Archive for the ‘mediamatters.org’ tag
I was going to write about something else tonight, namely Andrew Sullivan’s piece on torture appearing in this month’s The Atlantic magazine. I previously read most of it on The Atlantic’s Web site, but I got the hard copy version recently and took the time to re-read it. But I will save that for the next post.
I wanted to address a column by Matthew Cooper on The Atlantic’s Web site (I found the column in the process of looking for the online version of Sullivan’s piece, consequently). Cooper basically makes the case that Obama is not following through with his commitment to reach out to his enemies by snubbing FOX News when he “made the rounds” one recent Sunday on a number of TV news outfits. Coopers says that he
wouldn’t argue that Fox is “fair and balanced.” It’s a conservative news outlet, and to argue that it’s not is ludicrous. That said, there’s obviously a spectrum of bias ranging from the straight-style reporting of a Major Garrett at the White House to the rantings of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, and some anchors are more Foxy than others. I like it when Media Matters for America calls Fox on its bias, although it’s a little bit like calling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for being anti-Israeli. — theatlantic.com, Oct. 20, 2009
The spectrum of bias (or, more accurately, a bias inside a full-scale bias) to which Cooper refers is true enough. At once, viewers find the traditional “news anchor” pretending to be “fair and balanced,” while, the clues to the contrary are all around (Here, I reference the documentary “Outfoxed“). At the other end, we find Beck and the maniacal, fear-mongering, nonsensical crew. True also, mediamatters.org isn’t much better; it just exists on the other-other spectrum. Maybe that should read: the other hemisphere.
Cooper goes on to say that for the Obama administration to ignore FOX News “seems small minded.” He then claims many Democrats and independents watch FOX News. I’m not sure about this statement. If Democrats watch it, it’s to find fodder for their blogs or other political discourse; if independents watch it, it’s probably because they’re inwardly Republicans or Libertarians. Or, more simply, those folks watch it to get a laugh or for the sheer entertainment value.
Nonetheless, I disagree that Obama should give it the time of day, however big its audience, which is another of Cooper’s arguments: that FOX News would offer a grand stage for Obama to, perhaps, reach some people he wouldn’t be able to otherwise. He claimed the “Obama charm” would work at FOX and said the president was “better off” for appearing on “The O’Reilly Factor” last year.
Cooper then comes to this question:
As for reporters, are we enabling a bad animal by appearing on Fox?
He apparently answers “No.” I answer, “Yes.” His response to the question:
I’d appear on Fox and have many times. I’d do it again. It’s a big audience, and while there’s a range of bias, so what?
So what?!? There’s not just a range of bias (a range within the full-scale bias, as I said before). The station makes a mockery of both words, “fair” and “balanced.” To boycott such a mockery to journalism would be an understandable thing and would, at least, slow the downward progression of the fine institution. The continued agreement of “real” journalists and leaders to appear on the network fuels its fire. If journalists, government officials and advertisers who disagreed with the blatantly weighted approach of FOX News made a concerted effort to refuse to support it, the network would surely feel the effects, in the quality of its on-air product and in its revenue.
To answers Cooper’s final question: the “slippery slope” of boycotting the channel ends with the channel itself. We have no need to boycott The Simpsons or the NFL. Does anyone really think Rupert Murdoch cares one wit about what FOX News or any of his other interests are doing? There’s no need to feel the same way about FOX the major network or FOX Sports or any of the others. For Murdoch, as long as they are making money, it’s all gravy. FOX News, consequently, found a niche in the far right-wing demographic, and its running with the shtick to the detriment of journalism. The other FOX networks aren’t involved in this derailment. I can’t speak for Murdoch’s newspaper interests because I haven’t read them at length.
Another point: the idea that the Obama administration would somehow make inroads with the FOX News viewership is silly. Cooper says:
Wouldn’t the White House be better off flooding Fox with its opinion rather than engaging in a fight with news outlet?
No. Obama isn’t going to gain anything by going into that crossfire. Folks don’t watch FOX News to have their cages rattled or their opinions questioned. They watch it to have their views validated. The typical FOX News viewer is an inert, immovable object politically, hanging on the edge of her recliner, clinging to Beck’s or O’Reilly’s every utterance. They question nothing and let others think for them.
Finally, Cooper states,
If the White House can reach out to the Iranians and North Koreans, for gosh sakes, they can talk to Shepard Smith.
No they can’t because Shepard Smith and the gang, in their FOX News cocoon are doing their best, sometimes without even knowing it, to destroy journalism, and we should not support or accept it.
Today, or should I say yesterday, as it’s 12:23 a.m. as I write this, the World Health Organization made it official: the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu, is a pandemic. And I, for one, couldn’t be giddier. I think we actually need more frightening, and quirkily-named, diseases looming over our heads. I think it’s actually time for another, good old-fashioned bubonic plague. That’ll get folks’ attention.
The media hype over the various strains, aveon bird flu, swine flu, the duck-billed platypus flu, the panda-monium flu, you name it, is getting a bit ridiculous. Regular ‘ol flu seems to be taking a back seat and getting a raw deal when it kills far more people than H1N1. How long have we been talking about this thing? Six months? Nine months? And in that time, we have about 145 deaths. Regular old flu kills 500,000 per year!
Howard Kurtz, speaking on May 11 of this year had this to say in response to a reader question about the media coverage of the H1N1 strain:
I have good news to report this morning. We’re not all going to die…
The tone and the volume were just out of proportion to what we knew about the outbreak. Of course it was a story that people were interested in, that journalists had to cover, that had the potential to turn into a public health crisis. But the key word is “potential.”
Even as medical reporters sounded cautionary notes, the saturation coverage turned excessive, even scary. And then, well, the thing fizzled…
I can’t tell you how many people have complained to me about what they see as the media’s wild overreaction on swine flu. Whatever short-term bump you might get in the ratings is outweighed by a loss of confidence among news consumers, and there’s no vaccine for that. — The Washington Post
But Media Matters seems to suggest the media had done its job in presenting the story about the flu strain “very well:”
The fact that half the country didn’t end up dead wouldn’t mean that the media hadn’t done it’s job. It would mean that the media had done its job very well - it had made the public aware of vital information in time for the public to act upon that information.
Is that what happened? I don’t know. But Kurtz, and many others, aren’t even considering the question of what would have happened had the media downplayed the story, or what could have happened.
Half the country didn’t die because this strain hasn’t spread enough, and it’s not near the destructor that we are led to believe it is. One hundred forty-four out of 28,000-plus is the sort of ratio that does not concern me. That amounts to 0.5 percent of those who get the H1N1 die from it. I don’t know what the same ratio for seasonal flu would be, but chances are, it’s much, much higher. This CNN story backs up this point. And this doesn’t even mention the H5N1 virus, of which the Wall Street Journal Market Watch story said it was “particularly deadly” but also that it was “relatively difficult to contract.” So, do I have like bite the head off an infected bird to get it or what?
Regardless, the media — and by media, I mean the news television networks, which aren’t really serious news organizations, just moneymakers and thrill-seekers and little more —in short had nothing to do with anything. Did Americans generally wash their hands more or buy some hand sanitizer and use it more from watching the news than they normally would have when this swine flu outbreak frenzy kicked in? I didn’t. Did you? Sothis is apparently the first case where WHO has declared a pandemic since the 1968 Hong Kong flu. How many did it kill? About 1 million.
A million versus 144. I’d say that’s rational.