Thursday, July 21, 2005


The Columbia Journalism Review's Echo Chamber has a biting take on the the Tuesday's rumor-mongering about possible Supreme Court nominee, Judge Edith Clement (5th Circuit). I will admit I talked about her myself. My girlfriend and I speculated about her and others, but If someone had pinned me down, however, I would have gone with either Roberts or Judge J. Michael Luttig. It wasn't my original thinking, but I would have put some money on them after reading a profile of Roberts and Luttig in theWashington Post. In the end we agreed to instead go watch baseball over some beer and greek food. Like most people we knew we'd find out in a few hours anyhow so why worry.

The Echo Chamber piece is a dead-on description of the flailing about the major news outlets engage in when they don't have flashy news spoon-fed to them.

Considering the enormous resources any one of these news-gathering organizations have, how can they not pack every minute of the day with well-researched, in-depth stories about the world we live in?

There are undergraduate students who write papers overnight with more meat to them than the limp, incomplete pap that is thrown at the viewers.

There are hundreds if not thousands of journalism students out there who would spend 12 hour days doing the legwork, interviews and research, if they could just get a crack at it. Instead you have the bobbleheads pontificating and speculating about stories they are too lazy to familiarize themselves with.

Many people have little time in the day to spend digging through various newspapers and magazines to get an in-depth grasp of a subject. They often rely on the television news media to get them up to speed. Instead they have this echo chamber bouncing half-thoughts off each other to see which one makes them seem the smartest.

They seem surprised when over 50% of the American people believe that Saddam and Al-Qaeda were in league together after they spent months allowing the administration to make the unchecked allusion (if not the outright assertion) that they collaborated to attack the World Trade Center. They then allow the administration to come out and state, "we never said there was a link," even though they had clearly given that impression to the American people.

If the cable news channels were held to the standards that a good journalism class is held to, they would fail.

Speculation and rumor fuel the cycle with not a research staff in sight. If they would even bring on an expert or two that didn't make their living appearing on television as "expert" they would improve greatly. Everyone knows you get better information from the the beat cop than you do the Chief.

Critics accuse PBS and NPR of being "liberal" news outlets. While I disagree (as do the two, two, conservative ombudsmen brought in to ferret out the "liberal" agenda at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds both PBS and NPR. Their study found no bias, simply excellent reporting) they are entitled to their opinion. However, they do pack hour after hour with excellent reporting that communicates the essential meat of the story to the listener/viewer in a way that is engaging and not condescending ways. They can handle the top news of the day as well as longer, more in-depth pieces that require a more thoughtful examination. PBS and NPR are not without their own problems, and often succumb to the easy spoon fed story, but taken as a whole, it is far and above other major media outlets.

Until the major media start focusing on the news and stop trying to simply get the headline out before the other guys, the public will continue to only get half the story.

- Murphy

No comments: