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« Accidental lunch | Main | Radio daze »

Apr 23, 2008

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David Wharton

This may have something to do with the public's reaction to the Times's story (scroll down to the graphic and compare the public's confidence in the military vs. its confidence in newspapers).

Ed Cone

Part of the success of the propaganda effort lay in concealing the fact that these guys weren't really speaking as military experts, but as mouthpieces for the government and industry.

The US military has earned respect as a highly competent organization in the field. But it is not a healthy situation for a democracy when a free press, along with the civilian government that controls the military, loses legitimacy in the eyes of the people.

David Wharton

"...it is not a healthy situation for a democracy when a free press, along with the civilian government that controls the military, loses legitimacy in the eyes of the people."

Indeed. It's good that we have elections for the "civilian government" part of that. But confindence in the press has been in the cellar for a long time, and they've been unwilling to make the kinds of changes that would fix that.

TV media came off very badly in the Times story, since they never bothered to check the backgrounds of their analysts. The Pentagon takes advantage of lazy and feckless news organizations to get its message out, and this is supposed to be an indictment of the Pentagon?

I thought the tone of the Times story was sophomorically breathless, for example in its use of scare quotes around the words "military analyst."

justcorbly

Some thoughts...

First, I was a Public Affairs type, i.e., PR hack, for DoD a few lifetimes ago.

Second, it's been my experience in other countries that lack strong press that many people assume that U.S. media work the same as their media. I.e., content is either directly controlled by the government or is created by people who know their careers depend on not upsetting the government. Many people assumed CNN was an arm of the government like Voice of America.

Three, American distrust of the media -- sometimes justified, sometimes not -- ought to be balanced a bit by considering that a lot of people seem to equate "fair" with "agrees with me." I commonly hear people attack one straighforward report or another as an "attack" when, in reality, it only reported that someone or something was taking criticism. These people can't, it seems, distinguish a report that says "So-and-so was criticized today by..." from "So-and-so has screwed up again..." Many people also seem to expect that every individual news story contain every possible point of view expressed by anyone on the planet who might have an angle. THe usual gambit is to attack the piece as unobjective.

Four, I didn't see the quotes around military analyst as necessarily scare quotes. Many news outlets, including BBC, used quotes in headlines to mark words that are not their own. Hence, BBC use of quotes would have indicated, in effect, that someone has called these guys military analysts, but not necessarily us.

None of this is to give the media a pass. It seems to have grown progressively lazier, sloppier, and less concern about verification. If I had to pick one moment when they took a wrong turn, I'd pinpoint the TV networks decisions to move their news operations into their entertaining, and profit-demanding, divisions. It's hard to trust someone who's going after ratings.

James

Hi everyone. Just a quick reminder that we're hosting a NC Bloggers Barbecue this Sunday in Chapel Hill (at my house), which is open to any and all bloggers, commenters, lurkers, etc. If you're reading this, the invitation includes you too!

Hope you'll consider coming. Most of us don't really know each other in real life, so it should be lots of fun.

RBM

In addition to justcorby's 'wrong turn', I think it is prudent to consider the extensive consolidation of US Media. It is big business.

Just another root of the same tree- corporatocracy.

Ed Cone

"The Pentagon takes advantage of lazy and feckless news organizations to get its message out, and this is supposed to be an indictment of the Pentagon?"

I miss the days when conservatives were suspicious of government power.

justcorbly

RBM: Indeed.

A tension has always existed between a news outlet's need to make a profit and its need to maintain the effectiveness and integrity of its news staff. But contemporary corporate media has apparently decided to end this tension by opting for profit at the expense of integrity.

That's expecially evident in enterprises like Fox News and syndicated talk radio. These folks have realized that by packaging and slanting news in a way that attracts an ideologically inclined audience, they can bring in a lot of revenue. In essence, they are using the news as raw material for another kind of content intended to ddraw niche audiences that self-select themselves based on politics. The tradeoff is that they give up accuracy, fairness, and integrity, losses their audiences seem not to notice. (Fox and folks like Limbaugh and Hannity get most of the attention, but they have their counterparts on the other side of the spectrum.)

RBM

I agree with that analysis.

[Insert the obligatory Idiocracy movie link HERE.]

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