Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Joke of MSM Objectivity

On January 7, the Standard Examiner Editors published their 2007 editorial agenda. The agenda stresses the following points:
  • Affordable health care

  • Balanced state funding

  • Diversity

  • Economic development

  • Better government

  • Education

  • Quality growth and planning

  • Rails and highways

  • Water resources

  • Taxes

  • Open government

  • Immigration
A quick perusal of the paragraphs under each topic heading reveals that the editors are strongly in favor of expanded government control, increased taxes, and liberal social agendas coupled with a general rejection of conservative social concepts. As is standard practice for the SE editors, the article includes swipes at “religion” and “morality” that are aimed at social conservatives, especially those belonging to the predominant religion. Oh, it’s not all bad. At least they’ve hit on some topics that are hot issues at present.

A fellow I know has written a critique of the SE’s editorial agenda. It was published in today’s edition. His wit is somewhat scathing.

"Regarding the Jan. 7 editorial "Our 2007 editorial agenda": Regarding the topic "affordable health care," I can only assume your "morality" or "religion" says it's blasphemy for private industries (see drug companies) to have record profits, but a sign of "righteousness" for governments to have them (see taxes)? Where in the Utah or U.S. constitutions does it say anything about "affordable" health care?

"Diversity: What offerings of diversity will your God accept?

"Economic development: Let's see, your "religion" doesn't allow too much economic development, so tell us how much economic development the wicked private sector can have.

"Education: I noticed your "religion" gives all the freedom and choice to the government.

"Open government: Your "good book" must state: "You shall live by the sweat of other people's brows," and "Thou shalt not steal unless it's for a 'good' cause -- especially for children."

"Government cannot give to someone without first taking by force from another.

"You do not want government to be "open," otherwise you would never get the plunder that they take to carry out your "religious" agenda!"

Bear in mind that by national MSM standards, the SE’s editors are quite ‘conservative.’ But by actual conservative standards, the SE editors lean rather liberal. This little episode demonstrates why people increasingly deprecate MSM output. While pretending to be objective, liberal bias screams from between the lines of almost all MSM productions. This dissonance naturally results in a reduction of credibility.

Conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt spoke at a journalism symposium last year (see discussion). He argued that the MSM’s arch enemy, conservative talk radio pioneer Rush Limbaugh, is actually the most trusted media personality in America. Why? Because his agenda is totally transparent. His modus operandi very closely matches his purported nature.

The MSM, on the other hand, likes to promote itself as objective and unbiased, while it is quite obvious to almost everyone that this claim does not align well with the facts. Hewitt says that the way for the MSM to regain credibility is embrace transparency — they should go ahead and be honest about their agenda. When their actions line up with their purported nature, credibility will return. People will use their own judgment to sift out the opinion angle.

I think Hewitt has a point. But I think he really misses what the MSM is all about. The MSM is not about truth. With very few exceptions, the MSM is about power. For years the MSM had a corner on the information market. They had almost unilateral power to make people think what they wanted. For many MSM people, that is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

But that power has been waning. Oh, they still have a great deal of power, but a variety of channels have cut in and diminished it. They are trying to morph to make up, not just for lost market share, but for loss of power over the lives of individuals. But most of their changes are simply window dressing. The evening news and the morning newspaper aren’t going to completely disappear anytime soon, but their power is far less than what it was when I was delivering the SE as a kid.

This is apparent in my sons’ experience as news carriers for the SE. When I spent almost six years delivering the SE there were only five or six homes on my 75-customer route that didn’t subscribe. There was only one delivery option: yes or no. Now, my sons’ routes cover more than double the number of homes that were in my route, but their total number of customers is about the same. In other words, many people don’t take the newspaper. And of the customers my sons have, some only get the paper on weekends or even just on Sundays.

Don’t look to the MSM to take Hewitt’s advice. For one thing, Hewitt is the enemy. But for another, many people on the inside of MSM organizations truly believe that they are objective and unbiased. The people they hang out with all think the same as they do. They have difficulty comprehending how any intelligent person could have opinions that strongly differ from them. And even if idiots out there do have differing opinions, MSM people are so elite in their abilities that they are capable of filtering out their own opinions while developing media output. They are incapable of realizing how silly some of their stuff sounds.

Competition is healthy for the MSM, but it causes them fits. I’m not one of those prognosticators that pretend to accurately predict what the future of media is. Who knows what the next big change to impact media will be? 15 years ago, almost nobody knew anything about the Internet. How will the market change over the next 15 years? It’s almost impossible to say.

But I think it’s safe to say that the basic nature of the MSM will not change. They will continue to pretend they are unbiased while constantly spewing bias, even if this course of action continues to reduce market share. The leopard will not change its spots.


Democracy Lover said...

Congratulations! You are lucky enough to have one of the rare liberal newspapers in America!

I read this and it's pretty namby-pamby actually. They mostly said that these things are important, they didn't offer much in the way of solutions, government or otherwise.

Clearly asking government to get out of the religion business is a hot-button issue in Utah. The rest of the nation knows it is unconstitutional and we don't want politicians pushing their religious ideas on the public.

If the so-called conservatives in this country would quit allowing consolidation of the media into huge conglomerates, we might get some competition and diversity of opinion in the MSM. For now, we have to survive on the infotainment and center-right political views of the MSM.

JDH said...

To the average Joe and Jane, the MSM is the news and talk radio is just a bunch of wackos. They do not study the issues. They do not think critically.

The MSN is mainly TV and newspaper -- long traditions. Superficial at best. It is easy; doesn't require much thought. Just like those who don't read, they'd rather see the movie.

Liberal talk radio has failed miserably. They were somewhat "honest" about their agenda, however their real purpose was liberal money raising, not honest discussion of the issues.

So the liberals have their voice, it is the MSN, disguised as journalism.


Democracy Lover said...

As a liberal, I am as disgusted with the MSM as you are. If you look at the TV news, you find show after show hosted by right wingers - Keith Olberman is virtually alone as a left-leaning voice on TV news. Even PBS has been documented to favor center-right to extreme right commentators and pundits on the News Hour and except for a couple of shows, leans clearly to the right.

As for the major newspapers - the same is true. The so-called "liberal" NY Times and Washington Post beat the drum for the Iraq War and parroted every intentional leak and spin delivered by the White House. They have one or two columnists who are liberal, but the general tone is centrist at best.

Liberal talk radio - Air America - if you can hear it, is pretty dismal I agree. The problem is that most liberals do not enjoy ranting and raving even if they agree with the rant. We want real news, investigative journalism, in-depth analysis, and truth-seeking. That is simply unavailable from the MSM, especially if the targets of the investigation are powerful officials.

You want to hear good left-wing journalism? Get Dish or Direct TV and check out Democracy Now! on LinkTV. You'll hear in-depth analysis of stories you'll never even hear about on the MSM.

Reach Upward said...

It's interesting how people with different points of view can look at the same thing and yet see two different things.

It reminds me of an exercise I first saw in junior high school where one classroom was shown a simple image of an old crone while another classroom was shown a simple image of a lovely young lady. The classes were brought together and shown an image that was really a conglomorate of the two. Almost everyone could only see in the new image the view with which they had been preconditioned. Only when both original images were shown was it possible for most class members to see the other perspective. Even with all three images side-by-side, some people could not see the other perspective.

I agree with DL that among conservatives and liberals there is deep dissatisfaction with MSM offerings.

y-intercept said...

Wait a second. You had to read the paragraphs under the headers to spot a liberal agenda! The headers alone should have been sufficient!