt by Colombia School of Journalism to produce new and competitive journalists with specialist skills.
Hewitt finds all the old problems in just analyzing the 16 students of one intake group. No matter that anywhere in the Western world (even Germany), a solid third of the population is centre right and that in the US this proportion is a majority. Of the 16 young journos, 11 voted for John Kerry and just one for George Bush. All 16 thought it obvious that Bush is something of a “dolt”, despite he has a Yale degree, a Harvard MBA and defeated four consecutive Democratic candidates the entire international media judged to be a lot “smarter” than himself. All were for homosexual marriage. None own a gun. Very few attend religious services.
So there is no more hope of intellectual or ideological diversity coming out of this group of supposedly “new” journalists than the present MSM: a conformist echo-chamber, where a single left-centre “progressive” viewpoint dominates all reportage.
The fact the profession is rapidly becoming “feminized” ( over 70% of new journalistic candidates are women) will produce a gender distortion in future reporting as well. If you accept the left’s view that we can only first speak from our racio-gender perspective, wait for more reportage as “feelings”. Recent brain studies show women empathize with those in pain, regardless of if those people have done them wrong or not. This will in future need balancing with a male perspective of ‘earned’ retribution. Stand by for more incidents such as the BBC reporter who found herself “weeping” as poor, dear old terrorist Arafat was flown out of Ramallah. She was reprimanded by the BBC. A decade from now she will probably be in line for the Pulitzer.
Hewitt’s wanderings through the famed halls of Colombia has uncovered nothing new. Casual research has long shown the mis-reflection of the people’s mainstream thoughts by the left-centre MSM mirror. Tellingly, a recent UCLA study has finally shown this scientifically. The good professors were amazed to discover almost no a major media player in the USA was other than left-centre. One of the few exceptions was Fox News. The message is clear. ‘Diversity’ is a great virtue according to the traditional media, as long as that diversity does not include the ideological variety.
So how will the Colombia programme combat the inexorable decline in the image of the MSM in the USA as ‘Bias Central’? The idea is to increase the level of training of the journalists so that they become capable of even finer analysis, research and deep study of whatever it is they are writing about. These “skills” will place journalists in the MSM back on a pedestal of ‘truth’ from the mire of biased “news-views” they are now perceived to be in. Hewitt thinks the effort is doomed, and I agree. The very concept of objective ‘truth’ has been undermined by the relentlessly amoral post-modernism purveyed and pushed by the very same Mainstream Media.
The great aspect of the internet is that it allows enormous numbers of true experts to publish their own commentary and reportage on news events instantly to a worldwide audience, let alone a local one. No journalist, even if as brilliant as Einstein, can expect to be able to absorb all the skills that non-media experts possess. Before, it was an extreme struggle to get your views heard. A newspaper could write a thousand wrongs, and one could struggle for an equal number of nights firing off indignant letters to the editor, to be received in total silence. To have, effectively, ones right of reply denied. Journalists could say things were ‘facts’ and then spin those facts. The average person had no way of either checking the ‘fact’ or replying.
Blogging and the internet have provided a greater democratization of opinion and comment in news than any other invention since perhaps the newswire teletape of over 100 years ago. They truly open the door for “people’s journalism” for the significant proportion of people, worldwide, who have centre-right social or economic opinions. There has always been something inherently undemocratic about the media’s self-appointed, self-anointed ‘expertise’. If you can amass enough capital to own a printing press or run a radio station, you can mobilize, influence and shape people or even events. This was the only way to become heard until the revolution of the internet and blogging. Now all you need is a $800 computer – or sometimes, like the pro-democracy bloggers in Iraq, just a cybercafe account. One can only hope that centre-right media in the new internet forms will never assume the monopoly of the old MSM.
The nature of the internet medium will probably prevent that. There will remain a (lesser) place for the “legacy media” , the great newspapers, the famous news hours, the entertaining news-spinners and the like. Yet those media will never dominate opinion and shape it towards left-centre views again, or be able to exhibit such shameless partisanship without worry of correction.